by: Dr. Jessica Peterson
To give you the most recent update, I had a double mastectomy in October and will be completing the reconstruction in March. Although I had completed months of chemotherapy, my oncology providers all said that chemo was ineffective against actual breast tissue (although necessary to treat the lymphatic involvement) and that surgery was the only option. They were certain that cancer was still prevalent in my breast. The decision to move forward with this was excruciating. But, when my breast tissue was biopsied, it was the best result I could have hoped for – complete pathological response, aka cancer-free. Beyond just being negative for any cancer cells, my tissue was actually healthy. To be honest, I thought I would feel like the world had lifted off my shoulders, that I was healed. But, why didn’t I feel more relieved? I still felt the weight of the journey ahead. I knew I had not crossed the finish line quite yet.
I chose an aggressive therapy; I had an aggressive cancer. But I also knew that it wasn’t a cure. My best- case scenario comes with a few caveats. My “complete pathological response” actually means “no detectable cancer”, which actually means “hopeful that nothing will grow in 5 years”, which counts as a “cure” according to oncology. And if my cancer were to come back in 5 years and 1 day, the treatment would still be considered a success. MY definition of success means living a healthy, vibrant, long life without cancer! And being cancer-free is up to me.
What needs to be better understood is that cancer is a symptom. And treating the symptom isn’t the same as treating the cause. Chemotherapy was effective at stalling metastasis and brought to a halt what had grown fast and furious. For that, I am very grateful. But truth be told, the drugs themselves are carcinogens. And the consequences of the drugs along with the lesser known, lesser talked about, behind-the-scenes side effects, cannot be an acceptable cost to the body. The work to HEAL from chemotherapy and surgery is tremendous, and necessary. And changing why the cancer was there in the first place is essential to survival.
My career as a chiropractor and my practice in functional medicine is founded in identifying cause, improving the expression of health, and nourishing the power of body’s innate ability to heal, provided the right environment. My journey through cancer has highlighted, more than ever, the need for integrative care. I was able to offset much of the physical devastation of chemotherapy and vastly improved my outcomes by integrating a comprehensive, holistic, individualized approach. As a result, I ended my medical treatment with completely healthy breast tissue, and multiple test results actually showed my physiology to be healthier than before I started treatment. This is not only unheard of – it is remarkable.
I am continuing my work to heal on many levels and keep cancer from ever returning in my body. But, I will start at the beginning and share many of my lessons, what worked and didn’t work for me, and hope to offer insight into a very difficult journey.
I am painfully aware that cancer has touched many of your lives or those close to you. And the outcomes range the entire spectrum. I can only share my story, and will do so respectfully. I ask for your respect in return and appreciate your support along the way. I do not intend for my choices to be advice or recommendations.