Georgia Straight: Todd Wong cancer recovery story in “Traditional Chinese Medicine enters the mainstream”

Todd Wong recounts using complimentary/alternative medicine to battle cancer to Georgia Straight writer Charlie Smith.

It was 21 years ago, when I found himself in emergency at Lion's Gate Hospital.  The first time he heard the word cancer was when he asked the attending specialist what the word “oncology” meant that was stitched on the doctor's white jacket.  5 months of chemotherapy is a long time.  It was certainly made easier by the Reiki and Therapeutic Touch energy work that my mother did on me, and the many visualization exercises that I did each day.  I was way to weak to play accordion – but I did when I was finally strong enough months later.  When I returned to Simon Fraser University, I took as many courses with health and illness themes as possible including: Health and Illness in Sociology, Health Psychology, Women's Health and Health Issues, Psychopathology, and even directed studies courses. 

It was much better than the alternative.

Without treatment, the doctors told me that I might have lasted 2 weeks.  My lungs were half-full of fluid, the tumor was half the width of my chest cavity and pushing on my vital organs.  There was bruising on my chest from internal pressure.

We do what we can, and I am glad to be alive and making my contributions to Society.

Traditional Chinese medicine enters the mainstream

Traditional Chinese medicine enters the mainstream

Chinese medicine expert Karen Lam has felt more acceptance in recent years.

library worker Todd Wong knows better than most that life occasionally
delivers a rude surprise. In 1989, Wong came back from a trip to New
York feeling rundown. At first, his doctor diagnosed a recurrent viral
flu. Only after visiting an oncologist did Wong, then 29 years old,
learn that he had a germ-cell tumour related to testicular cancer. It
required emergency chemotherapy to deal with a growth in his chest the
size of a large grapefruit.

“The first night I’m in the
hospital, the doctor tells my parents, ‘There is a 60-percent chance
your son will survive because we only discovered this very, very late,’
” Wong told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “I was 29 years old, really active, and the doctors never suspected anything.”

a fifth-generation Chinese Canadian, was visited regularly by his
mother, who wanted to give her son therapeutic touching to help him
heal. She asked about doing energy work known as Reiki, because this is
what she had practised at home. “The doctor told her, ‘If you want to
do that, you can take your son out of the hospital,’ ” Wong recalled.

His mother kept
coming to the hospital every night to surreptitiously practise Reiki on
her son, and Wong’s grandmother brought affirmations from a book by
Louise Hay called You Can Heal Your Life. Later, he called a
psychology instructor at Capilano College (now Capilano University) to
learn how to practise visualization. When he was well enough to attend
Simon Fraser University, every course he took had a focus on illness
and health. “I did directed studies on the relationship between stress
and illness,” Wong said. “I learned that psychoneuroimmunology [study
of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and
immune systems] was only coined as a term in 1980.”

decades after Wong’s recovery, he sees much greater cooperation taking
place between allopathic and complementary health practitioners. The
B.C. Cancer Agency is backing a complementary medicine education and
outcomes program, which is examining how to safely combine
complementary approaches with traditional cancer treatments. The team,
led by principal researcher and UBC nursing professor Lynda Balneaves,
is exploring the most effective ways to support cancer patients in
making decisions in this area. In addition, the researchers hope to
enhance health professionals’ understanding of this area.

the U.S.–based National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine, which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has
been conducting scientific research on complementary and alternative
healing practices for 10 years. It also trains researchers in this area
and disseminates information to allopathic practitioners. For example,
it has noted that acupuncture has demonstrable therapeutic benefits for
low back pain, and that tai chi may benefit older adults with
osteoarthritis in the knee.

During his recovery, Wong
visited naturopath and acupuncturist Larry Chan, one of the founders of
Integrative Healing Arts on Vancouver’s West Side, who helped him think
“outside the box” about the origins of illness. Wong is convinced that
health is about finding balance and looking at the body system in a
holistic framework rather than focusing exclusively on germs or
viruses. Integrative is one of several facilities—including the
Broadway Wellness Centre, Cross Roads Clinics, and Finlandia Natural
Pharmacy and Health Centre—that offer an interdisciplinary and
complementary approach to health care.

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