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cancer returns

February 8, 2006

Yes, cancer usually returns – in the case of breast cancer 88% of those cured ultimately end up dying of cancer. This is an unusual definition of cured that probably only the cancer industry uses.I’m now re-reading Fit For Life II – A New Beginning by Harvey Diamond – to my New Zealand sensibility it comes over a little bit like an infomercial but I think he knows his stuff and has just pitched it at a level that normal people will enjoy. I mustn’t let my learnt suspicion of non-professional styles prevent me from learning something.

A fact I forgot earlier. You are defined as being cured of cancer if you have no remissions for 5 years. This seems like a slight of hand on behalf of the cancer industry to make themselves look better. Aside from this a cured person may also be permanently disabled or disfigured from their ‘treatments’.

I have been thinking more about the mind set of the professional and what we can learn from ‘Disciplined Minds’ because I’m not totally convinced that the desire for status and wealth (along with the more powerful fear of losing status and wealth) – could so universally corrupt the medical profession. I remembered that Jeff Schmidt says that one of the roles of professional training is to ensure that the professional will internalise the values of their employer. This being the case we should realise that the ultimate employers of conventional medicine are the pharmaceutical companies. Everyone down the line must internalise their corrupt values while still believing that they are helping people – quite a challenge but it should be pretty obvious by now that the human capacity for rationalisation knows no bounds.

Disciplined Minds also says that professionals must defend the status quo and there have been some quite frightening instances of this happening with cancer specialists. In New Zealand about 5 years ago there was the case of Liam Holloway – a little boy who had a nasty case of cancer. His parents tried 2 doses of Chemotherapy while they and friends did their own research. The ‘therapy’ had a truly appalling affect on Liam and coupled with the fact that they had found out the chances of success were pretty slim, the parents decided to discontinue the treatment.

The specialist who was treating Liam hit the roof. He went to the courts and got Liam made a ward of the state and I still recall what happened next – the family went into hiding and it was all over the news for weeks. Most people here were appalled at the heavy handed way the medical profession went about trying to track them down. Liam got better for a while but then had a relapse and died. From what I’ve learned it might have been because the chemotherapy had broken up the tumour and spread it around the body but also it could have been the nature of the particular type of cancer which was known for being very unpredictable.

Several things stand out in this story.

The specialist went to the media and said that Liam had a 50% chance of survival if he had chemotherapy. This was an out and out lie of staggering proportions. The real figure is around 15% and presumably it was by then apparent that the chemo would kill him first. He was obviously prepared to go to any lengths to defend the medical establishment.

The media downplayed the fact that the parent had tried the chemotherapy and in a couple of legal case studies (which are now a part of case-law in this country I believe) it was not even mentioned that they had tried it. These case studies will be referred to if this situation ever arises again and it has very bad implications for a parent’s right to choose a therapy for their child. This means that the lawyers were also prepared to distort the truth to defend the medical establishment.

They used the argument that they were defending the rights of the child by making him a ward of the state. Central to this argument is the idea that the treatment was the best thing for Liam. The people who ended up being the best judge of this were probably his parents since they actually did some research. The real judge who made him a ward of the state simply took the word of another cancer specialist that it was the best treatment. He didn’t require any evidence because he was dealing with another professional and was therefore able to trust that the specialist had the best interests of the establishment at heart.

Newspaper editors to a man (pretty sure they were all men) condemned the parents and presented a distorted version of the truth in their editorials. Newspaper editors can always be relied upon to defend the status quo. Despite this many, many people around the country sent money to the family to help them out. Non-professional people (and people who have experienced cancer treatment) just ‘know’ from long experience, that professionals can’t be trusted.

If you’re struggling at all with this definition of professionals I urge you to read Disciplined Minds, I have found it explains so much of how the status quo is maintained and I have no doubt that I will refer to it again and again as new issues arise.

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