Care Giver Grief – Part 3: Loss of Choice & Cancer Treatment Options

by Glynis Sherwood MEd

Over the past couple of weeks I took some vacation time. This was planned. What wasn’t planned was that I would be spending it nursing Cleveland, my dear cat and recently diagnosed cancer patient. Cleveland is being treated holistically, meaning the emphasis is on diet, supplements and TLC, rather than toxic chemotherapy or the fires of radiation. Not that these treatments haven’t been a life saver for many. But the fact is, the more I study up on cancer treatment, the more I am learning that traditional cancer treatments have a poor success rate, and often at the cost of further damage and sometimes death of the recipient. Here’s what I’ve also been learning: effective and safe treatments for cancer exist, but are not generally available, especially for non-human animals. The specific treatment options I am referring to are PhotoDynamic Therapy (PDT) and Cannabinoids (aka medical marijuana).

PhotoDynamic Therapy

I first encountered PDT a few years ago when I had this treatment done on my face to reduce the risk of skin cancer, after having a pre-cancer removed with liquid nitrogen. PDT works by administering a safe chemical photosensitizing agent, and then exposing the area to a blue light. PDT has an excellent success rate of eliminating a variety of cancers (or pre-cancers) that can be reached by light, such as the nasal cancer Cleveland has, and often requires only one administration. PDT does not have the invasive, harmful side effect profile of either surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. My recovery from PDT amounted to some minor redness immediately following treatment that resolved the next day, and may still be protecting me from cancer years later, as any precancerous cell on my skin were likely destroyed by the treatment. My question is, why is PDT not widely available as the gold standard for treatment of cancers located on or just under the skin, or in the lining of internal organs that can be reached by light? If this option were available for Cleveland, I would have arranged treatment immediately following his diagnosis in early July.


The ability of Cannabinoids (aka medical marijuana) to reduce nausea and stimulate appetite in chemotherapy patients have been known for decades. But even more powerfully, the capacity of cannabinoids to destroy cancer cells and tumors was first documented in U.S. clinical trials in 1974, and has subsequently been demonstrated in additional research studies which have established the efficacy of cannabinoids to safely kill cancer cells. Most notably, in 2003 Dr. Manuel Guzman and his team in Spain proved that THC injected into brain tumors in rats resulted in destruction of the tumors. Cancer patients have only recently been able to access medical marijuana through compassion clubs and marijuana dispensaries. A doctor’s recommendation or note confirming diagnosis is required to access these services. In the case of veterinary medicine however, the use of THC in cancer treatment seems virtually unknown, and access to medical marijuana dispensaries is for the most part denied. Animal guardians should be able to access this treatment for their pets, just as their human counterparts can.

Cancer Treatment – Politics & Big Pharma

Active opposition to medical marijuana from large pharmaceutical companies and the government have undermined access to this medicine. Pharmaceutical companies have been accused of blocking development of THC medicine as it threatens to undercut lucrative chemotherapy drug profits, and marijuana as a plant cannot be patented. Furthermore, the U.S. government’s ‘war on drugs’ has been endorsed by the Canadian government, with ongoing criminalization a major roadblock to access. For those of us wishing to take advantage of safe and effective alternative treatments for cancer, this amounts to a loss of choice, and potentially a loss of hope, as we or our loved ones face disability or death from this devastating disease and it’s conventional treatments. I believe that this denial of choice of treatment options is a human rights violation, especially when that denial of choice can result in unnecessary pain or death for the cancer sufferer.

Glynis Sherwood MEd, CCC, is a Counselling Therapist specializing in recovery from chronic grief, anxiety, depression or addictive behaviors related to sudden, traumatic or long term loss. My services are available online by Video.  Check out my Grief Therapy Counseling page here