How a Naturopathic Doctor Ended My Dear Friend’s Life

How a Naturopathic Doctor Ended My Dear Friend’s Life November 15, 2018

Fourteen years ago I walked into a party at a home where I knew no one. My friend Paul invited me because he told me I had to meet his friend Krista. Paul was right because Krista and I did have a lot in common. We became fast friends, and I found myself engulfed in her natural life. Then one day all of it came to a crashing end. Only weeks before my wedding, she told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Krista told me she was refusing chemotherapy. Instead of following the standard of care for her early stage breast cancer, she opted to use a naturopathic doctor. Less than five years later she died.

Krista had the best laugh. The two of us could sit together for hours laughing about ridiculous things. She hated conformity, normalcy, and opted for a more natural way of life. I learned about sustainable agriculture through our friendship.

On weekends, she picked me up in her used Honda Civic. We roamed through thrift stores and picked out retro clothes to fill our closets. Her house was filled with her thrift store finds. I loved her natural beauty, her laugh, and her intense devotion to natural living.

She opened up my life to think about living more sustainably. We talked about composting, gardening, and she canned pickled beans for me. Krista forced me to sit through a documentary on the downfall of the electric car. The documentary was years before hybrids or the existence of Prius.

Her mind often wandered off into conspiracy theories about government suppression of natural energy, electric cars, and pharmaceutical companies controlling our lives. For a while, I believed what she shared with me. I listened intently to her words, and I read the books she suggested that I read.

However, I could never reach the same conclusions she had about life. Our differences in politics, consumerism, and sustainability fostered intense arguments and debates. We had more than one loud discussion about agriculture, vegetarianism, and pharmaceuticals.

When I started taking anti-depressants for debilitating anxiety, she tried to persuade me to try other options.  Eventually, our friendship grew strained by our philosophical differences.

We never stopped being friends, but time and distance separated our connection. When I met my husband, she and I rarely spoke. Even though we weren’t as close, I still wanted her to meet him and approve of him. Her approval always meant to the world to me.

She loved my husband, and they got along amazingly well. When he proposed to me, I couldn’t wait to tell her. I wanted to include her in everything. Around the same time as I prepared to walk down the aisle, Krista’s life shattered with devastating news.

In an email from her then-boyfriend, I learned that Krista was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. The cancer was very treatable, and the email said she had a great prognosis. He wanted to cheer her up by buying her boots. The email was a simple request to donate money to buy Krista boots.

I remember falling apart on the inside when I heard the news. Shortly after I received the email, I called Krista. She told me the cancer was isolated to a single breast. We talked about treatment options, and she felt positive about her outlook. Doctors said that the cancer was treatable.

After our conversation, I felt better knowing that Krista could beat cancer. Unfortunately, my positivity and support for her journey ended on the same day as my bridal shower.

My friend Sarah hosted a beautiful day at her home. Krista arrived in a dress and her new cancer boots. In the haste of my wedding planning, I hadn’t had time to catch up with her. At my bridal shower, Krista dropped a massive bomb on me.

While sipping on wine, Krista told me the doctors removed her breast. We talked about reconstruction surgery, and she admitted that she didn’t want a fake breast. Instead, she opted to have a single breast and would pad the other side.

I knew standard treatment for her stage of cancer was breast removal and chemotherapy. Inquisitively, I wanted to know when she planned to start chemo. Her piercing blue eyes shot straight at me, and she said, “I’ve decided not to have any chemotherapy.”

My heart dropped to the floor, but I wasn’t surprised by her choice. Krista told me she found a naturopathic doctor to keep her in remission. We talked about the diet her naturopath wanted her to be on and her next steps. She told me about supplements, juices, and various therapies her doctor planned for her.

Inside my heart sank even further. I remember trying to persuade Krista to do at least a few rounds of chemo. Due to her illness, I read and studied the most effective treatments for her stage of cancer.

For almost an hour, I tried to share what I learned and gently nudge her to reconsider. Krista could not be swayed, and she told me emphatically she would not put toxic chemicals into her body.

A few weeks later, she arrived at my wedding. I tried not to think about her choice, but I could not escape my fears. Again, I wanted to get her to reconsider her decision to forego chemotherapy, but she quickly shot down my suggestions.

at my wedding

Krista believed in her naturopath, and there was no way for me to convince her otherwise. Soon Krista started a diet with no sugar, no carbs, and no alcohol. She began taking supplements, and she met with her naturopath frequently.

