This article “What Do Doctors Say To ‘Alternative Therapists’ When a Patient Dies?” by Ranjana Srivastava appeared on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday.  I couldn’t resist reading it.  I think you should read it too.

First of all, it is clear I am a big nerd when this is the most eye catching thing I saw on Facebook.

But, the big reason it is eye catching is because I was curious what it would say.  And it said what I thought it would.  We say nothing.  We don’t talk about it with others.  We talk about it amongst ourselves.

It also echoed a lot of feelings I would describe having around alternative therapies.

I am probably one of the more “loosey-goosey” of the people in my department when it comes to alternative therapies.  I am touchy feely, I inherently trust people and I do believe that there is value in a lot of things we can’t or haven’t necessarily studied.  I’m that kid who did a presentation on medical marijuana in research rounds and concluded that it isn’t all bad and we really need to look into the stuff more because people are using it whether or not we think they are or should.

I ask people what they take over the counter or with supplements.  I explain why I ask.  You see, some products, although “natural” act in ways that counteract the actions of chemotherapies or radiation or other drugs.  Sometimes in terribly harmful ways.  Ways that make cancers not respond to treatments.  Or ways that make side effects worse.  I ask because I care.  Not because I want to judge you or make you feel foolish.

Actually, some of the drugs that we give people are “natural.”  Some chemotherapies are plant derived.  They are natural and very toxic, but when used appropriately can treat cancers.

I see nothing wrong with trying something different when nothing is working.  I see nothing wrong with adding things that have low risks of harms that may help.  I see nothing wrong with doing things that are healthy for you.

I do see something wrong with people who are encouraged to spend their life savings on a “miracle drug.”  When people risk their lives to procure enough cannabis to make the oil they were told online was a “cure.”  When people entrust their health to internet “doctors” and people who make a profit from preying on the sick and the scared.

Many of the “miracle” agents on the internet are anecdotes.  Sure, everything starts as an anecdote.  But, that is why things are tested, because we are often wrong and they are one-off events.

There is some laboratory in anecdotal data about cannabinoids.  I’m not refuting it.  I’ve read it.  But, there is no cold hard evidence for it as a cure for cancer in humans beyond the odd case.  Could it be coming?  Maybe… But that day isn’t today.  And there is cold hard evidence for other treatments in some cancers.

It scares me that some people believe the person that will make a fortune off of them buying their concoctions is more trustworthy than the person who makes the same amount of money whether or not they take the treatment.   It upsets me that people think I am the one brainwashed because I am offering medicine with evidence behind it, with the experience of time, the monitoring of governing bodies and the backup of provincial funding.

It terrifies me to know that supplements and some complementary therapies (not all) are not regulated at all.  In fact, often they aren’t even containing what they claim or have contaminants that can be harmful.    And people die from complications from these therapies.  Just like conventional medicine.  But in a lot of cases we don’t even know some of the risks.

When something claims to work almost all of the time or have no side effects… It probably isn’t for real.  Too good to be true is something I see a lot.  But people want it to be true.  And why not?  Some people have nothing left to lose.  But really, everyone has something to lose.

It also makes me sad that some of my colleagues think all complementary or alternative therapies are bad or dangerous.  It is scary to see people doing things we don’t understand, so I get it.  And it is hard to trust when people you cared for and gave your all for die, sometimes because they gave it all up for the wrong choice.

Miracles happen.  There are things we don’t understand how they work, but they do.  There are things we know do work and they scare some people because of misinformation or lies spread through all kinds of media.

When people forgo conventional treatments or risk counteracting treatments for something advertised on the internet or sold by an alternative provider, it makes me uncomfortable.  I’ll be honest.  When people die doing this, it makes me sad.

Complimentary and alternative therapies can be many things… I send people for massages, acupuncture, reiki and I think chiropractors do good work. I encourage spirituality and  and exercise.  I preach good diets and appropriate vitamin supplementation depending on need.   I think cannabis can be an option for some people for symptom control.  I am okay with you doing something else so long as it isn’t putting you or your treatment at risk.  I can’t stop you from doing something I don’t agree with or trust because you are your own person.  But, I can be honest and tell you why it is concerning.  I can review the evidence.  I can help you interpret it because I have a background in reading that kind of stuff when many people don’t.   I’d rather know than not know in any case because your health is important to me.  And I make no gains or losses by having someone take “my treatments.”

I just want people to be healthy and safe.

Conventional medicine can’t save everyone.  Neither can alternative medicine.

It is scary, but things go wrong.  Alternative therapies (namely the various supplements and drugs and cleanses) can cause a lot of problems.  But, we don’t talk about it when things go right.  We also don’t talk about it when things go wrong.

Talking would be a good start. Regulations would be wonderful.

