Government Reform and Oversight Committee
February 4, 1998
Ms. Genevieve Sherman
My name is Genevieve Sherman. I live in Haddonfield, New Jersey and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be present today. Grateful not only for the opportunity to speak to you about alternative medicine but grateful to be alive. You see, I am a cancer survivor. Not a survivor by chance, but a survivor by choice, My choice was in direct defiance of mainstream medicine's recommendation for breast cancer treatment. My choice was alternative treatment and it is that choice and my right as a U. S. citizen to receive it, that brings me here today.
Please allow me to give you a brief summary of the circumstances which lead me to this choice. In January of 1991, I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer with lymph node involvement. My surgeonlremoved the right breast and lymph nodes and referred me to an oncologist at Jefferson University for follow-up treatment. He stated that inasmuch as nine lymph nodes had been affected and given the aggressive nature of my cancer my survival depended solely on the outcome of chemotherapy. I stated I would have to think about the treatment. Neither the doctor nor medical science could assure me success, My friend's experienced and my own knowledge of the chemotherapy was a dark prospect at a time when not only living or surviving counted but the quality of life was essential for me. Chemotherapy is not a sure bet and it's ravaging effects on the body and the body's immune system can be devastating.
My daughters had read about a renowned physician in New York who was a strong advocate of alternative and complementary medicine. I then went to see him. We discussed the alternative treatments that he felt would be effective in my case. He stressed that I would by an active participant in my cure. That was the key word... active. He assured me that I would not experience the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. No hair loss, no nausea, no stomatitis, no weight loss, no chronic diarrhea or crushing fatigue. It was at that point that I made the most important decision of my life. My oncologist was strongly opposed and more or less had washed his hands of me when learning of my decision.
I would now be traveling to NewYork from New Jersey three times a week initially to be monitored and receive various alternative treatments consisting of supplements to strengthen my immune system; I.V.'s with cancer fighting alternative treatments, nutritional counseling and various other herbal and plant preparations. My Woodwork was monitored on a regular basis. My diet was addressed as well as my emotional state. It was a total and complete approach to fighting and beating cancer. At the clinic the mood was always high. People from all over the counrty had placed their faith in alternative medicine when mainstream medicine had failed them or turned them away to quote "finish their personal business" People of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences getting better with no ill effects. Yes, there were challenges and at times a set back or two, but overall there was success for all different types of illnesses; not just cancer.
My cancer markers began to drop to within normal range and my liver and bone scans remained negative. My spirit soared and I had hope for the first time since being diagnosed. I was able to be treated for cancer and still remain a vital, active person! It has been almost eight years since I first began treatment and I remain cancer free. Of course I continue treatment with my physician in New York but my visits are few and far between. The treatment protocol is constantly monitored and adjusted to address my current needs. My choice had paid off...I am alive and enjoying family, friends and al 1 that life for a 77 year old woman has to offer. Thanks to the brave and pioneering few in medicine who choose to offer a safe and healthier approach to life and health.
Now I must relate the only downsides to alternative medicine, which is,extremely bothersome to those who have chooser this route. Recently, I was advised that any cancer treatment medicine for the I.V.'s I had been receiving through a local physician, who consults with my primary physician in New York Dr. Robert Atkins, could no longer be sent through the mail. These treatments are crucial to the health of chose depending on them. It is already difficult enough to receive some of the more unconventional treatments because of restrictions placed upon them. I truly feel it is my choice my right to receive them.
I am also deeply concerned that none ofthese therapies are covered by Medicare or any other insurance. My husband (age 77) has to continue to work in order that I may continue my life-saving treatments. We have depleted all of our life savings in order that may have the right to choose the course of my cancer treatment. My concern is for those who do not have the resources to provide them the option of choosing. These therapies allow the human being to remain a productive person while treating. Chemo and radiation to not. Each week I sit in my doctor's office with as many as 26 or more patients who are recipients of chelation or other alternative therapies. Naturally, we are constantly discussing the merits of these treatments. However, we all share a sense of despair that these treatments are not more easily accessible to those in great need of them or that at some time or another they may be unavailable to us or our loved ones altogether. Either the cost will prohibit it or it will be made unavailable to us because of FDA regulations. These issues must be addressed and remedies soon as possible. Every American man, woman and child has the right to choose and receive the course of medical treatment they feel best suites their lives. It should not be the government or the insurance companies right to deem what choices a person will have. Currently the success rate for such traditional treatments as chemotherapy and radiation is not exactly high, yet these treatments are covered. Alternative. therapy quite often allows the patient to remain working without the need for assistance. In my opinion, this seems a considerable cost-effective reason for covering alternative treatments. Only one of the many reasons. That is why it is imperative that more must be done to make alternative medicine accessible to the American public. I thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today.
Genevieve J. Sherman