The deeper entrenched she got into her treatment the further we grew apart. I was angry, resentful, and sad that she refused conventional treatment. Our friendship grew more and more distant, and most of our conversations took place in chats on Facebook.

When I delivered my son, Krista sent me warm wishes. She checked in to see how my son was doing. We talked about planning a get together to have them meet. The last conversation we ever had we talked about making apple pie.

Right before the holidays, I messaged her to get together; we swapped a few messages. She told me her back hurt, and she was going to the chiropractor. We briefly talked about her treatments, and then agreed to reconnect after the first of the year.

Time flew by, and by March I realized I still needed to see Krista. Around the same time, my Facebook feed filled with photos of her. I thought it unusual that all of our mutual friends were posting pictures of Krista. Then I scanned a set of the images, and the caption read, “Rest in Peace.”

I burst into tears, and my face went flush. Frantically, I reached out to a friend to find out what happened. Our mutual friend Stephanie told me the horrific news. Her treatment plan with the naturopath doctor failed to keep her in remission.

Stephanie said her cancer returned the previous fall. By the time she got the diagnosis nothing could be done to treat her cancer. That fall doctors told her she had terminal breast cancer, and Krista told only a few people.

When she and I spoke that day in December, she knew she was dying and never told me. Krista only told me her back hurt. That should have been a queue for me to know something was wrong. Instead, I brushed it off and never inquired into the source of the pain.

As I look back now, I know why she never told me. Our disagreements about her treatment were a source of friction. Krista had been so steadfast that her naturopathic doctor would cure her. I now believe she didn’t want to admit to me that she trusted the wrong person.

I get angry today wishing I could have been more convincing of her getting chemotherapy. My heart hurts, and I miss her every single day.

No one should have to bury a friend prematurely. Krista died only days shy of her 40th birthday. A naturopath killed my friend. I knew I had to use my pain and productively use my voice. As a way to honor Krista, I knew I needed to expose charlatans that harm and kill the sick.

Today I work tirelessly to expose doctors, practitioners, and quacks that hurt others. Krista did not have to die. I won’t stop fighting this fight. Krista deserves to be here, but instead, I talk to her in my dreams.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    Did the ‘doctor’ face any consequences?

  • persephone

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s hard enough when everything is done, but the person is lost, but to have someone reject saving their life due to miseducation has to be so much worse. I wish there were some way to punish the naturopath.

    Changing your diet and taking supplements should be PART of your treatment approach, NOT the ONLY part.

  • wannabe

    Thank you for doing this good work. I’m sorry it was prompted by the loss of your friend.

  • Beth H

    So sorry Katie,, I too had a friend choose the way of the woo. While her type of cancer was very aggressive, it was treatable. She was dead within six months of starting cold thermal therapy and IV vitC. – sad!

  • Cozmo the Magician

    When we FINALLY get a new president that actually cares about health care maybe these snake oil pushers will face some legal repercusions for the people they kill.

  • I am sorry for your loss.

    I fear that I may deal with something similar: my mother has breast cancer–DCIS–and rather than take tamoxifen, she’s eating vegetables and taking vitamins. I fear that it’s only a matter of time until I get that phone call, where my father tells me that she’s in hospice care.

  • Raging Bee

    FWIW, you were as convincing as you could be. It’s not your fault your friend was too emotionally invested in her fantasy of a cure to ever change her mind. The fact that she’d hidden the true extent of her condition from you toward the end, pretty strongly implies she’d already decided she had no intention of asking or listening to you. None of that is any reason to beat yourself up — you’d already done all you could.

  • raven

    I saw something similar a long while ago now.
    Patient was 33 years old, in a high risk group. Routine screening came up with
    Stage 1 breast cancer.
    At this point her prognosis was for greater than 90% cure.
    She dropped out of treatment and went alt medicine instead.
    I saw some of her treatments and it was all routine quack medicine.
    At age 34, she was dead from metastatic breast cancer.

  • So heartbreaking. Deepest condolences.

    These charlatans have much to answer for, and it’s awful that your friend ended up believing their lies and going down that path. You did what you thought best, and you acted in love. You still do. Thank you for calling them out.