There will always be people out there trying to make money and preying on the sick and vulnerable. Sadly, these people give everyone a bad reputation and are the source of my distrust and skepticism.  I know there are practitioners out there who think they are doing good and maybe are not.  That is where better regulations and research could make a change.  And I know there are practitioners out there doing amazing work with the best interest of the patient at heart.

An open mind is good.  Educated professionals are better.  But, I think that opening up the lines of communication between professionals but also with patients could make a movement towards making a difference.  At least in some cases.

“Holiday” Monday

After a lovely weekend at home, I have a lieu day for working the Thanksgiving holiday last week.  That means long weekend for me!

As a result, I am now making turkey soup from scratch, am catching up on laundry and binge watching Grey’s Anatomy.  I feel very domestic.

I have shared my angst about still watching Grey’s before and it still hasn’t left me.

I cringe at all of the changes, especially the last few seasons.  I hate the drama.  I hate that everyone and yet nobody dies all at the same time.  And yet, I watched it since the first season and I am sticking it out.

As a result, I am curled up on the couch and kind of look like this…

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Happy Monday.

Thanksgiving Turkey and “Meeosh”

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here.

I was on call.  It is how I roll these days, it seems.

Despite that,  I thought it would be a good idea to have people over for Thanksgiving dinner.  Because we have a biggish dining room and I like to cook.

It was a good idea.

Some planning ahead and good luck meant that we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with Child, D and Dr. Bond.

I was ridiculously excited that I found a “decently priced” fresh turkey that was small enough to fit in our oven and the disposable baking pan that would also fit in our oven.

Jeter made it his main goal in life to eat the turkey.  He tried to eat it raw, he tried to pick the chunk of extra skin out of the garbage can and then, once everyone arrived, he proceeded to jump on the counter and try to steal a bite repeatedly.  That cat likes his meat.

I like having some “family” away from biological family.

I also like hosting Thanksgiving because it means we wind up with leftovers… My favourite.

Tonight we had what my family calls “Meeosh.”  The recipe: Take all of the leftovers, mix and fry them together in a frying pan, then put extra gravy on top.  Other people call it hash.  I call it delicious.  Patrick and I both looked forward to it all day.

Interestingly, Patrick had never had “Meeosh” until he married me.  In fact, he never had anything quite like it.  He thought us a bit odd that time as my Mom and I combined everything we pulled from the fridge in a giant frying pan.  He was pleasantly surprised and has never gone back.

Mmmm… Turkey.

Nacho breakfast, unicycles and cat. Some random updates.

We had friends visiting from that lovely island where we once lived this weekend.  It was great minus the fact that I was on call (minor detail).  Thus the absence yet again of blog updates.  So, here are some random updates…

Our cat is currently trying to chew his way into a giant Costco box of garbage bags.  We think (and hope) it is because he can smell his cat food on the box.

There are some people in your life that you can just pick up where you left off… Even if you haven’t seen them in two years.  The people visiting are precisely some of those people.  

We played a new game this weekend basically about swimming robots.  What more can you want?

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I got hit in the face with a chunk of tree walking in our tail of a hurricane weather a few weeks ago.  Instead of being distressed or mad… I found it funny.  

I saw someone riding a unicycle down the street the other day.  That is something that always makes me smile.

My cat is out to kill our cilantro and our carpet.  He has knocked the whole pot over three times.  I think the cilantro is now dying. 

Some person or group in our city hung random red swings from trees in various places.  I really want to find one and swing on one.  There is one right by the hospital.  One day, I will do it.

When I see a hopscotch thing drawn on the sidewalk, I almost can’t resist hopping on it.  Almost.

My to do list at work is an expansile mass.  But, it is a colourful one.

I drew lungs on a piece of my patient list this weekend while teaching the new resident on call.  Patrick saw the drawing and asked why I had lungs on my paper.  I was super impressed that he identified the body part!

We went to a wildlife park last weekend and saw a ton of peacocks just wandering around.  They screech like mad, but are kind of entertaining to

Nachos can make a good breakfast.  Especially if you are on call.  At least I think so.



I found this gem on the walk to pick up some groceries on the way home from work.  I am totally impressed with whomever put a bird house in a park.  It is very June.

I found this gem on the walk to pick up some groceries on the way home from work. I am totally impressed with whomever put a bird house in a park. It is very June.

It is June!

I know, it was June yesterday. But, yesterday was church day (for which I was on set-up duty), in-laws visiting day and finish my freaking molecular genetics presentation day. It was not a blog posting day.

I feel like the end of April and all of May was that brand of chaos that comes from having too much stuff to do all piled on top of one another in sequence. After my presentation today (ps, the molecular genetics of brain tumours is super cool), June feels like a reprieve. Journal club is the only bigish work project this month. Sure, we are getting my support group project ready for publication (I got two emails about it in the time it took me to write this). Sure, I am starting a new project looking at radiation for lung cancers. But, there are no giant epic mountains of manuscripts, presentations and exams to worry about. That could change if I failed physics. Let’s not talk about that.

