Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Psycho Oncology

I have added a new member to my treatment team. Dr. Francisco Valenzuela is a rarity in that his area of expertise is psycho oncology. 

Now to clear things up, this does not mean he is an oncologist that is a psycho. I know this should be self-evident but my darling sister WHO IS A LICENSED RN didn't understand what this term was. (Sorry Erin but c'mon) Dr. Valenzuela's approach to fighting cancer is to engage the body in what it is supposed to do, and that is casting off these rogue cells. He achieves this by getting the unconscious mind to absorb this suggestion and giving it permission to carry out this task. 

The first meeting is very simple. We met and discussed my situation and he did a couple of simple exercises. The first that really blew my mind was to describe my Kindergarten teacher and the classroom. As far as I can remember I haven't been into that school since 1989 but I was able to recall nearly every detail. This information has been floating around in my mind for decades but just running in the background. 

The thing I love about Dr. Valenzuela is that he comes from a place of positivity. My regular oncologist is a brilliant man but his stance is embedded in science and statistics. I find meeting with him extremely unnerving because he almost hedges his bets with me and every time he gives me good info there always seems to be a caviat or "but." At my last appointment i was told my CT results were good but during this meeting I was told I have a "weird mutation" to my tumor and that he'd like me to send it off for genetic testing. This would require me to give permission to be entered into a phase 1 trial which is scary but I was reassured after the fact that this just means he's such a good doctor that he's building a tool box to work on me if the current tools stop working. 

I think the cost of genius might be forgetting that the patient is a fragile ball of nerves that hangs on every word and nuiance. The biggest thing that stuck with me from my last appointment was an off-handed comment. He was talking about the paperwork requirements of insurance companies and said that every 6 months or so they will ask him to update a patient's status. His stance was , "they're stage 4, they're never going back to work." This was a slap in the face. Does he never plan on me getting better? Am I really unsavable? Even if he extends my life a decade will it be so awful I won't have a normal life? I was too stunned to ask at the time but I was saddened to think that this amazing man is writing me off. This may or may not be the case but it's definitely how I interpreted it. If I hadn't seen other people with my similar diagnosis or worse that were 10 years on and thriving them maybe I'd feel crazy, but having seen what's possible I'd really like my doc to get on board with Team Colin and come from a place of fixing me. 

As Dr. Valenzuela said, our unconcious  mind is always working and taking everything in; so when the man I'm entrusting with my life throws out words like incurable and never returning to work I believe they circulate in my mind and can do absolutely no good. Deep down I know I've got the top doctor and that he's doing 100% of what is currently available to fix me, I just wish there was an attitude of positivity. 

The final activity Dr. Valenzuela and I did was enter in a trance type state and allowing my body to just focus on breathing and seeing the cancer. This was a bizarre experience. I completely relaxed and hung out in a chair. After a few minutes of just breathing I actually started sweating and feeling odd sensations throughout my body. This was a very powerful feeling. That night was odd as I had some far out dreams and it even made sleeping hard but I can see the possibilities that this treatment is opening up.  

If you're in the Edmonton area and want to enlist Dr. Valenzuela I STRONGLY encourage you to at least explore it. The office he works at is 
His personal site is
If you can't visit him personally please get his book! 


  1. I read what you wrote about your oncologist and how you felt that he had written you off and it was a good reminder to me to take care with my patients. I think sometimes as health care professionals we hide behind stats to keep our distance because if we thought about how much suffering there was in our building every single day we wouldn't be able to get up and go to work anymore. But we do need to get close and remember that our patients are no different than us and that they need hope above all else. Thank you for the reminder.

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