Cancer is now the number one killer in our nation and chemotherapy is our best-known defense against it. Cancer is defined by uncontrolled cell growth that eventually interferes with the rest of the body's functioning. Chemotherapy involves the intravenous administration of some of the most powerful and toxic chemicals used in medicine. These drugs attack cancer cells quite effectively, but unfortunately, they are also very efficient at killing healthy cells within the body.
Some of the most commonly used drugs in chemotherapy are cisplatin, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, and nitrogen mustard derivatives such as melphalan and chlorambucil. These drugs are extraordinarily toxic and can cause side effects that include: deafness, kidney failure, uncontrolled bleeding and bruising, suppression of the immune system, destruction of heart muscle tissue, hair loss, profound nausea and vomiting, and even secondary types of cancer. The dosage of these medicines must be measured very carefully to prevent kidney, heart, or respiratory failure.
The most common, and often the most devastating side effect for chemotherapy patients is the nausea and vomiting. Vomiting and retching (dry heaves) can last for hours or days after a chemotherapy treatment. Some patients retch so uncontrollably that they can break bones or rupture their esophagus. This can be followed by weeks of nausea and marked appetite loss. This loss of appetite can be a major hindrance in the treatment of a cancer patient because as their body begins to waste away from lack of caloric intake, the patients become less able to tolerate the toxins with which they are administered. A loss of the will to live is also associated with this wasting syndrome.
Some patients' responses to the chemotherapy drugs are so severe that they say the treatment is worse than the disease. If they perceive the treatment to a greater evil than...