• Christina Stiverson

Considering Holistic Options

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

By: Erin Locke


When your child is diagnosed with any disease, let alone Hepatoblastoma, in this day and age we all turn to Dr. Google to help us decipher what we just learned about our own flesh and blood. When my husband Steve and I found out our oldest daughter, Addison, was joining the Hepatoblastoma trip, so many people, including our doctors, said to stay off the internet. Why is it that when we are told to do something, we want to do the opposite?

When you enter Hepatoblastoma into a search engine, the amount of treatment options is overwhelming. If learning your child has a crazy disease wasn’t enough, now you are looking at all these possibilities of treatment. Where do I go? Which one is right even though they all claim to cure cancer? When Addison’s cancer spread to her lungs after transplant, we started to look at holistic treatments as other options. Let’s delve into some of these options together and see what they are all about.

The one holistic approach that seems to pop up a lot is the oil from the cannabis plant. When the cancer in Addison’s lungs continued to grow, Steve and I felt like we were desperate and willing to try anything, including the oil. As Addison’s parent, we chose to try this. We were not sure if it would do anything, but we also could not live with ourselves if we didn’t exhaust all options. This treatment obviously makes some parents nervous because of where the oil comes from, the Cannabis sativa plant. There are two oils produced by this plant, THC and CBD. Even though both of these oils come from the same plant, they have two different effects. “CBD is found primarily in extractions from the hemp plant. It’s sold in gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more. THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking marijuana. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.”[1] As I said before, many parents do not consider this option, but as it becomes more legal in many states, it can be considered a holistic treatment. In states where cannabis is legal, typically there are holistic doctors to discuss dosage and use for children.

Another holistic treatment option is chiropractic care. Our family goes to our chiropractor on a regular basis, even prior to Addison’s diagnosis, but we never even considered it a holistic option. According to the University of Minnesota’s Taking Care of Your Health & Wellbeing website, chiropractic has two basic philosophies. The first philosophy states, “The body naturally seeks the proper balance among all its systems, which are meant to work together.” The second one informs us that, “Proper structure is necessary for proper function. If a structure is impaired by injury or stress, its function can be adversely affected.”[2] A chiropractic doctor does adjustments on the spine as they believe once the spine is in perfect alignment, then the body can heal properly. Treatment options are tailored to the individual needs based on an intake assessment done by the doctor. Many times, chiropractic care can help ease the pain associated with cancer. Some treatment procedures done through a chiropractor are “hands-on adjustments, massages, stretching, electric stimulation of muscles, traction, heat, ice.”[3]

A holistic treatment option that many families do not consider, and yet it is the easiest one to access, is nutrition. My entire family tackled this option together while Addison was going through treatments. At first, it was very hard! When you are so used to a way of eating and buying certain foods, sometimes a trip to the grocery store can seem like you are on autopilot. To think about having to research certain foods or have to go to specialty stores for specific food items, can be daunting and time consuming. And let’s be honest, every parent going through childhood cancers is exhausted and the last place you want to be is in the silly grocery store! The American Cancer Society has an entire page dedicated to nutrition for children with cancer.[4] This is a helpful page to access when you begin this journey. But as you start to consider holistic options, there is a plethora of information to peruse. Multiple sources talk about how sugar feeds cancers. Dr. Kevin Yarema, an associate professor in Biomedical Engineering at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, has been studying the effects that sugars have on cells. “With National Cancer Institute funding, Yarema’s team also is studying the downstream effects of what happens when cells use glucose, looking for molecular targets to block so they can’t drive cancer development...The sugar analogs created in his lab have the added bonus of knocking down inflammation, making them potentially useful for diseases beyond cancer.”[5] Other websites, such as the Stanford Medicine’s Cancer Institute, say keeping proper nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment is important.[6] Dr. Naoki Umeda, from the Cleveland Clinic, talks about how he recommends a diet that does not have any sugar, gluten, or dairy while his patients are under treatment. He also encourages his patients to have more ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and black pepper to reduce inflammation in the patient’s body.[7] We all know at certain times, children on chemo have funny appetites. Following an all natural, whole foods diet may be important, but making sure your child receives the appropriate amount of caloric intake each day needs to be a top priority no matter what.

Going hand-in-hand with nutrition are vitamins and minerals. Supplements are also a popular holistic option. Before I go any further on this topic, I will state discussing any vitamins or minerals with your child’s oncologist is of utmost importance. Your medical facility may have an integrative medicine division that could work closely with you if this is an option you want to consider. Many believe including supplements with their cancer treatments will help keep a strong immune system going in a body where the immune system may be weakened by conventional treatments. One popular choice is turmeric. Turmeric is a spice with several benefits. It contains compounds called curcumin, which are believed to have medical benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects and cancer fighting agents. “‘Patients who receive chemotherapy are immuno-compromised and prone to multiple infections. Curcumin with its beneficial anti-infective action would help to prevent infections and take care of minor infections.’’[8] When considering turmeric post resection, “the catabolic phase following surgery is enhanced and hence healing takes a long time. Curcumin would be beneficial to expedite the liver regeneration.”[9] Another supplement talked about a lot is ginger. Ginger is another supplement believed to have anti-inflammatory effects; however, its anti-nausea properties are also constantly discussed. In addition, vitamin D is also a popular supplement when discussing holistic treatment options. Also mentioned quite a bit are intravenous vitamin C treatments in conjunction with chemotherapy. As I said earlier, discussing supplemental options is so important to have in conjunction with your child’s primary healthcare professional because most supplements’ dosages are based on an adult body, and if not used correctly can cause other damage to the child’s body.

Holistic treatments are becoming better known and talked about more, thanks in part to the internet. As you research about some of the things we talked about here, keep in mind your child. Do you think your child could handle some of these things? Do you have someone you can discuss your thoughts with? As I mentioned before, my husband and I tried many of these treatments with Addison, but this was after the cancer metastasized in her lungs. As more research comes out on these treatments, some of these treatments may change, but remembering to think of your child’s well being is most important.


[1]"CBD vs. THC: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects - Healthline." https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[2]"What Is the Philosophy of Chiropractic? | TakingCharge of Your ...." https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-philosophy-chiropractic. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[3]"Chiropractic Care for Cancer Side Effects | CTCA." https://www.cancercenter.com/integrative-care/chiropractic-care. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[4]"Nutrition for Children with Cancer - American Cancer Society." https://www.cancer.org/treatment/children-and-cancer/when-your-child-has-cancer/nutrition.html. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[5]"Cancer research: Your cells' sugar diet | Johns Hopkins Department of ...." 25 Apr. 2016, https://www.bme.jhu.edu/news-events/news/cancer-research-your-cells-sugar-diet/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[6]"Cancer Diet During Treatment | Stanford Health Care." https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-clinics/cancer-nutrition-services/during-cancer-treatment.html. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[7]"Holistic and Nutritional Support for Cancer Care Health Chat ...." https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/11998_holistic-and-nutritional-support-for-cancer-care. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.

[8]"Antioxidative, antiapoptotic, and proliferative effect of curcumin ... - NCBI." 8 Jan. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299190. Accessed 10 Apr. 2019.

[9]"Antioxidative, antiapoptotic, and proliferative effect of curcumin ... - NCBI." 8 Jan. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299190. Accessed 10 Apr. 2019.

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