One of the most baffling complications of Barbara’s ordeal with cancer revolved around nutrition and the tension between allopathic and holistic medicine. Allopathic medicine refers to modern Western medicine with its reliance on medications and technology; holistic medicine refers to the use of natural substances, healthy nutrition, and dietary supplements in the treatment of disease.
Barbara was torn between the two competing philosophies during her last several months. Her oncologist was a child of Western medicine, although she did not object to the use of natural, organic chemicals and foods; her primary physician was holistic in his approach. Barbara also had family members who were strong proponents of the benefits of nutrition and vitamin supplements.
To me, this tension created uncertainty and conflict within Barbara’s mind and perhaps clouded her ability and resolve to fight her cancer. For weeks, Barbara’s family and friends were focused on forcing her to eat, trying to maintain her weight, instead of cherishing their last few days with her. She resisted eating and began to resent her loved ones who kept talking about food. What a horrible way to feel in your last weeks!
I also believe that the tension between the two styles of medicine (which, by the way, do not have to be in conflict) carried over into the management of her treatment. The two most important doctors in Barbara’s situation came from opposite backgrounds, with different attitudes about what was best for Barbara.
I’m not necessarily saying that holistic medicine is no good. I think that a healthy lifestyle is important in order to live a long and relatively disease-free life. Thus, proper nutrition and a conservative approach to risk and danger can contribute to a person’s life expectancy. However, being fanatical about health and nutrition is just as harmful as the opposite approach where you rely solely on medications.
Poor Barbara was caught in the middle and never recovered.