My second environmental mystery, Backfill has an alternative medicine doctor as one of the major characters. His parents are Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors. My character, Dr. Paul Chu, runs an Alternative Health Clinic in Salt Lake City, and specializes in chelation therapy, which uses chemicals to chelate or bind with molecules in the blood. In one subplot of Backfill, Chu treats a pancreatic cancer victim who has exhausted all conventional cancer treatments. My mother, Mary Ann to whom the book is dedicated and whose name is the major character, died of pancreatic cancer so this was of personal interest to me. Dr. Chu is trying to cure cancer based on an ancient Indian substance that’s been hidden for generations, which is another sub-plot in Backfill.

Americans spend $30 billion dollars a year on alternative and complementary health approaches, including herbal and non-vitamin supplements, chiropractors, chelation therapists, acupuncturists and massage therapists, according to a recently published study using 2012 data. Of course, that is only about 1 percent of total health care spending and 9 percent of all out-of-pocket spending by Americans on health care. SOURCE

When we lived in mainland China, my husband had acupuncture on a regular basis from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors, and believes it contributed significantly to reduction of his upper back pain. To the right is a picture of my husband having acupuncture in China. Acupuncture is inserting needles into the body at various points so as to influence the flow of supernatural energy, called qi. My father, Herbert, to whom I also dedicate Backfill, took intravenous (IV) chelation near our home in San Antonio for years believing that it would remove heavy metals in his blood and improve circulation. I believe in detoxifying my body regularly using natural ingredients and follow the procedures recommended by Dr. Jon Barron of the Baseline of Health Foundation.

What is Alternative Medicine? These are practices other than conventional medicine (often termed mainstream or Western medicine) which have healing effects and are based on religion, tradition or supernatural energy. Today, a more common practice is “complementary and alternative medicine” abbreviated CAM. Complementary medicine is using alternative or non-mainstream medicine together with a standard medical treatment. An example is using acupuncture or meditation along with conventional pain medication for pain management. Another example is using massage therapy to relieve pain and help depression in patients with advanced cancer.

In Backfill, my character Dr. Chu had much difficulty getting his Alternative Clinic established. During one lecture at a medical college, most of the doctors walked out as he talked about using chelation therapy to treat pancreatic cancer. In the real world, physicians are taking note of the success of some of the CAM practices, and medical schools at Harvard University, Boston University and Duke University are offering elective in mind and body practices. Younger physicians are more likely than older to recommend CAM. Millennials have been exposed to yoga, tai-chi and meditation at younger ages than in the past.

Of particular interest to me are the results of a 10-year, $31 million dollar research study conducted by the National Institutes of Health on IV chelation therapy for patients with coronary heart disease. Over a 10-year period, this $31 million study found that there was apparent benefit of the therapy but only on patients with diabetes. A second study, called TACT2 is ongoing. SOURCE


  • Do your own research about alternative and complementary methods. Check the web site of NCCIH which has a pamphlet “Six Things to Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practictioner

  • Learn about any potential side effects or risks of using the alternative method or product. For example, some dietary supplements may interact with prescription medications.

  • Talk to your own health care provider about using the alternative approaches or products. Don’t consider using it as a substitute for proven medical treatment or a reason to postpone seeing a traditional health care provider

 Be sure to check out Backfill, if you’re interested in this subject!  I welcome comments on this blog post!