  • Yeah, Krista’s diagnosis was stage two. Isolated only in a single breast and a single tumor. They took the full breast with the thought that cancer might be in th tissue but undectable. The mastectomy went amazing. She had some pain, but her recovery went really well. Her prognosis was like 93% at the time.

  • thanks, Cassidy. I have held this story in my heart for years. I didn’t want to disrespect her memory. I didn’t want to make her look like an idiot. She wasn’t any of those things. She had a master’s degree. She read all the time. Unfortunately, she fell down the natural world rabbit hole, and never got out.

  • Chris Pert Ⓥ

    I’m sorry you lost a dear friend to cancer because they preferred fantasy over reality. This kind of conspiracy thinking is way too common. As a long-time vegan, I encounter this all the time among fellow vegans and also omnivores. Since I believe in science, I reject all quackery, which often puts me at odds with my fellow vegans. In my experience, anti-vaxxers and anti-chemos are very often the same people, and the propaganda is very similar: don’t put anything into your body that is “unnatural”, all drugs/vaccines are “toxic”, the entire medical/pharmaceutical complex is involved in a vast conspiracy to keep us sick and they do whatever they can to suppress natural cures.

    I think the most important lesson here is that your friend was no idiot; anyone can fall for these fantasies, especially if they belong to certain subcultures that reject science. Again, so sorry for your loss.

  • Carra McClelland

    I lost someone I knew to Lymphoma when she decided against the treatment that would save her and went with colloidal silver instead. It was heartbreaking and infuriating.

  • OMG that is terrible!

  • Stephen Barrett, MD

    Please ask the attorney general of the state where the naturopath practiced to investigate.

  • Kevin R. Cross

    Of course not. He SHOULD have been held for practicing medicine without a licence, but no, he probably just walked away. With her money. And not giving a damn that his lies murdered a woman.

  • Sunset

    TBH, if I ever got cancer, I would refuse chemo and let the cancer kill me, because I’ve seen what chemo does to people and I’d literally rather die than go through that. But I would be 100% aware that it will kill me, and I’d start going through my bucket list while I could (and you can bet that my diet those last few months would be full of sugar, carbs, and alcohol). I am incensed that this quack went out of its way to lie to her and deceive her into believing it’d cure her cancer.

    Naturopaths should be aggressively prosecuted for fraud, and I’d be in favor of bringing back public executions to make examples of those predators.

  • no. nothing happened

  • I’d go through chemo. it’s temporary misery – for long-term pay off

  • queenofmeanie

    I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I had stage 2 breast cancer 24 years ago and I went through all of the conventional treatments and I am still here. I did invite and participated in a alternative dietary regiment and it got me through the chemo and radiation.

  • queenofmeanie

    I had double tumors in one breast.

  • I am sorry about the loss of your friend. It is easy to get caught up in the narural/alternative medicine world. Intelligent people sometimes get caught up in it. And it’s hard to convince them otherwise.

  • I am SO glad you are here

  • EquaYona

    Did she seek out the alternative treatment or did the naturopath come to her selling the treatment? I am no fan of naturopaths, but you can not hold a naturopath responsible for treating people who come to her as she believes best. The five year survival rate for stage 2 breast cancer is very good, but certainly less than 100%, 7% less in fact. Was your friend particularly concerned about problems with chemotherapy? Many people, including doctors, are massively concerned. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/1963/researchers-detail-chemotherapys-damage-to-the-brain.aspx
    Did Karen lack intellectual agency? Not from what you have said. Many people opt for alternative treatment in light of the potential horror show that standard treatment can become.
    For the hate comments that are going to be visited upon me, I say in advance. Kiss my ass.

  • pasapdub@gmail.com

    I’m very, VERY sorry about the loss of your friend! I had a similar experience with a Witness friend, who refused a blood transfusion during surgery and nearly died. (For an intelligent woman…that was a STUPID decision!) And, thinking of Krista, we can see that even intelligent people can make disastrous decisions.
    Glad you’ve found a way to work through your (justified) anger and grief!

  • first warning. Do not instigate or provoke anyone.

  • sweeks

    One of my wife’s best old friends was a “Christian Scientist”. She got a squamous cell carcinoma on her eyelid. It took her 8 years to die. That particular cult disgusts me.

  • omg what a horrific way to die!

  • persephone

    Yes, you absolutely can hold the naturopath responsible. If they promise a cure, they better deliver. They present themselves as medical professionals.

