OXYGEN FOR CHEMOTHERAPY INDUCED ANEMIA
Ever since my great friend (and excellent brilliant doctor!) Dr. Bruce Rind (www.drrind.com) turned me on to “chelox” (using nasal oxygen during chelation) I have been an enthusiastic user of oxygen in safe and effective dosages for many patients suffering with many varied illnesses. Over the past year, I have also given oxygen to my patients taking chemotherapy – simplistically assuming a “pro-oxidant” effect designed to augment the killing of cancer cells.
(Reminder: cancer cells hate oxygen as they thrive in an anaerobic environment).
I have also given oxygen in conjunction with high dose vitamin C for the same “pro-oxidant reason.
Now, in a recent Medical Hypotheses edition 92007) 69,1200-1204, I read a wonderful article “Oxygen breathing may be a cheaper and safer alternative to exogenous erythropoietin” by a fellow here in Redmond WA, Ron Burk.
After completing the article, I tracked him down and was delighted to find him a neighbor (Redmond is 30 minutes from Whidbey Island). So I called him at 7:30 PM, praised his work and before I elaborated on my commendations, he told me he was thrilled that someone had read his article and immediately added: “Hey, I am a nobody. I am not a doctor.” (I interrupted him, took issue with that disclaimer and corrected him by pointing out that the derivation of the word “doctor” is the Latin “ducere” meaning to lead or teach; he had just taught me a few important things so, with or without his indulgence, I intended to call him, with all due respect, “Dr.”)
Ron went on to tell me that he was only striving to save his wife’s life when he got to thinking about the idea which led to this article. He told me that he had been disappointed that no oncologists seemed interested (less expensive chemotherapy costs are not their concern since they sell Procrit), that no research scientists seemed interested (they focus on grants and the cost and morbidity of chemotherapy is not an interest) and he acknowledged that the drug companies would frankly be against any cheap technique which obviated the need for their products (Procrit and other exogenous erythropoietin agents represent a huge and lucrative market at $600/shot!).
He paused then told me, “Frankly I had given up hope of interesting practicing doctors and really come to believe that the only doctor interested in saving money in chemotherapy would be a doctor working for an insurance company. Do you work for an insurance company? Are you an insurance doc? I told him “No”
(and I spared him the clarification that 99.95% of the medical doctors in America today are indeed, unabashedly “insurance doctors” since they are paid not by their patients, but rather by insurance companies or some other third party. Perplexed? Well, let’s remember an eternal truth: we work for whoever pays us. Otherwise stated, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. Therefore, the doctor treating you, dear reader, is not your doctor as in “my cardiologist told me…” but rather that doctor is the insurance company’s doctor: he works with you but for the insurance company)
…but I digress.
I told Ron that I was not an insurance company doctor but simply a doctor always looking for new and better ways to serve my patients by offering effective and cost-effective protocols. We got along famously!
So, if you know someone who is taking chemotherapy for cancer treatment or someone who has anemia, encourage them to ask their doctor about the cheap and common-sense option of adding 99-100% pure oxygen by nasal cannula (or the more comfortable mask) at 2-4 liters flow for 90 minutes a session three times a day. If that doctor isn’t interested, find one who is. Like Matilda.
“Matilda” was a persistent lady who called my office a couple of months ago and had a very specific request: “Dr. Weeks, I need a prescription for oxygen. I certainly need more oxygen. Can you help me get more oxygen?” Well, I wanted to learn more about why she wanted oxygen (a potentially dangerous gas!) so she told me her predicament. It seems that Matilda and Henrie, her boyfriend and twice a week dance partner (Tuesdays and Fridays), were being slowed down by her running out of breath while dancing. This was a bother and certainly cramped her style. She looked forward to her nights out dancing with her date and it was hard to dance into the night with not enough oxygen.
I discussed clinical symptoms like “air hunger” and the possibility that her running out of breath might be a sign of heart problems or lung problems. She dismissed those concerns and added as an aside that she has outlived all her doctors who never listened to her. He last doctor, she reported with disdain, had listened to her for 1 minute before telling her she needed a drug called Propranolol.
She retorted to that doctor: “ What foolishness! I’m not short on Propranolol, I’m short on oxygen. Why not give me oxygen?”
So, duly chastised, I listened more to her specific concerns and invited her in to the office for a physical examination and some blood work promising to consider offering her a prescription for oxygen, should we both agree it was the best course of action. Then before scheduling her, I inquired about her age. “Why, if you must know, young Dr. Weeks, I am 90 years old, last Sunday.” A long pause…. Then I asked “And your boyfriend?” Henrie” she inquired (leaving me to wonder about how many escorts she managed..) we’ll he’ll be 95 next month.”
I made a mental note that we were having this conversation on a Tuesday morning and that Matilda probably had a “date” that evening so I told her that we could fit her in that afternoon and to please come to the office in her dancing shoes!
Two weeks later she called and told me that the oxygen was working miracles and life was grande again!
So there you have it. Arrange to have more oxygen in your life and in your blood. Whether you get it by dancing with your date twice a week or via a nasal cannula while getting an IV is your choice. For some people, both would not be a bad idea!
A word to my medical colleagues which I learned from my old and wise professor Alan Tisdale, M.D. from medical school days: “When in doubt, ask your patient.”