Steve came to Ahava the first time after he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He was receiving chemotherapy and targeted therapy, and his treatment plan was designed to stop the cancer’s progression. This was not a curable situation.
Although he had not been bothered by facial acne for many years, the acnelike rash that he now had on his face was due to the drugs he was receiving to treat his cancer. Steve had been treated medically for the rash, but combating chemicals with chemicals did not seem to be working for him.
Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer treatment often used when cancer has spread or metastasized beyond the initial tumor, or there is a very high risk of metastasis. It refers to chemical agents or drugs that are destructive to cancer cells. These drugs stop the cancer cell’s growth and development. In Steve’s case, the cancer had spread beyond his lung into parts of his liver when he came to Ahava.
Cancer cells reproduce largely uninhibited, and it is these cells multiplying that eventually form a tumor. At any time, cancer cells can also break away from the original site and be carried to distant body sites by the blood, setting up new cancerous growths. This is called metastasis and is a hallmark of cancer. There are a large number of chemotherapy agents that may be used alone or in combination for the treatment of cancer. A side effect of these drugs is the more or less indiscriminate destruction of reproducing cells. The cells of the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow and hair follicles are commonly affected. Unfortunately, many chemotherapy agents are not smart enough to distinguish between the unwanted reproduction of cancer cells and the normal cells that are reproducing. This causes the side effects of nausea, vomiting, immune system suppression with infection and hair loss.
Additionally, Steve’s cancer treatment included targeted drugs with the chemotherapy, which are new technologies designed to block the mechanisms by which cancer cells are nourished, grow, divide and possibly spread. These targeted treatments are much smarter about blocking cancer cells without as many side effects as traditional chemotherapy. The one that he was receiving—an epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor—blocked the cancer mechanisms while causing extreme skin dryness and an acnelike rash.