  • Sal2

    Not all chemo drugs are the same and not all people react the same way or experience the same reactions. I say this just to encourage you that IF you ever face the choice (I certainly hope you never do!) consider not rejecting chemo out of hand, but get a lot of information first.

    (I say this as someone who was diagnosed last year with stage 4 HER2 positive breast cancer. After 6 rounds of chemo the cancer was undetectable. The chemo side effects were so much milder than I expected. Still had a lumpectomy, radiation, and herceptin treatments and I finished my last treatment this week (Yay!). I know lot of people who have similar stories to mine and are still in remission 15 + years later.)

  • C_Alan_Nault

    And in the end, they are to blame for making the choice of using a naturopath ( or homeopath, chiropracter, etc)

  • Jonny Day

    My oncologist killed my aunt with aggressive chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. He said she had colon cancer, she was going to die anyways in a matter fact manner, very cold really. We paid him a ton of money. So, should I say, ‘My oncologist ended my aunt’s life”? – of course not. He’s the medical doctor, he’s in charge.

  • Daffodil

    I just don’t understand how anyone can be so heartless as to promise someone that they can keep them in remission. If they want to say that a special diet or supplement can help, that’s one thing, but they should always say that it should only be in conjunction with chemo or radiation. I just can’t believe there are people like that out there!

  • al kimeea

    your head is in the way

  • Richard Seibel

    My wife had breast cancer twice, 1st time all went well. 10 years later it came back metasized and she was stage 4+. This happens for about 20% of breast cancer patients. As others have stated, different people react differently. 1st round she would have chemo/radiation, go to work the next day, do household chores, and on Saturday do a 7 mile/2000 hike. 2nd round, chemo only plus Avastin. Hiking shortened to 5 miles/1,400′. Basically an inconvenience.

    One of reasons she did very well was she kept her weight down, exercised regularly before diagnosis, and through diagnosis.

    After the 1st round and including the 2nd round we had a wonderful 12 years together. Forgoing chemo is NOT a decision that affects only you. As others have said and will say, do not dismiss it out of hand.

    Chemo today is not what it was decades ago and is improving.

  • Mary

    Really? I am sad for the death of this young lady, Krista. The Naturopathic doctor did not end her life as the miss leading words say, when you read the article you can see that the choice not to do radiation was Krista’s idea.

  • Mary

    Why? I am sad for the death of this young lady, Krista. The Naturopathic doctor did not end her life as the miss leading words say, when you read the article you can see that the choice not to do radiation was Krista’s idea.

  • Mary

    What everyone fails to understand is we can not force people to get treatment if they don’t want it, it is 100% present their choice stop trying to blame a naturopath for this young lady’s decision. A lot of people out there refuse to get flu shots, if they get the flu well it happens, personally I get mine, last year I didn’t and had a cough for three months, so this year I got and hope I don’t get it. Every thing in life is not written in stone, chemo helps some but some do not respond to it. I have had several friends that were helped by it but some that were not, it is like playing a poker game some win some don’t. This is the sad reality of life, let people be at peace with their decision, that folks is called love and true love is not easy.

  • Morgan Sheridan

    Your oncologist?

  • Morgan Sheridan

    And they BILL as medical professionals too. SMH

  • EquaYona

    And did the oncologist, “promise a cure”? I think not, and I doubt the naturopath did either.

  • EquaYona

    Are you referring to my comment in general, or specifically the last sentence? If the latter is the case I will edit that out.

  • I’m sorry, but there’s a huge difference between someone who chooses not to pursue established medical treatment with the FULL knowledge that opting out will (in all likelihood) eventually kill them, and someone who believes that alternative medicine will CURE them. Yes, it was her choice to pursue this “alternative” regimen, but she did so in part because the naturopathic “doctor” convinced her it would work and keep her in remission. THAT is what this quack needs to be held accountable for!

    If you have a friend or family member who intends to commit suicide, are you going to just step aside and “respect their choice”? Or would you do everything you could to get them the help they need? I would hope you’d choose the latter, especially since you know their decision to end their life is based on misinformation (i.e. state of mind stemming from depression, or whatnot).

  • tearcollector

    *cue

  • swbarnes2

    I am no fan of naturopaths, but you can not hold a naturopath responsible for treating people who come to her as she believes best.

