A trained allopathic physician, Larry Johnson, MD, proudly admits to a skeptical nature. As a family doctor who, for more than 30 years, has advised children and adults on the importance of eating well and taking care of their bodies, he also considers himself knowledgeable about preventive and complementary medicine. So when doctors diagnosed a lump on his neck as squamous cell cancer — a type of tumor that affects the skin — Dr. Johnson knew he wanted to incorporate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies into his conventional treatment. Before he did so, however, he also wanted to know those therapies couldwork.
That's why Dr. Johnson, 63, sought out Leanna Standish, PhD, ND, MS, LAc, FABNO, a Bastyr University faculty member and one of only a handful of naturopathic doctors in Washington state to be board certified in naturopathic oncology. She is also the medical director of the Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center (BIORC).
"I told my oncologist I wanted to meet with a (CAM) practitioner to see what else I could do to increase my chances of survival," Dr. Johnson says. "He gave me the name of Dr. Standish. I knew Bastyr was very data driven, so knew Dr. Standish would have good information about all the treatments she was recommending and that they wouldn't negatively interfere with my allopathic treatments."
Dr. Johnson became a research participant at BIORC in early March 2009 shortly after undergoing surgery to remove the tumor and just as he began radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Dr. Standish advised him on lifestyle changes and nutritional-supplement programs he could implement to help support his cancer treatments. Brad Lichtenstein, ND, taught Dr. Johnson how to overcome his insomnia through relaxation techniques. And Steve Given, DAOM, LAc, helped ease the discomfort of a dry mouth (radiation therapy can be hard on salivary glands) during a number of acupuncture sessions.
Just six months after being diagnosed, Dr. Johnson’s cancer is in remission and he is preparing to go back to work. He credits BIORC physicians with supporting his quick recovery.
"I thought the physicians at BIORC were excellent, and I didn't have any qualms about following their recommendations," Dr. Johnson says. "My oncologist and radiation therapist have been impressed by how well I've done. My recovery has gone better than average, from what they tell me, and I think the treatment at Bastyr has a lot to do with that."
In the position of regularly giving health care recommendations as a professional physician, Dr. Johnson offers this bit of advice to anyone considering seeing a physician at BIORC: It can give you that extra margin of benefit.
"There isn't really any added risk, and it's not very expensive compared to traditional care," he says. "The physicians gave me a lot of confidence that the treatments they are doing are well supported by the literature.
"You don't have anything to lose, and potentially a whole lot to gain."