Dedicated to Kay, my mother, the most inspiring person I know.
Chapter 1: The Only Constant Is Change
Chapter 2: Three Is a Magic Number
Chapter 3: Awakening the Master Within
Chapter 4: The Illuminated Shadow
Chapter 5: Metaphysics and Spirituality—Medicine for the Soul
Chapter 6: The Spiritual Realms
Chapter 7: Conclusion
Appendix 1: Kay Willis-Moore—Through My Eyes
Appendix 2: Kay’s Diary
In 2005 my mother, at the age of seventy-three, was diagnosed with bone cancer—an advanced stage of IgG kappa myeloma. Myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow, which to quote the doctor, had to be “blasted” as soon as possible. Taking into consideration her age and her heart condition, the hospital staff informed our family that the response to treatment would be fifty-fifty and that ten years previously, with only chemotherapy as a means of therapy, her case would not have ended favorably.
At the time of my mother’s diagnosis, the initial therapy for multiple myeloma patients who were unsuitable for autologous transplantation was a new drug combination called CTDa, a concoction of three tablets or capsules to be taken at home: cyclophosphamide chemotherapy; thalidomide, a treated therapy drug; and dexamethasone, a steroid. After my mother took two twenty-one-day cycles of CTDa at home, the treatment had to be suspended due to an intolerance that manifested as steroid-induced diabetes and diabetic coma. Her remaining cycles of treatment were administrated during monitored periods in hospital with a more traditional drug combination: melphalan chemotherapy, prednisolons, and steroids, with the addition of thalidomide, the last of which she took at home for a year along with a three-hour weekly drip of pamidronate to strengthen the bones.
Below, is a paragraph of a drugs trial registered at International Standard Randomized Controlled Trials—Number #68454111. Under the heading “Abstract”, the article determines the percentage of overall response rates between the two drug combinations CTDa and MP (melphalan and prednisolon) underlining a notably superior percentage of response for CTDa especially for patients of my mother’s age (emphasis is mine):
As part of the randomized MRC Myeloma IX trial, we compared an attenuated regimen of cyclophosphamide, thalidomide, and dexamethasone (CTDa; n = 426) with melphalan and prednisolone (MP; n = 423) in patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma ineligible for autologous stem-cell transplantation. The primary endpoints were overall response rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival (OS). The overall response rate was significantly higher with CTDa than MP (63.8% vs 32.6%; P < .0001), primarily because of increases in the rate of complete responses (13.1% vs 2.4%) and very good partial responses (16.9% vs 1.7%). Progression-free survival and OS were similar between groups. In this population, OS correlated with the depth of response (P < .0001) and favorable interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization profile (P < .001). CTDa was associated with higher rates of thromboembolic events, constipation, infection, and neuropathy than MP. In elderly patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (median age, 73 years), CTDa produced higher response rates than MP but was not associated with improved survival outcomes. We highlight the importance of cytogenetic profiling at diagnosis and effective management of adverse events.
Unlike many cancers, myeloma does not exist as a lump or tumor. It can affect multiple places in the body, which in my mother’s case, developed and manifested as five fractures along the spine, creating a sponge-like quality to the affected vertebra. For those unfamiliar with the medical term, myeloma is a cancer that arises from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that is produced in the bone marrow. In a myeloma patient, these plasma cells become abnormal and start to multiply uncontrollably, causing symptoms and/or complications that need to be treated, followed by periods of remission or plateau. In simple terms, it is an incurable, reoccurring cancer for which remission permits only a prolonging of the patient’s life.
From 1987 to 2010, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA, studied a group of 792 patients with multiple myeloma (www.mdanderson.org/research.html). In order to assess and monitor those more likely to survive intensive therapy, the study excluded patients over the age of sixty-five in favor of much younger and more eligible candidates.
The statistics gathered as a result of the study offered proof that, in recent years, major advances in the treatment of myeloma have been reached, including new agents, superior drug combinations, and widespread use of intensive therapy supported by autologous stem cells. According to cancer research, life span, along with the patient’s quality of life, has improved considerably since my mother’s diagnosis in 2005.