    You sure as hell can, when that person is wildly undertrained in how to treat cancer. Oncologists can point to the studies which show that their treatments extend life Naturopaths can’t and they know this.

    And sure, the author’s friend din’t experience “chemo brain” years after treatment…because she didn’t live that many years after diagnosis.

  • anne marie hovgaard

    A relative had lymphatic cancer 29 years ago. The chemotherapy made her feel really sick (flu-like plus nausea) for a couple of days every time, and she lost her hair, and was too tired to work for weeks at a time. But I’m pretty sure both she, her husband and her two kids feel it was worth it.

  • EquaYona

    I read the author’s recounting of her friend Karen as a strong-willed person, intelligent with opinions and the ability to research treatments and understand the comparative risks. You take all agency from Karen and diminish her to a dupe beguiled by promises from a grifter. In fact, they are licensed to practice naturopathic medicine in 18 states and regardless of how you feel put upon by this, it is reality. Karen had the right to try to support her body’s natural ability to heal without resorting to deadly chemicals or radiation. Had she chosen standard care died from reaction to chemo would you also hold the doctors who recommended and administered the chemicals wholly responsible?
    I believe women should have control over their own medical choices.

  • EquaYona
  • Sophotroph

    That’s moronic. If we banned fake medicine like we should, this couldn’t have happened. Real medical treatment was rejected in favor of the false hope of fake medicine. If the naturopath had never been an option, there’s a good chance nobody would have had to die.

  • Sophotroph

    The “choice” was not a real one. A fraud lied to her and said there was another way.

    The juices and other crap were never going to help her cancer, have never helped anybody. The “naturopath” knew this and lied anyway. For money.

    This death and countless others are on the hands of people who offer fake medicine to desperate people.

  • Sophotroph

    She didn’t want to because a fraud lied to her and said there was an easier way!

    Do you have no decency? You’ll defend murderous fraud at all costs even in the face of somebody who lost a good friend to it?

    You’re basically saying that it’s Krista’s own fault for being taken in. That’s lower than anything else I have ever read on Patheos.

    If you have anything resembling a conscience, you’ll sit and think about what that makes you.

  • Exactly! Preach!

  • My thoughts exactly

  • Her name is Krista

  • EquaYona

    Sorry.

  • Anat

    Yes we can and we should. The naturopath made a fraudulent claim. They shouldn’t have been allowed to do so.

  • Anat

    But the system is also to blame for allowing naturopaths to treat people when evidence doesn’t support such treatment, and naturopaths are also to blame for attempting to do things for which there is no supporting evidence.

  • Anat

    I had chemotherapy for cancer 17 years ago. It was harsh but I am fine and in great shape. Nowadays there are even more treatment options for many cancers.

  • I am glad you are doing well!

  • Jim X

    Your friend’s delusional beliefs that led her to do nothing–which is basically what all the naturopathic magical treatments offered–is what killed her. Reality hurts. It was her choice and it sounds like she made it freely. There are tons of people with this mindset, and they keep naturopaths, chiropractors and homeopaths in business . Caveat emptor.

  • Jim X

    Good points but many vegans are not anti-medicine. The people who become vegan for personal health reasons tend to be the ones who hold the conspiracy theories.

  • Dabbledash

    I wouldn’t blame the naturopath if he said “There is no evidence that any of the treatments I can provide you will keep you in remission. If you do this *instead of* getting conventional treatment, it is very likely you will die.”

    I think it’s very unlikely that he or she provided that information, which would be necessary to get informed consent.

  • EquaYona

    On the other hand, we don’t know that the ND did not offer that info. What we do know is that MDs rarely give people complete info on the side effects, potential consequences or the effectiveness of the meds and procedures they regularly prescribe, including cancer treatments.

    I had a colonoscopy a few years ago. The doc never mentioned any of the risks of that procedure which include intestinal puncture and death. He also did not mention that sigmoidoscopy, which is a far safer and much cheaper procedure is equally effective at preventing colon cancer.

    MDs prescribe billions of dollars worth of statins to lower LDL cholesterol, but they do not tell patients that niacin is at least as effective, sometimes more so, cost thousands of times less and have only mild side effects, if any, unlike statins. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n25.shtml
    I could give many more examples.
    I would not use a ND because they prescribe homeopathic snake oil and I believe in science. But I would also do a LOT of research on the side effects and effectiveness of any chemo drugs prescribed and would likely not use them either.