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Warren Miller

Treatment is worse than the cure

When I told my radiation oncologist about my visit to the Chinese herbalist, he almost went ballistic. "How can you even think of doing that herb stuff?" he asked.

Maybe he thought I should feel more comfortable with the drugs prescribed by my oncologist. I checked the ingredients and these drugs contain stuff like diphenydramine, gatifloxacin, heat-treated sodium bicarbonate, blah, blah, blah.

None of these drugs really mean anything to me except that they are made by Pfizer who advertises a lot, Bristol Meyers who also makes toothpaste, and Johnson & Johnson whose band-aids I have worn at least every other week since back in the days when people actually used Mercurochrome. Did you know Mercurochrome contains mercury, which has been proven to deform fetuses if you have one and are exposed to too much of it?

No one in the hospital, that I could find, could tell me anything about the ingredients listed on the bottles of prescription pills. Ah, but the herbalist was quick to tell me about the stuff he had prescribed.

One of the jars of pills contained ground up musk ox hoofs. Reason? Musk oxen are the toughest cattle in the world and their hoofs are in snow and ice for months on end. My herbalist has recognized their strength-giving properties since he saw some of them in a snow bank in a northern Chinese province when he was a little kid.

My pills also contain part of a certain feather from the tail of a Mandarin duck, as well as a combination of codonopsis root and yang zhen hua 851, whatever that is. My herbalist gave me the key points and then there was more information on the jars.

I really had to want to know what was in these pills because the jars are miniature, and the print on the side of the jars is micro-miniature and difficult to read, even with a magnifying glass. One of the jars says Liu Jun Zi DX4 in type I could read. The rest of it was in Chinese, but since I’m a very curious person I got out my magnifying glass and at the bottom of the label, in some of the smallest type I have ever seen, it said in English, "Not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Something else that the herbalist prescribed is two tablespoons daily of a mixture of boiled seaweed and cherry juice. Don’t ask me what it is supposed to do or taste like, I just take it because I think it’s working. I can accept all of these strange ingredients because of what has been happening to me since I started taking the Chinese herbs.

When I started my cancer treatment, my oncologists told me that I would get very tired from the daily doses of radiation. They were right. I was sleeping 10-12 hours a night, plus a 2-hour nap each afternoon.

All of that changed when I met my newest best friend, the Chinese herbalist. After two weeks of the prescribed herbs, I am wide awake by 6:30 a.m. and energetic all day. Last night, I was still drawing cartoons at 10:30 p.m. when my wife made me quit. This is an ongoing daily dose of energy and if it makes me feel this good when I’m supposed to feel terrible, I wonder how it will make me feel once I’m finished with the energy-sapping radiation in three weeks.

Somewhere, there should be a comfortable marriage between ancient Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine. From what I’ve been told, Chinese doctors get paid as long as you don’t have to visit them and when you get sick, they stop getting paid until they make you well once again.

Do I sense a professional conflict here?

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