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Integrative Medicine: A Patient's View

One cancer patient's journey through the worlds of conventional and nontraditional medicine.

Seeking Treatments

When she developed nerve damage from chemotherapy, a Sloan-Kettering doctor trained in herbs prescribed vitamin B-6, which Epstein believes helped to improve her symptoms quickly. Whenever Epstein wants to try a new herb or supplement, she has to email him to make sure that he approves.

She has also tried massage, reflexology, and reiki. The Integrative Medicine Service describes reflexology as an "ancient practice of applying pressure to specific parts of the feet and hands" to reduce stress, relieve pain, and increase circulation. Reiki "promotes the healing of physical and emotional ailments through gentle touch."

Seeing nontraditional healers, as well as a social worker and mainstream psychiatrist, helps Epstein to feel cared for and less alone. "If you're like me, where you're not working and you've got a lot of free time during the day, it's hard. I think people who are combating illness can feel pretty isolated."

Epstein also embraces meditation as a means of marshalling hope and gaining some sense of control. "It's very empowering," she says. That's crucial because her cancer recurred in 2004, and she's been battling since then to beat the disease a second time.

"For me, the meditation reinforces all the other things that I'm doing. I'm on chemo and I'm doing the traditional medical treatment. The meditation makes me feel that I'm doing something above and beyond to put this back into remission or to cure it."

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Reviewed on March 10, 2006

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