Overall today, in England and Wales, more than seventy-five out of every hundred patients will survive for a year or more after diagnosis, approximately fifty out of every hundred for five years or more, and thirty out of every hundred will live for ten years or more after being clinically diagnosed. Performance status in medicine, and especially in oncology, is applied in randomized controlled trials as a means of monitoring patients’ general state of well-being, their quality of life, resistance and endurance to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, dosage adjustment, pain management, and emotional care during treatment. Medical advances are said to be relevant to the odds of survival because, according to the statistics, myeloma returns periodically. For this reason, the younger and fitter people are more likely to be able to withstand recurring treatments. Nevertheless, recent studies are demonstrating that, with the latest drug combinations, even in older patients, repetitive therapy can control myeloma for up to fifteen years.
That is great news! So what do the statics report regarding patients who have never relapsed after being diagnosed and initially treated for myeloma, an illness defined by doctors as a chronic disease that can only be controlled although not cured with drugs?
Absolutely nothing! So are there other patients similar to my mother? She is in a constant remission plateau now into her twelfth year without the aid of reoccurring cycles of treatment to control the disease. Unfortunately, the statistics do not include cases of her kind. Initially, my mother was invited to participate in the MRC Myeloma IV Study, Clinical Trial Research Unit at the University of Leeds, which monitors “the quality of life of patients with multiple myeloma” with a twenty-item questionnaire that covers disease symptoms, side-effects, body images, pain management, and future perspective. But she became ineligible as a candidate because, after initial treatment, the myeloma was “untraceable.” Consequently, most of the questions were irrelevant to her standard of health.
Regarding the research mentioned previously carried out in 1987 to 2010 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, if we parallel my mother’s case, some interesting observations emerge that are definitely worth investigating:
- Statistics include only patients considered worthy of observation based upon health, age, and probability of recovery.
- Insurance policies and pharmacy advancement over the years meant that some were administered more effective treatments (i.e., more advanced drugs, autologous stem cells transplantation—for both of which my mother was intolerant and ineligible).
- The first two factors, although necessary criteria for a clinical survey, do not include (or consider) any positive emotional changes on the patients’ behalf that may have influenced or aided in their recovery.
Physical condition, age, and pharmaceutical administration apparently equip a patient with a higher chance of survival, but today it is basically accepted by most doctors that every patient’s experience of cancer is individual and subjective. When asking her oncologist how it was possible for a patient of her age and medical history to be well into her twelfth year of remission without ever relapsing, her doctor’s answer was, “Well, Kay, you’re very lucky!”
As wonderful as that sounds, it does seem to imply that to avoid relapse, “luck” is a vital component, which as far as we know, has yet to be bottled or compressed into a pill! What mysterious ingredient, then, can aid in the survival, recovery, or even self-healing from cancer? Is luck really a fundamental element, or can we find a more profound connection that permits certain patients to respond to traditional therapy positively in comparison to others?
My mother’s case is an optimistic and motivating example of how a high-risk patient, at the age of seventy-three, received a massive dose of what up to now has been referred to as sheer luck along with traditional, rather than superior drug therapy for IgG kappa myeloma. An appendix at the end of the book is dedicated to my mother’s story regarding her diagnosis, hospitalization, and recovery from myeloma. My mother, who during the book shall be referred to as Kay, wrote a very brief account of her childhood in London during World War II concerning events that may have distorted her perception concerning vulnerability, life, death, and survival of the physical body, possibly influencing her biological chemistry and gene activity, which later on in life developed into a life-threatening illness that challenged those very same distorted perceptions during the months of illness, treatment, and recovery.
The holistic approach to redefining cancer is not a pitch to convince anyone to reject traditional therapy in favor of alternative medicine; it is an invitation to free our minds, embrace our bodies, feel our emotions, and nourish our souls during therapy for cancer. As my mother’s daughter, and a registered holistic counselor practicing in Italy, after examining her account from a multidimensional point of view, I have revealed and clarified the mysterious ingredient called luck throughout the book, proving without doubt that when different levels of human consciousness collaborate together, they potentially become a driving force powerful enough to transform an experience of life-threatening illness into a profound self-healing of the mind, body, and soul.
Caroline Mary Moore
Mantua, Italy, 2017