Traditional,Modern Medicine Cross Paths To Aid Patients
Liana Aghajanian, Posted: Mar 13, 2011 Yasmin Bhadha could have taken the diagnosis of stage-four breast cancer as her death sentence.
After all, this isn’t her first go-round with the disease. Seven years ago, Bhadha of La Crescenta, Calif., battled breast cancer, which went into remission. But cancer reemerged in 2009, this time manifesting in her bones.
“I feel very happy, that luckily it’s not my children, it’s not my grandchildren, it’s not my husband, it’s me,” said Bhadha, 63, a teacher originally from India. “I can take it. I’m strong, I’m strong like a pillar.”
Bhadha said she’s feeling stronger, despite her diagnosis. She supplemented traditional chemotherapy with Reiki, the ancient Japanese energy therapy, which claims to promote healing for various of ailments. Thanks to both, she said, her cancer markers are declining drastically.
Patients like Bhadha, physicians and even pharmacists around the nation are throwing out a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine and incorporating alternative therapies in their lives, practices and businesses. Yet, while some therapies, such as acupuncture, are well accepted, others, such as many herbal remedies have proved ineffective.
This new model is gaining significant ground in Los Angeles, where a crop of practices and medical centers have sprouted across the region offering tailor-made healthcare to patients, such as at the two-year-old Beneveda Medical Group in Beverly Hills.
“More Than Blending East and West”
Clients at Beneveda indulge in salt therapy, thermography, chiropractic treatments and even hypnosis, alongside conventional modalities found at any doctor’s office.
The clinic’s integrative medical practice aims to offer an experience is “more than just blending East and West,” stated Beneveda founder Thom E. Lobe, MD. “It’s really taking a number of modalities and disciplines that exist within modern 21st century healthcare practices and looking at which of those things is most effective.”
For Lobe, starting an integrative medicine practice was personal. Among his earliest memories is having been hospitalized as a child. Being physically confined so severely, he would cry himself to sleep.
“I realized something’s wrong here,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m going to grow up and make a difference in how people are treated.’”
A surgeon, Lobe has traveled the world delving into traditional medicinal practices. He has earned degrees in acupuncture and hypnosis, while serving as an advisor to the Institute for the Study of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
He noted that the Beneveda group’s specialty lies in the power to help patients interpret signals their body sends. To do so, they use noninvasive methods, such as thermographic body scanning, a test complimentary to mammograms that Lobe said is 99 percent accurate in detecting breast cancer in women from ages 30 to 55.
Many seek Lobe’s help as a last resort, after consultations with practitioners of conventional Western medicine. One is John Stack. Before visiting the Benveneda group, he saw many doctors who weren’t able to figure out why he had developed a low platelet count since his home burned down in the 2009 Santa Barbara wildfires.
Stack, 87, and his wife Patty Kelly, 77, had spent thousands of dollars trying to get to the bottom of his ailment. For instance, at a Nevada medical clinic he paid $50,000 for an alternative chemotherapy regime. It seemed to help, but with a catch: John didn’t actually have cancer.
Referred to Beneveda by another physician, Stack received a hands-on exam, CAT scan and one of Beneveda’s energy tests, which suggested Lyme disease as the culprit, a possible consequence of severe stress and a weakened immune system from the fire. Weekly platelet transfusions and an immune-boosting herbal supplement, elevated Stack’s platelet count from 5,000 to 25,000 in a few weeks.
Conventional Medicine Broken
Lobe said he isn’t surprised that some patients come to him out of desperation. He believes conventional medicine is more or less broken. He believes too few doctors in the United States “take the time to figure out what’s wrong and how to change your life.”
Sharing Lobe’s view is Barry Perzow, who founded the Pharmaca chain of integrative pharmacies based in Boulder, Colo. At the stores, customers can pick up prescriptions and browse through numerous shelves of Chinese, homeopathic and other medications alternatives, or arrange to see a massage therapist, licensed chiropractor or acupuncturist at the store’s Integrative Medical Clinic.
After being in the organic supermarket business, Perzow sought to open Pharmaca after realizing that conventional pharmacies hadn’t changed in 50 years and have been slow to address the needs of an aging population. The first store opened in 2000, and there now are 23 in five states.
Perzow also recently formed the Integrative Health Advisory Board to help educate consumers, healthcare professionals and the media on the safe and effective use of integrative medicine, which he said is essential to the future of medicine.
A $33.9 Billion Industry
Meanwhile, the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) industry yields major profits and continues to grow.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans spent $33.9 billion on CAM over the previous 12 months. In 2009, sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States reached slightly more than $5 billion, according to a report published by HerbalGram, the quarterly journal of the American Botanical Council.
Still, there are detractors. A $2.5 billion study by the federal National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2009, found a majority of alternative and herbal health remedies don’t actually work.
Some call CAM “pseudoscience” and say its lack of regulation and research haven’t been able to prove its effectiveness. News reports [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31190909/] show customers CAM customers are often taken advantage of, losing a lot of money in the process.
Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, California’s oldest Oriental medicine school is developing healers steeped in the desire to humanize medicine, said the school’s dean, Jacques MoraMarco.
“In the Oriental medical approach, there’s no separation of mind and body, so if somebody comes to you, the number one thing you have to have is the attribute of compassion. If you don’t have compassion, you’re in the wrong field of care,”
The college recently connected with the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, where cancer patients receive acupuncture to alleviate undesirable side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Emperor’s CEO Yun Kim observed, “There are things that we can do in Eastern medicine to strengthen [patients’] terrain, strengthen the function of the organs, so that people don’t have to be on pills for the rest of their lives.”
In La Crescenta, Yasmin Bhadha finishes work early on Friday afternoons and goes to her group chemotherapy appointments. But she contends the weekly reminder that cancer cells are damaging her bones doesn’t affect her life.
“I think I’m going for a sauna,” she says. “I go there and relax and put my legs up.”
While the integration of alternative therapies into doctor’s offices across the country faces challenges, Bhada hasn’t felt as good as she does now for a long time. She is convinced her fellow chemotherapy participants could benefit from her brand of gusto.
“Say that it’s going away and just feel it inside you,” she says. “Close your eyes and feel it and let the [cancer] cells fall out.”
This story was funded by the Spot.Us community (http://spot.us/pitches/771).