Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cancer Files

Stupid people make me blindingly angry. I realize this is fairly common. Why should I be any different than the rest of you?

But my Facebook news feed gives me daily exposure to a very specific kind of stupidity, one that seems to occur in otherwise highly intelligent individuals, and in an area I care very deeply and passionately about and it makes me a little bit crazy. And every so often it boils up and I have to rant about it for a while and all of my immediate circle are very tired of hearing me preach to the choir and thus its your turn blog friends.

I wanna talk about cancer. The Big C. Its everywhere. Everybody knows somebody who has had it, or they've had it themselves. Its ALL OVER the news. I swear theres a new headline every day. And believe me, I get it.

My parents, between the two of them, have had cancer FOUR times. No, to the best of our knowledge, they did not at any point grow up playing in toxic waste.

I need to shoot down, rant about, nitpick and otherwise ruminate on a couple of things I've seen online that just make mah eye start twitchin'.

1. "We spend all this money trying to cure cancer. Why haven't we found a cure already?"

Fine! Here's some more but I expect results by morning!

The profound ignorance of these individuals is revealed in the very nature of the question. The big problem and the reason why we haven't found "the cure to cancer" is because "Cancer" is not one disease. Its a whole category of illnesses, many of which have about as much in common with each other as the common cold does to the ebola virus (i.e. "barely harmful" to "kill you dead before we can even look at ya").

You're not fighting ONE disease. You're fighting THOUSANDS. And every one of them has a different cause, course, vulnerabilities and treatment plan. Sure there are similarities between many of them, mercifully, so we don't have to completely reinvent the wheel every time but sadly the differences are vast.

So yes we spend lots and lots and lots of money trying to "cure cancer". Because we aren't just trying to cure one thing, like polio. That was one illness with one specific cause and we dumped a bunch of money on it and we kicked that things tush! It was awesome. This is a couple thousand different polios. Its gonna take A LOT of money and resources and time. But these are lives we are talking about so its worth it.

2. "Fill in the blank causes cancer in white rats! BEWARE! NEVER EAT/DRINK/TOUCH THIS POISON AGAIN!!!"

Poor little sucker...

I hate fear mongering. I hate it with a passion. Don't go Chicken Little on me friends. If something causes cancer in white rats that is worth noting. However, its more than slightly terrifying the number of things that can cause cancer in white rats. So many, you'd lock yourself in a little bubble in a padded room if you tried to avoid them all and then you'd worry that the bubble was off gassing something and is the paint on the walls under the pads the right kind??!!

I jest but I do believe there has to be a balance. I cannot live my life in fear.

Understand that LOTS of things cause cancer in white rats, but for those in the research world, this is merely something of interest to be researched further because quite often they have to give those poor little white rats INSANE amounts of whatever it is to cause that cancer. They are exposing them at concentrations that considering our much larger size and exposure to a much wider range of factors, we would never in a million years come close to matching. Also keep in mind the VERY important point that people are not white rats and thus lots and lots of drugs die on the drawing board because they don't make the jump from helping white rats to helping actual humans and likewise many substances that give white rats cancer, humans laugh at.

 So when we find something else that causes cancer in white rats, the white coats all go, "Interesting, lets investigate further and see if there is really something here". Its the STARTING point for research, not the "OMG CALL OUT THE ARMY THE WORLD IS OVER" point.

That said, once we have accumulated a pile of evidence that supports that not only does X cause cancer in white rats, we also have good evidence that it causes cancer in people, by all means PLEASE avoid it. My Mom had skin cancer, I won't be caught dead tanning. I'm not about to start smoking either.

3. "Do/Don't eat/drink/smoke fill in the blank! It cures cancer/asthma/diabetes! Its the secret BigPharma doesn't want you to know!!"

Perfect! Now eat this 3 times a day, forever, and nothing else and you'll live to be a million!

This is the one I find most insulting. I'm insulted on behalf of my parents and all the other amazing employees of MD Anderson Cancer Center. I know there are many, many, many other cancer centers around the world. Amazing people, fighting the good fight. But MD Anderson is the one I am most intimately acquainted with so I'll use them as my example. I first walked its halls when I was 8. And my Mom had leukemia, one of the really nasty varieties that kills most adults right about the time you figure out whats wrong with them. And they saved her. Its been almost TWENTY FOUR YEARS since she should have had about six weeks. My Mom is a nurse now in the clinic where she was a patient all those years ago. Her doctor still works there. Thats how much he cares about ending cancer.

Do you know how hard it is to work in a cancer center? 40% of the people that walk through their doors will not be alive in 5 years. That is not because they are not extraordinary at what they do, its because they are the people that invent the protocols that the rest of the world uses. They're on the front lines, taking the worst cases. And it is HARD on their staff. Its a war where almost half their people die. And the turn over rates for the staff is HUGE, because it is brutal. They want to help so badly, but it takes a desperate toll on these people to try and fail to save people, day after day.

And you're going to tell me that those doctors and nurses are sitting on the magic bullet, the miracle cure, just because they want to help BigPharma make a buck. I want to spit in your face on their behalf.

Just to be clear - MD Anderson is part of the University of Texas system. Its a PUBLIC SCHOOL. This is a state institution. These people aren't in it for the money. If they wanted the money, they would work private sector. They have to have some of the best security in the world to keep the private sector from stealing their research and patenting it and charging millions for what they want to share with the world.

If you tell me theres a big conspiracy thats blocking the research I will tell you those doctors don't know the meaning of the word "No". If they think there is something there they will go after it. They even track all those "miracle cures" and watch for effects and interactions because they know their poor patients are gonna go home and try them because they're desperate and they want to hedge their bets, and the problem is some of those powerful natural medicines ARE POWERFUL and they do interact with the drugs the docs are giving them and sometimes those interactions can kill people. Sometimes its harmless and sometimes its beneficial. And if its beneficial you better believe they jump on that band wagon. They had my Mom taking probiotics 20 years before anybody else had ever heard about such a thing.

So if you really think that drinking wheat grass or not eating meat or turning around 3 times before I lay down is going to cure cancer or keep yourself from getting it, have fun trying. I understand cancer is scary and we all want to do something to keep the boogie man from getting us. But don't try to sell it to me. I'll just get angry. You want to sell me on something you'd better have a boat load of evidence and a far more compelling argument than "They say" and "Its natural". Its natural to sit naked in a tree and eat raw meat. Everything else is personal preference. Sell your voodoo to somebody else.

... And there my husband goes, simplifying my world. He reads over my comments and offers this wisdom: "Yeah. People are stupid. Thus endeth the lesson". LOL

I feel better now. Thanks for listening. So what arguments from otherwise intelligent people on Facebook make you twitch?