Is Chinese medicine working?
I was thinking for a long time whether the Chinese medicine was working or not. I have two types of medicine being used at the same time: the Chinese medications and the targeted medicine – Xalkori. I would wonder which one, or if both of them, are working?
In the CT scan in Feb. 2016, my tumour grew from 1.9 cm on Dec. 2015 to 2.6 cm, and from the MRI scans, there were several new spots in my brain. I started to use the Xalkori medication in March, 2016. The side effects for me were minimal, but in May, 2016, my platelets went down badly. My oncologist started to lower the dose of Xalkori, but still the platelets were low. For 6 months, I could not use Xalkori regularly. At that time, I hadn’t started the Chinese medicine yet.
I started to use the Chinese medicine in November, 2016. After a month or so, my platelets started to rise, and I could continue to use the Xalkori. After that, my platelets maintained at an acceptable level. My mother told me it was the Chinese medicine that saved my life. I was sometimes skeptical.
Every batch of the Chinese medicine has its own purpose according to Dr. Z (my Chinese doctor). For example, all my Chinese medications, according to Dr. Z, have the functions of killing the cancer cells, but the emphasis is either on the brain or on the lung based on our descriptions. Very often Dr. Z added some herbal medications to help my stomach, liver, and kidneys so that they are strong enough to handle the harsh cancer herbal medication. Dr. Z said to my mother that the Chinese medicine treats the body as a whole not like the Western medicine, which focuses on the diseased part alone. Dr. Z was quite clear about it and very proud of it.
My mother keeps observing me and asks how I’m feeling. I was still head in the clouds for the first 2.5 years, and did not remember much. According to my mother, who believes in the Chinese medicine, I became stronger, my face looked healthier, my weight remained the same, and my diet was getting better – all due to the Chinese medicine. The Chinese medicine emphasizes the body features, like the colour of the face, tongue, eyes and nails, etc. Dr. Z seemed confident. He claimed that 70% of my improvement are due to his Chinese medicine.
How I really feel?
I don’t know what happened to my platelets. Up to now, I still have 2 medications, Xalkori and the Chinese medicine. It seems that there is not any western treatment to raise the low platelet levels, or at least I did not have any. The Chinese medications are playing some role because since I started it, my platelets have risen and remained at an acceptable level, but what role or how the Chinese medication works? Nobody knows.
Dr. Z prescribed the Chinese medications for my stomach, liver and kidneys, which make me stronger and healthier. The Chinese medicine philosophy is to cure the body as a whole not only the diseased part alone. This is very wise. The western medicine should notice this difference.
It has been proven that the Targeted Therapy, like Xalkori, is working, though not 100%, a very good number of patients have been tested. My symptoms, such as the lung cancer is shrinking, brain tumour is mainly shrinking or at least not spreading for about 10 months, Xalkori doesn’t have any side effect for me, are all consistent with other patients. I think Xalkori is truly the life saver to me. Of course I realized that all the targeted medications, at this stage, are inhabitors, not the cure.
In future if the treatment is needed, I’d use Targeted Therapy (Xalkori or Lorlatinib, etc) as my main treatment, and Chinese medications, which aim at my stomach, liver and kidneys as a secondary line of medicine. So I can benefit from both treatments.
Which is more superior-the Chinese medicine or the western medicine
The Chinese medicine and the western medicine originate from 2 distinguished ways of thinking, and have their own merits. Note that I’m limiting the discussion to the Chinese medication or Chinese herbs. I have never used acupuncture, Chinese exercise, massage and diet therapy. To summarize, I have the following thoughts:
1) In western medicine, disease is an event that can be separated from the patient. Thus, any number of patients can have the same disease and can be treated in a similar manner . While from the Chinese viewpoint, disease is an imbalance of Yin and Yang in the whole body and is in a unique manner by the individual patient. Restoring balance of the whole body is the focus of the Chinese medicine.
2) The western medicine is purely a science, it’s developed in the laboratory setting and based on the evidence. The Chinese medicine is more of a healing art, it is based on individual experience.
3) In the western medicine, chemical compounds are made based the laboratory examinations and used to formulate medication, but only natural herbs are used for the Chinese medicine .
4) The western medicine has powerful diagnosis and treatment tools, which is exactly the Chinese medicine’s shortcoming, lack of proper diagnosis and treatment tools.
5) Because the Chinese medicine focuses on healing the whole body rather than targeting the specific diseases, for severe diseases, like cancer, the western medicine is the first line treatment.
Which way of thinking and doing things is better, the Chinese medicine or the western medicine? The answer is neither. We need both. We have to integrate both into a universal approach to healing and treatment. But we are not there yet. For the time being, my experience is that the western medicine should be the first line treatment. Meanwhile, the Chinese medications can be used as secondary treatments, if needed.
 Ted Kaptchuk, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: Congdon and Weed, 1983. 2nd US edition, Chicago: Contemporary, McGraw-Hill, 2000.