In other things June not to talk about, there are the June bugs.  I don’t like shelled insects.  Exoskeletons give me the heebie jeebies.

I quite like June. It is my birthday month, but I’m not too huge on birthdays, so that isn’t really a big deal. It is the month where the weather becomes nice enough to go outside and do stuff. It is the end of the school year for Patrick. And it is the end of the residency year for me.

It is tough to believe that I am one day away from starting my final rotation of PGY-2 (so long as I pass everything) and thus also finish what is our ridiculously long rotating internship of sorts. And then I will be on-service. Agh. I don’t even know what I will do with myself when that happens. Crazyness.

Tonight, we celebrate with the Child and D survival of the insanity that was May and 2 days of June. We will eat (and eat and eat) and play Munchkin (which is an awesome game… Check out the Tabletop video below (and know that Tabletop is also awesome)).

Then maybe we will enjoy the fact that our house is not full of extra people for a little bit. We will enjoy that I am not continuously operating on a new deadline (realistically, that never happens in residency, so I don’t know why I dream that big). I can get back to the gym, although maybe not running quite yet (heck, maybe that darn toe will stop hurting).  Maybe…

Trip En Revue

We’re baaaaaaccckkk.

Yes, Patrick and I have returned in one piece from our adventures in New York.  While we were gone, Jeter played countless games of “greased up pig” with the Child and D.  It appears he also kept the thieves away.

Our trip was awesome.

It was just the break we needed.

Sure, giant city stresses me out.  And yes all the lights, chaos and noise intermittently made me want to flap, but overall, it was awesome.  And not just because we got to watch “Full House” almost every night in our hotel room.

We packed a ton into the four and a bit days we were in the city.  A ton.  It helps that we bought tickets in advance for shows and got a New York pass, which saved us $100 alone.

We saw two musicals… Wicked and Aladdin.  Both were awesome, although Wicked was my favourite.IMG_4941

We went on a boat tour around the islands.  It was cold.  I insisted on staying outside until my hands went numb.  Literally.  I didn’t get warm for hours.IMG_4663

We went to 5 different museums (if you count Yankee stadium tours as a museum of sorts).  My favourite was that I finally got to see Body Works after trying to see it at least three other times and just missing it (the guilt of dragging Patrick to see Body Works was the reason we then ended up both going on the Yankee stadium tour where I was a way worse sport than he was).IMG_4729

We went to Top of The Rock at night, which was beautiful.IMG_4780

We wandered around Central Park.IMG_4841 IMG_4877

We wandered around DUMBO (which, in case you wanted to know is totally where I want to live if I have to live in New York).  The book stores were enough to keep me there, but coffee shops, restaurants and proximity to the water also helped.IMG_4995 IMG_4998

We ate Italian  in Little Italy and the same night got bubble tea and wandered the markets (mmm… fresh produce) in Chinatown. We had New York pizza legitimately.  We went to a gourmet cookie shop and had whoopee pies.  There was sushi and coffee and several American chains that fascinate us both.  Mmm… Food.IMG_5026

Just writing about it makes me feel tired.

Good trip.


Licked ham and other realizations

The cat licked our ham today.

I turned my back for 5 seconds to grab some water to put at the bottom of the pan and he licked it.  And stared at me spitefully while doing it.

Confession… I put the ham in the oven… It is baking for the next few hours anyway, that should kill anything living on it, right?

Snowbanks make the stores look busier because they take up so many parking spots.

The only Saturdays I seem to have to get groceries (because I didn’t go another day that week) are always the tax free days when the stores are filled with crazies looking for a bargain.

The cat only plays with yarn when I try to knit with it.IMG_1091

The cat knocked my toothbrush into his litter box the other day.  He also knocked my hairbrush in.  Funny how one brush gets washed off and reused and the other warrants a special trip to the pharmacy on the way home from work.

Patrick when skiing today.  Well, I guess it turned out to be snowboarding.  Either way, I have had the house and car to myself all day.  I said I would use the time to work on my research.  So far that is about the only thing I haven’t done.

As pumped I am about Canada’s men’s hockey team being in the gold medal game (and going for the double-double, ha ha), I am crushed that the game fall on a Sunday morning.  I am having to deal with a strange pull to both watch the game and go to church.  Clearly, one needs to be rescheduled.

I finished this mug cozie the other day and am strangely proud of it.IMG_1106

Time goes slower when you are waiting for something to happen.  I swear it should be a law of physics, not just a perception.

My pager started making weird noises today in the car.  Turns out the battery is dying.  I nearly had a stroke because I thought somehow I was being paged despite being signed out.  Did I mention I hate that thing?

I forgot to pick up a smaller needle to give my Mother-in-law her second Twinrix shot tomorrow.  I guess she will continue to think I am a butcher.  Drug companies must get bargains on larger bore needles.  Because they, in my opinion, are just plain mean.

