Holistic Practitioner Spotlight with Dr. Mary Block, Integrative Physician
We are speaking with Mary Ann Block, D.O., on how she approaches cancer from a different perspective.
Tell Us a Story About a Patient with Terminal Lung Cancer and How You Helped
Cele, aged 74, had just returned from a vacation with her husband. She had a cough, which she ignored for a few weeks but realized that she had no other respiratory symptoms, so she went to see her doctor. Her doctor ordered a chest x-ray and discovered that Cele had a large mass in the middle of her chest. The biopsy found non-small cell carcinoma. Cele and her family were in shock.
Estrogen at Menopause
Ten years before, Cele had uterine cancer, which was from the same type of cell. Cele had been in the group of women who were prescribed estrogen without progesterone, at the onset of menopause. Many women of her age had uterine cancer as a result of unopposed estrogen until doctors realized they were causing it with their prescribing. Radiation and the removal of the uterus took care of the problem and Cele went on with her life, healthy until the new diagnosis.
Now, 10 years later, doctors have found the exact same type of cell in her lungs. Could a stray cell from the uterus cancer, travel to the lung and start growing there? No one could say for sure.
Exposure to Smoking
Smoking was common for Cele’s age group. Even if you didn’t smoke, yourself, you would be exposed to cigarette smoke everywhere you went. Smoking was allowed in movie theaters, restaurants, pretty much everywhere. Everyone of her generation was a smoker even if they never put a cigarette in their mouth.
Conventional Medical Approach
Cele and her family immediately went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Her son lived in Houston so they had a place to stay that was more like home than a sterile hotel room.
After a week at Anderson, the doctors told Cele that they had no treatment for her. All they could offer was palliative radiation, which would only extend her life a few months. Her family insisted that the doctor not tell Cele how long they thought she had to live, but the doctors told her family that it would be only 2 months. With radiation, maybe she would have 6 months. The family returned home to Fort Worth, Texas, much more sober than when they left.
Another Conventional Approach
Cele’s daughter had gone to school with someone who was now an oncologist so she called him and explained the situation. He told her they had a new protocol that showed promise, combining chemotherapy and radiation. It would not be a cure, he said, but one person had lived a year. This sounded better than the 6 months offered by MD Anderson, so Cele started the treatment.
Cele asked her own doctor if anyone had ever survived this cancer. By now she was aware that the cancer had spread outside the lungs, but was still in the chest. Her doctor told her that someone had survived this cancer. Cele announced, “Then I will, too!”
The chemo was rough. There were times when Cele passed out and the paramedics were called. When they walked into her house and saw the frail, bald woman lying on the floor, they asked if she was DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). Her daughter said, “Absolutely not!” But at the same time, she wondered if she was doing her mother a favor by not letting her go.
During the chemo treatment, Cele’s white blood cells got so low her doctor thought he would have to stop it. At the exact time, a new medication for raising white blood cells was approved for use. When she became so sick for the chemo that her weight loss became a real concern and once again her doctor was going to stop the treatment, Zofran was approved. It seemed these drugs were developed just for her.
But Cele’s daughter wasn’t satisfied. She discussed using alternative therapies with the oncologist. The oncologist was fine with it. Privately he had told her that no one actually survives this kind of cancer so Cele could do whatever she wanted. It wouldn’t matter.
The Search for Alternatives
Her daughter began looking into alternative treatments. It was not so easy since there was no internet back then. Cele’s daughter spent time at the public library, talked to friends and even went to the medical library at the local medical school. Through her research, her daughter put together a plan that included nutritional IV’s, magnesium injections, hypnosis, visualization and more.
Buying into Alternative Therapies
At first, Cele, told her daughter to read the books and tell her what to do. Her daughter told her she must read the books herself. It was important for Cele to buy into the treatments. Positive thinking about her therapy was very important. Cele needed to believe the treatments would help her.
When her daughter was young, she wet the bed much longer than was considered appropriate. Cele gave her Norman Vincent Peale’s book, the Power of Positive Thinking and told her to read it and use it to help stop the bed-wetting. It worked! Now it was time for Cele to do for herself, what she had once told her daughter to do.
Cele dug into the idea of helping herself. She discovered that Pau De’ Arco tea helped treat cancer and she began drinking it. She stopped eating her beloved sugar and ate more vegetables. Anything that had helped anyone was on the list to try.
Integrating Chemo with Alternatives
People have asked why she did the chemo and radiation if she was so open to the alternatives and the answer was simple. She did not want to leave out any option.
It was just a few weeks later when Cele’s daughter found out she was right in not encouraging her mother to have a DNR.
The oncologist called for Cele to come see him. Her daughter took her. The oncologist told them he was going to stop the treatment. “Not again” thought her daughter. “Are they going to have to develop another drug so she can finish the chemo?”
Her daughter asked why he was stopping treatment now when she was so close to completing it?
The doctor threw a radiograph up on the view box, and very dramatically said, “I’m stopping the treatment because the cancer is gone!”
We couldn’t believe our ears! We hugged each other. We hugged the doctor. He was as surprised and as excited as we were.
Belief in the Treatment
Another doctor had told Cele’s daughter, “It is so hard being a doctor and not being able to save someone you love.”
“You see, I am Cele’s daughter and I am a doctor.”
I had gone to medical school at age 39 to save my daughter after she had side effects to prescription drugs and no one could get her well. I knew I had to do it myself and I did. This prepared me for my mother’s illness.
I already knew that doctors don’t know everything, so I was not going to leave my mother’s cancer treatment solely to conventional treatment. Cele believed that chemo and radiation would help so I encouraged her to do it. The belief in the treatment can make a difference between success and failure.
Cele lived 18 more years, till the age of 92 and never had cancer again. She saw her 3 granddaughters get married and watched her grandson graduate from college and law school. Cele got to experience 18 more years of her life because she believed that the alternative treatments would help her and she was willing to try anything, even chemo, to have a chance to live.
Her oncologists agreed that the protocol I put together was the reason Cele lived. Did she need chemo and radiation? I don’t know. But I know this: I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
Why and When Did You Choose the Holistic Path?
When my daughter was young, she had chronic bladder infections. She was prescribed drugs that made her very sick. They thought she might have Leukemia. Doctors could not get her well. I read about a DO who called himself a medical detective. I took my daughter to him and saw a whole new medicine. I decided to go to medical school at the age of 39 to protect my family. I wanted to practice like the doctor who helped me save my daughter.
What Lessons Have Your Work and Personal Experiences Taught You?
It has taught me that there are many ways to approach a medical problem but first and foremost, we must find the actually underlying cause and fix that for someone to be well.
Dr. Mary Ann Block attended and taught at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is currently in private practice and is a speaker at many medical conferences and Autism conferences.
Dr. Block is the author of the following books:
- No More ADHD
- No More Ritalin
- No More Antibiotics
- Just Because You’re Depressed, Doesn’t Mean You Have Depression
- The ABC’s of Raising Great Kids
- Today I Will Not Die
Mary Ann Block, DO
Family Medicine Practitioner
The Block Center
Fort Worth, Texas USA
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