I know what you are thinking, I am curing myself by kissing every person I meet? Heard that joke before – nice try.
Although most people know mistletoe just as the red-berried plant that is hung up in doorways around the holidays – it is now also being used to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients. The American mistletoe has the red berries, and that is considered poisonous even after it has been processed. European mistletoe however, once processed can be used as an injectable and infusable medicine. It has been scientifically proven to help with different cancers in a lot of ways – but I am using it for one main reason – to help keep my white blood cells alive and strong.
The positive to chemotherapy is that it kills cancer cells, the negative side is that it also kills healthy cells. The drug cannot distinguish between what is good or what is bad – so it just kills everything it touches. That is why blood counts are always taken before each and every chemo treatment. If you do not have enough healthy cells in your body, you will be unable to receive your treatment that day. Many patients end up (as I did before) on two types of injectable drugs to help with this. They are either Neupogen or Neulasta, and both work in the same way. They go into your bones and take out the new baby white blood cells in order to fill your body with a higher healthy count. It does work and it’s main side effect are bone aches (which sounds weird but it is actually super uncomfortable). So how does mistletoe work differently? It goes up to the already thriving and strong white blood cells and protects them from being killed off by the chemotherapy. Why would that make a difference you ask? Well wouldn’t you rather have a strong, tough warrior fighting your battles than a new born baby?
So what have I noticed with my own self that has proved to me that mistletoe is the shit? Well for starters, I still have hair. I am heading into my 5th round of chemo and I know from experience that my hair should already be too thin to keep. By the time I get to treatment number 3 or 4 I notice my hairline and part are extremely thin and I can’t cover it up anymore no matter which way I try to comb it. (If you would like proof of this look up earlier posts which I believe were entitled “Hair Be Gone.”) Today, my hair is much thinner than it usually is, and I notice more of it in my hands when I am washing my hair – but to the public you would still never know. My hairline is still strong. Will it stay this way forever? Who knows. All I know is that right now there is enough up there that I do not have to shave it.
Still skeptic that this mistletoe is just another fad in the cancer world? Well check out my blood counts from my past three chemotherapy sessions:
I do not expect you to be able to understand what these numbers mean, so I will explain it to you in an easy way. The Neutrophils number is what they look at in order to determine whether you need to start one of the earlier injectable drugs I was speaking about. If that number is closer to or less than 1, you have to start. By treatment number 3 I always have to start on these injectables. Now this number is going down, but I am still in a very healthy range. As my nurses put it, “These are the counts we would expect to see on a completely healthy person!” The labs don’t lie.
The only downside to the mistletoe is not only is it expensive, but I also have to inject it myself every 2-3 days in my stomach. This so far has not gotten any easier and I still get sweaty palms and have to talk myself up to doing it every time. I usually will sit in bed and say out loud, “Would you rather have 2 minutes of discomfort or 5 days? Would you rather have 2 minutes of discomfort or no hair? Suck it up you baby.”
The cost and the anxiety are worth it. If you are interested in this treatment for yourself talk to your naturopath or find one who has this in their roster.