Cynthia Buxton, ND, has nice skin — a remarkable development for someone undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. Radiation therapy typically causes redness, itching, burning, soreness and peeling to treated areas of the skin.
"As I was going through radiation treatments the technicians kept telling me, 'Wow, your skin looks really good,' " says Dr. Buxton, 46, a 1999 graduate of Bastyr University. "I really wasn't experiencing the horrific side effects I was told about. I was told to expect a lot of discomfort — blistering and peeling — but that hasn't really happened."
She attributes the health of her skin to the naturopathic care she receives at the Bastyr Integrative Research Oncology Center (BIORC).
Diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in February 2009, Dr. Buxton became a research participant at BIORC shortly thereafter. A practicing naturopathic physician herself, Dr. Buxton wanted to integrate the naturopathic cancer-care expertise of Bastyr faculty member and BIORC medical director Leanna Standish, PhD, ND, MS, LAc, FABNO, with her traditional cancer treatments. In addition to healthy skin, Dr. Buxton also credits Dr. Standish for her high energy levels and morale during taxing conventional treatments and for helping her lead a normal life despite the cancer.
"I haven't really missed much of a stride," says Dr. Buxton, who has undergone a lumpectomy and both radiation and endocrine (hormone) therapies. "I'm able to work, socialize, take care of myself and exercise — basically do all of my normal activities."
I think anytime you hear the word 'cancer,' it's scary. You're looking at what's going to happen in the future. What's going to happen to my family? You think about all the horrible things that will happen if you don't do all the treatments they say.
"The approach at BIORC that I love is, yes, cancer is scary, but it's not fear-based. When you are working with a naturopathic physician it is empowering. It is about what you can do to get back to wellness."
During their once-a-month meetings, Dr. Standish has recommended a supplement program to increase Dr. Buxton's energy; encouraged her to engage in activities that fulfill her sense of well-being and reduce stress (such as working less and singing more); prescribed a batch of natural topical creams and balms for skin recovery, and advised a juice fast and exercise/sauna regimen to flush out built-up toxins. Now six months into her treatment, Dr. Buxton says she has an excellent prognosis. The tumor is gone, and her oncologist recently quoted a 75-80 percent chance the cancer won't come back.
"If you're diagnosed with cancer, it can be such a frightening thing," Dr. Buxton says. "But just know that there's another place you can go that will focus on you, the individual, not just the cancer. It's not about shunning conventional treatments at all, but about going someplace where there's a team of people who will empower you and listen to you."