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Interview: Rick Shapiro, Author of ‘Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds’

Rick Shapiro is a leading cancer treatment consultant. I reviewed his new book, Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds, for this site. The book focuses on the medical establishment’s flawed approach to cancer treatment, and how innovative, alternative therapies are offering promising results. We had the chance to chat about the genesis of the book, Shapiro’s frustration with the medical establishment, and why — most importantly — a cancer diagnosis should never trigger a loss of hope.

What led you to write Hope Never Dies?

My father died of cancer in 1996. I witnessed the horrendous effects of his chemotherapy treatments, and watched the cancer overwhelm his body. This was a watershed moment that impelled me to delve into research. I needed to understand why some people afflicted with late-stage or terminal cancer live years past their so-called expiration date, and “beat the odds.”

I became impassioned about educating people on safe, effective integrative and complementary therapies. I want Hope Never Dies to be a veritable resource, an inspiration and a guide, demonstrating that powerful progressive therapies can save lives, extend lives, and enhance quality of life significantly beyond the expectations of strict “standard of care” medicine.

Why does the medical establishment remain focused on limited treatment options for cancer patients?

There are many components to their rationale, but I will specify two reasons: Lack of knowledge and interest. In 1982, a survey showed only 37 percent of medical schools offered a class in nutrition. In a more recent 2010 study, only 27 percent offered such a class, a significant decline from 1982. Essentially, medical doctors have virtually no knowledge about evidence-based, complementary cancer fighting treatments such as oncological nutritional strategies, evidence-based supplemental protocols, mind-body methodologies, effective exercise regimens and other beneficial therapies.

Standard of care treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, are the primary cancer treatments implemented by mainstream medicine. Other non-standard of care treatments are generally shunned and called “unproven.”

FDA Approval and Evidence: Other treatments are shunned because they’re not blessed by evidence approved by the FDA. Its blessing entails protracted, randomized, large, double blind, placebo-controlled “Phase 3” studies that cost upwards of $1 billion. These huge costs are justified by the procurement of protected commercial patents. Generally, only large pharmaceutical companies can afford this expense.

The integrative and alternative world often uses non-pharmaceutical approaches, which are not patentable, and cannot incur the financial costs of such obscenely expensive studies. Consequently, FDA approval isn’t obtained — and the conventional world won’t recognize such treatments or therapies. This is despite the abundance of other studies that strongly suggest many non-pharmaceutical therapies are profoundly beneficial to cancer patients.

How can personalized, integrative cancer care improve outcomes?

Conventional cancer care primarily adheres to a “silver bullet” approach — finding a chemotherapeutic or targeted agent that will destroy the cancer. Reliance upon a single drug solution is not a treatment that gets at the cause, but only the symptoms. Frequently, drug treatment doesn’t destroy the complex factors that contribute to fostering a cancer environment. They may temporarily stop cancer’s progress or shrink tumors, but they frequently don’t get to the true Achilles heel of the cancer.

What’s critical is adhering to a comprehensive, personalized integrative approach, administered by sophisticated medical practitioners. That’s what will change the environment that permitted cancer. This approach simultaneously strengthens the immune system, supports the individual, and attacks the cancer. These therapeutic tools are administered based upon personalized testing criteria, and can effectively help patients control and fight cancer.

Additionally, generic chemotherapy can be modified and greatly enhanced by utilizing advanced chemosensitivity tests (testing actual tissue samples of patients in the laboratory) prior to beginning treatment, and administering the most effective drugs in smaller doses over longer periods of time. Larger doses, on the other hand, can harm healthy tissue and normal cells. And using specific botanicals, vitamins and extracts tailored to the individual, along with practices such as fasting, exercise, and acupuncture, can significantly mitigate toxicity and lessen harsh side effects.

What can cancer patients do to expand their treatment options — especially when they aren’t covered by insurance?

Cancer patients need to research and seek out knowledgeable and experienced integrative cancer doctors, naturopaths who specialize in oncology, and other practitioners of effective complementary therapies. Be careful when searching for knowledgeable experts on the Internet. Ask very direct questions of prospective doctors, and ask to speak to their other patients. Because insurance companies refuse to pay for many non-standard of care therapies, the cost factor can be troublesome, even when these therapies are beneficial to the patient.

You interviewed people who beat the odds in terms of recovering from cancer. What can they teach us?

First, no one is a statistic. Everyone diagnosed with cancer has a different health status, age, medical background and mindset. Keep in mind that most cancer patients (among the voluminous statistics) never implement integrative or complementary protocols. If they did, especially at initial diagnosis, outcomes might be different.

Also, it takes courage and a hopeful attitude to digress from strict standard of care methodologies in the face of relentless judgment and pressure from family, friends and conventional doctors. It takes a belief, a fighting spirit and a no-quit attitude. Get second and third opinions from doctors who have different philosophies. Don’t be afraid of innovative, unconventional therapies, and beware of following the herd mentality out of fear.

Learn more at the author’s website.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her “beat” is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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Book Review: ‘Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds,’ By Rick Shapiro

'Hope Never Dies' is an inspiring new book by cancer care expert Rick Shapiro. Its profiles of cancer survivors and experts prove that integrative and alternative treatments may be your best allies.