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I am going to present my research at a national conference later this Spring.  Conference and flights are booked.   I have yet to make the presentation or book my hotel.   Is it weird that my biggest concern at this point is what to wear?

Drinking water out of a cup with a straw feels more satisfying than just drinking from a  glass.

Time to fold laundry… And then, maybe get some research work done… Maybe.

Abstracts and Olives

Today was an exciting day for me.

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I don’t think most other people would find it quite as exciting, but I take what I can get.

For starters, I finally submitted my research abstract to present at a psychosocial oncology conference in the Spring.  Good thing because they are due tomorrow.  But also good because that means my project is mostly done… Minus manuscript and post-hoc test doing.

Another check mark off the residency have-to-do list.

I just have to wait to see if it is accepted.  I hate waiting and wondering.

I really don’t like rejection.

But, at least it is done and now I can start hammering out the manuscript (I feel like I have things backwards) and my presentation for Research Day in a few months.

I have to start working on my next project soon, though.  The fun never ends.

In other exciting news today, Patrick bought me a Greek salad for lunch yesterday while he was picking up our food contribution for D-Group last night.  The whole lunch thing was pretty exciting, but what really took the cake is that said salad contains black olives.

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I don’t like black olives.

But, I didn’t have salad dressing and the lettuce that had touched olive tasted better.  I accidentally ate an olive in my pursuit of flavourful lettuce (I blame working on questions for teaching tomorrow while eating on this error).

It was delicious.

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I became quite confused.  I mean, I love green olives, but I hate black olives.  I hate black olives on my pizza, so I guess I thought I didn’t like any black olives.  But this was good.  Really good.

I ate another.

I ended up eating all of the olives.

I am puzzled by this discovery.

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I feel like I need to test this whole black olives being delicious hypothesis next time we go out to eat.

Free flight, fish tank sushi and my species

I am at a big rad onc conference this week.

When we arrived last night, Patrick reported to me that there appeared to be lots of  “my kind” around.

As if we are some sort of weird species.

I suppose we kind of are.  But, I quite like it.

I went in knowing 3 people there.  I went to a forced socialization event (otherwise known as a social with drinks and finger foods) and met new people (based on my post from Sunday, you will know this is quite a feat for me).  I generally like other rad onc residents.  I guess they are “my kind.”

Today, I geeked it out a resident refresher course.  Basically a review of various tumor site management and some physics.  I was a happy girl.  Except for the career counselling part where they suggested the job situation still sucks and we should consider doing our American boards and such (that part makes me nauseous).

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In other news, my sucky flight karma continues.  We decided to fly Porter, this smaller Canadian airline that has had rave reviews from everyone I know.  A giant leap from Air Canada.

We get there and as it turns out, their computer system crashed.  Apparently, a fire alarm went off at the company Avatar (coolest name ever, right?) and the sprinklers went off, thus shutting down the server that provides service to a bunch of airlines, including the one we were flying.  So, they checked us in manually.  I mean they wrote down everything about us, cross checked the info with a list and hand wrote our checked luggage.  We wound up being delayed massively because they had to board everyone by hand and calculate all the plane stuff too.


I want to know the formulas for the weight and balance though.  Planes are fascinating stuff.

Anyway, we were an hour and a half late arriving.

As a result I missed the season premiere of New Girl.  This was the most upsetting part of the ordeal for me.

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And honestly, it was one of the least unpleasant delays or plane mishaps I have had.

Then, today, the airline emails me telling me we each got a voucher for a round-trip on Porter for use before March 18.  A FREE TRIP.

I feel like we won a leg of the freaking Amazing Race.

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We have a free flight!

We get to go on a cheap trip!

How cool is that?

Needless to say that was a bit distracting for the later part of the conference today.

So yes, I am a happy girl.  I have my husband, a free trip and I am at a conference learning about one of my favourite things (yes, I know it is my job, but it is a good thing) in a lovely city.

Oh, and we ate sushi today on top of a fish tank (true story).

Four (NOT the character from Divergent)

Patrick and I have been married for four years as of yesterday!

I realized  that is basically the equivalent of a standard undergraduate degree.  That is pretty crazy.

My life has been divided in fours for basically almost half of its existence.

Four years of high school, four years of undergrad degree, four years of med school.

Residency actually is the odd thing out being five years.

Now my marriage fit in too.  I know, most people do units of 5 as a big deal.  But, I was pretty impressed with the whole four thing.  So was Patrick.  He got us an appropriate ice cream cake (and made BBQ supper).  He reports the girl at the ice cream store was equally impressed by the whole four years thing. photo

Maybe four is the new five.

Okay, no not really, but it is nice to celebrate a wee bit (even if I’m not the celebrating sort).

We are so blessed.