In March of 2008, at the age of 33 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This news, as you can imagine, was not something I expected. My first thoughts were... Huh? Did I hear correctly? How? Really? Me? And so my journey began...
Things moved quickly after the diagnosis. The first thing I did was break the news to my family, which was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. Luckily, everyone was great and the out-pouring of support was amazing. They gave me the strength to maintain a positive attitude and to do everything I could possibly do to fight it. My first change was to become a vegetarian and include freshly made organic vegetable juices in my daily routine. I had decided that even though I couldn’t control cancer, I could control every single thing I put into my body.
I knew that I had some big decisions to make—ones that would affect the rest of my life. From the onset of the whole ordeal, I was against chemo and radiation. Just because it was the standard protocol didn't mean it was right for me. I wanted time to think and explore other options, but it was hard to ignore the urgency I felt from my doctors and my family. My doctors gave me two options: remove the whole breast (mastectomy) and undergo radiation and chemotherapy or remove only the tumor (lumpectomy), hope for clean markers and follow up by chemotherapy and radiation. The mastectomy was highly recommended.
Out of these two options, I felt that the lumpectomy was the least invasive, but I was not comfortable with either of the scenarios provided following surgery. I was convinced there was another way, so I began searching high and low for any information I could get my hands on. Luckily, in April 2008, the initial surgery to remove the tumor was a success, which bought me some more time to think before starting treatments.
During this time, I decided to see an acupuncturist to help alleviate stress. At one of my visits I was introduced to a patient who had survived a very similar diagnosis. She told me about the treatment she went through, which was different than conventional chemo. It was called Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT), an approach to treating cancer that uses insulin, and takes advantage of the powerful, cell-killing effects of ordinary chemotherapy drugs, but used in very low doses. As a result of the low dosage, most people aren’t subjected to the typical side effects experienced by traditional treatments. After doing some research and speaking to the doctor, I knew this was the right option for me. I couldn't wait to call the oncologist and cancel my conventional treatment appointments. Although she was not happy with the news and insisted I need chemo, I politely thanked her and was determined to move forward with my decision. I got my family and friends on board and began the process.
IPT is usually administered over the course of a few months. It starts off pretty intense for the first couple of months with frequent sessions and gradually decreases over the course of 6 months. Six months into treatment I went in for a PET Scan where the results were negative. I was cancer free! Today, five years later, I’m feeling great and am thankful for all the support I received, but more so that I made the right decision for me.
I started www.IHadCancer.com because I felt alone when I was diagnosed, despite all the support from my family and friends. Meeting someone who had been through a similar experience and who shared vital information with me helped me feel like I finally had control over this journey. Although IPT may not be a suitable option for everyone, it’s good to know other options like this exist, and IHadCancer is the place for information like this to be shared. My hope is that everyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis can find someone who is able to make this unwanted trip easier for them to navigate.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.