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Chemo and Immune System Question

carrieh's picture
Posts: 146
Joined: May 2012

This may sound really dumb but I don't understand how chemo and the our immune systems work in the sense that they seem to be fighting each other not working together. Chemo knocks down our white blood cells which are supposed to kill the cancer; right? How does that help? Won't that just make us worse? I know the chemo is supposed to kill the cancer cells but how does weakining our body help?

I'm sorry if thats a stupid question..and honestly my doctor prob told me the answer but it all came at me so fast. None of this makes any sense to me. I keep reading and reading everything..all of this advice, what to eat and not eat..supplements to take and not take..how does anyone figure all of this out? Im a bit of a dork..I like to know everything (smiles)..and sugar..does everyone stay away from it? I miss chocolate a lot

John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

It's a great question, and you will get many answers!

I never did chemo or radiation, I did Traditional Chinese Medicine,
and used imported medicinal strength herbs for my fight. You can
read my blog for info.

No modality is guaranteed to work when it comes to cancer,
but I believe as you do, and as several billions other do, that
weakening the immune system is counterproductive to curing

The oncologists will take a person off chemical therapy if there
is a sign of immune system weakening. They tell you up-front,
that a weakened immune system will allow cancer to grow.

So Carrie, your feelings are not without warrant; or silly or dumb,
and are the same question asked by people in the industry.

Unfortunately, the fear of having cancer overwhelms the basic
instincts for survival of most of those afflicted. Since the propaganda
of the industry's quest for business survival manages to take
precedence to common sense, cancer patients believe whatever
they are told to believe; the fear is that great.

There are other ways to fight cancer without fighting your own
body. Taking large doses of carcinogenic chemicals (chemo) in an
effort to kill cancer cells, really isn't the most sensible thing to do
under normal circumstances.

If you have a tumor that is about to kill you, or about to invade
an area that will surely kill you, then using whatever will stop
the tumor as fast as it can, is necessary. Surgery, chemical therapy
and radiation can do that faster than most "alternatives".

But there are other methods that can also be as fast as surgery.
RF ablation, freezing and/or heating the tumor directly.... there
are many other new developments that can knock down a tumor
directly, without damaging the immune system the way chemo
and radiation does.

The killing ability of radiation and chemicals isn't questioned,
it's the inability of the modalities to target cancer cells in any
precise manner. Both modalities can target a tumor, but small
clusters of cancer cells (and single cells) can not be distinguished
from good cells with present technology.

The best targeting of single cells is our own immune system. And
it's the one thing that we were all given; that we were all provided
with at birth (if not before). We were all given the basic instincts
for survival; the intuition of how to remain alive. All animals have it,
all living creatures have it, even plant life has it, only they listen to it,
instead of the hyperbole of an industry watching it's bottom line.

Take care of stopping a dangerous tumor whatever way is safest
and without the most serious side effects (your colorectal surgeon
can usually tell you what's what better, than an oncologist can).

If there isn't a tumor or fast advances to an area that will certainly
kill you, then I would suggest an "alternative" to radical chemical
or radiation treatments.

I chose TCM because of it's nearly four thousand year-old history
of success in all other health concerns (cancer included). The TCM
practice remains being used in some of the finest Asian hospitals;
it is not something to make light of, although you'll find mockery of
it on many forums.

Do not allow fear to guide you; use your gift of self-survival instincts.

Remember mom and dad's advice? "If it doesn't seem right, don't do it"?

"Trust thyself"

My best wishes for you,


Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

In these early stages it is easy to feel overwhelmed by what is often contradictory information about what to do. Essentially you are right that for some people immune suppression is a side effect of chemo but not for all- my white cell count has never dipped on chemo. Also small dips aren't a major problem- only serious immune suppression is a problem that leaves you vulnerable to serious infections. Essentially cancer is growth in our body that the immune system has failed to deal with so the idea with cytotoxic chemo is to kill it with chemicals accepting the immune system has failed. Yes, it would be nice if it didn't dull the immune system in any one but those drugs are not with us yet.

As for all the other advise eg diet etc. I would encourage you to do nothing immediately except develop your knowledge if you think that area of complementary methods is likely to be for you. Once your head has stopped spinning and you have got your own thoughts, ideas, beliefs and understanding together then decide what dietary, supplementary, lifestyle or other changes your wish to make. Some do loads ( read pete blog one day when your head isn't spinning) some do nothing. Personally I believe in moderation and have made few lifestyle changes so still enjoy sugar and chocolate when I want them! There is no rush- ant cancer a person has is likely to have round for years. You priority for now is to let your head settle and get through this first adjustment to having the diagnosis and starting treatment.


pete43lost_at_sea's picture
Posts: 3908
Joined: Nov 2010

so I have tried a few alternative things and have some reflections.

we are all so different and the best hope and treatment plan may well be a very personalised approach. the cancer problems we need fixed are so varied, different fundamental characteristics, honestly besides they fact our tumours start in a similar region and from a similar type of cell. whats also similar is we all get standardised treatment protocols to a large extent. whats so different is oncogene expression like mdr, her2 receptor status, kras etc etc etc.

whats best for you is a solution somewhere between steves answer and johns.

my contribution is that the only hope of cure rests with a functioning immune system, now lots of different therapies may help us get their from tcm to chemo, just depending on our unique tumour burden and its makeup.

I polished off a few pieces of 90% dark chocolate today, it was great. if the occaisional sugar hit makes you happy, or complete absentance causes frustration then indulge.

the greatest disabler of our immune system is stress, so having tools deal with stress is essential Also being loved and happy make each day special which then makes our bid for survival lots of fun, at least for me.


ps smile life really is wonderful even with a few troublesome cells.

Posts: 154
Joined: Oct 2012

Sounds like we just need to figure out a way to keep our immune system healthy and running smoothly. Which in this stressful day and age is not easy.
Good luck figuring things out Carrie!!
And please share if you do figure it out!!!

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