March 30, 2023

How Do You Chose An Alternative Med Practitioner?

Shortly after my diagnosis, I applied for and received scholarship funds to pay for alternative medicine treatments. Living in the Bay Area, my choices were endless: Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy, energy healing. Practitioners wanted to shove coffee up my ass, have me go on juice fasts, float in healing water pools, select animal totems, and gulp down putrid herbs. They used dirty words like sleep and meditation too.

Alternative medicine is just one more area of cancer care that I’ve had to get savvy about navigating.  It is just as much of an industry as standard cancer care with its own pit falls, winners, and losers.

Walking into an alternative medicine practitioner’s office is a wild card compared to the narrow experience of visiting a traditional doctor’s office. The alternative medicine industry has few standards or regulations (though they could well afford to). Many practitioners are zealous about healing in ways that are not always realistic or are an overreaction to allopathic cancer care. And because many alternative methods depart from science to some degree, they often involve varied emotional, spiritual, and religious components that can be jarring to survivors whose internal worlds might already be in an precarious spin.

I was an avid and educated alternative medicine consumer long before I was diagnosed with cancer, and continue to use it as part of my care. But I don’t talk or write about my personal alternative medicine experiences. I’m not interested in becoming a walking billboard for a lifestyle that I can’t scientifically prove has had an impact on my health, nor do I know if it would be beneficial to the particular disease path of any other patient.

Still, I’m a huge proponent of getting smart about alternative care and wrote in  Everything Changes extensive guidelines for defining your alternative medicine goals, questions to ask a practitioner, and other checklist for evaluating alternative medicine experiences.

My number one tip is that although many forms of alternative medicine use concepts that we cannot rationally understand, you should always still use intelligent, rational thought processes in deciding whether the methodology is right for you and if the practitioner is a trustworthy, educated, experienced, and intelligent person.

Have you used alternative medicine? How did you go about finding a practitioner? What qualities did you look for? Any good stories to share about the winners as well as the wackos?

Check out Everything Changes for a mini-guide on navigating the world of alternative medicine.

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  1. Ed Says:
    March 30th, 2010 at 8:19 AM


    I explored a couple of alternative medicine approaches, basically massage and acupuncture. Massage during cancer treatment must be done carefully, especially in the days following surgery. I am told that the massage treatments can significantly move lymph around, and this is a major component of your immune system. Details beyond that have either moved out of my brain or I never knew them. Suffice it to say that I continued because it relaxed me. Practitioners were available for subsidized rates through our local wellness center, and I was directed their by my oncologist.

    Acupuncture, on the other hand, did not work for me. The first time it was - interesting. I struggled with the theory of releasing toxins (hey, I was intentionally poisoning myself in order to obliterate cancer cells, right?) and to be honest, I was not all that comfortable with the needles. The doctor (licensed acupuncturist and MD) was recommended to me by several friends, and when I asked my oncologist she too thought that her reputation was very good. But the second time I went it hurt. Maybe that is how it works, but I did not need additional pain on top of the chemo. So that adventure ended at two visits.

  2. Sarah G Says:
    March 30th, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    We’re trying out the suggestions of an herbalist at the moment. His take on the low levels of energy (even w/plenty of synthroid): after the thyroid is gone, the body gets very jealous of its energy and will only release small amounts at a time. It explains the lack of get-up-and-go AND the trouble of losing weight. His suggestion was eleuthero, aka Siberian ginseng. My wife is trying it out right now.

  3. Lindsay Says:
    March 30th, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    Massage, Massage, Massage. I have some chronic pain issues, and I wish I could get them done more often. But they loosen up my achy muscles and help me sleep better.

  4. Christi Says:
    March 30th, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    I was just thinking about this today. I am trying to get rid of a cold or possibly a sinus infection by using natural remedies. I think it really depends on the person and if they connect with their provider. I was lucky and found a good alternative medicine provider through a recommendation from a friend. Right now, I’m thinking of changing to someone else because I tend to have a lot of billing issues because of my insurance and my naturopath tends to ask me to figure it all out. I’m just getting tired of it, but I do think she provides good care. I’ve been feeling much more energetic now that I have eliminated a lot of my food allergies.

    for my sinus infection I’m trying Apple Cider Vinegar in water and Grapefruit seed extract in my neti pot!

  5. alk Says:
    April 6th, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    I have used all kinds of alternative medicine. In fact my boyfriend is a licensed acupuncturist. Such troubles with the hormones levels since the thyroid cancer, that we tried weekly treatments for months and months and months but alas, I found it did not help (in spite of being a believer and it being free!). The biology wins sometimes. Oh well….

    MDs who are acupuncturists ca have much less acupuncture practice in their schooling than for acupuncturists without an MD. Why? They can do an add-on acupuncture degree at many institutions (depends on the state) with much less course work and training hours. A little known detail.

  6. Amy Says:
    April 18th, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Massage, Massage, Massage. I have some chronic pain issues, and I wish I could get them done more often. But they loosen up my achy muscles and help me sleep better.

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