The Big Business of Cancer

Someone close to me is dying of cancer. And I recognize that she’s dying not just because her doctors have categorized her cancer as stage 4 – in which the original cancer has advanced to other parts of her body - but because she has elected to take the predictable regimen of treatment: chemotherapy.

She is not a candidate for surgery, as the cancer is not localized. For the same reason, she is not taking radiation ‘therapy’. What she has been doing since last September is taking large doses of powerful chemotherapy hours a day, with short rests in between treatments.

I spent the morning with her Saturday. It had been a few weeks since we’d seen each other. She’s in an ‘in-between’ time now: a break from chemo, but in a couple of weeks, a CAT scan to view the state of the tumors. In recent weeks, her hearing has deteriorated, and her eyesight is failing. We’ve begun worrying that the cancer has reached her brain. She’s drawn, weak, confused, forgetful, and very sad. It hurts my heart to write this, but I believe the upcoming CAT scan will show that the cancer has advanced, not retreated.

I have zero medical training. But it doesn’t take a brilliant insight to see that the way that doctors treat cancer is a failure.

This is not the first time I’ve been connected to someone who’s dying of cancer. And each time, except for only one person, it’s the same story. A diagnosis, then drugs, surgery, radiation, misery, expense, and despair. And when the story reaches its end, the person with cancer suffered far more than was necessary, is bankrupt, has left behind a tidal wave of medical bills, and is dead.

If you were to visit a chemotherapy room in any cancer treatment center today, every chair would be filled. People plugged in to bags of poisonous chemicals dripping into IVs for hours several days a week. They’ve lost their hair; they have no appetite. Many are skeletal. Some have radiation burns on their skin, or surgery scars. Breasts, bladders, lymph nodes, and prostates have been removed. They’ve lost their life essence. No one knows what to expect, and everyone is scared.

It’s absurd that the medical industry has redefined the word ‘survivor’ to indicate a person who is still alive 5 years since a cancer diagnosis, even if that person dies 5 years and one day after his or her diagnosis. This bastardizes the definition of survivor and gives cancer patients false hope. It also propels them into taking any treatment the doctors and pharm corporations suggest. That’s clever marketing, waving the word ‘survivor’ in front of your face.

More and more money is poured into cancer research and treatments each year. Our government sanctions more and more money for cancer research. People march, run, walk, protest, and fundraise. And yet, the number of people in the U.S. who die of cancer each year has doubled in the last four decades.

You know where I’m going with this. Cancer treatments are miserable failures that make some very specific people a lot of money. And if you think I’m talking about the pharmaceutical industry, you’re right. Pharmaceuticals is a half-trillion dollars a year worldwide conglomerate. Drug ‘trials’ are funded by pharm interests, which is like saying that an ‘independent’ taste trial for ice cream is being funded by Breyers. A new drug only has to work better than a placebo in two trials before it can be approved for sale. Two trials. Approval comes fast. There’s money to be made and no one wants to wait.

The bottom line is, there’s no money in health. This is not a notion I read about, was preached to about, or saw in a documentary and adopted as gospel truth. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. I’ve watched more than my share of loved ones face cancer: I’ve said goodbye to too many people I adore. I’ve stood by relatives and friends as they submitted to doctors’ hurried advice to undergo surgery, chemo, and radiation – and then died anyway.

One of the few free choices we have is what we will and will not eat. More and more and more we are seeing the impact of diet on health. The American diet is appalling, relying increasingly on deeply processed and cooked ‘foods’, animal fats, and animal products. And the more of this we eat, the sicker we get, the more drugs we take to feel better, the more side effects we endure, the more drugs we take to handle the side effects, and the more money goes into the hands of the vultures of the pharm industry.

Could you imagine if the best treatment for cancer is nutrition? Studies to support this belief look very, very promising, and have for a long time, longer than we’ve been let on to. The current approach of surgery/chemotherapy/radiation is a failure for patients but a windfall of profit for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. In other words, there’s a contingent of people whose wealth depends upon others’ suffering and the reliable failure of surgery/chemotherapy/radiation therapy for cancer. And that is completely sickening.

I don’t know how to talk to this lifelong meat-and-dairy/processed food-eating relative of mine, who is taking the predictable course of chemotherapy cancer treatment while continuing to eat crap and getting sicker and sicker. It’s wrenching to watch her suffer. It’s infuriating to see the same story unfold over and over. It’s daunting to take on a gigantic conglomerate like the pharm industry.

Today, I’m pointing my finger at the wrongdoers. I have, in my relatively young life, shared the journeys of many people with many forms of cancer. I’m sick of watching it play out the same way over and over again. I see the greed and corruption behind it. I wonder when or if things will change.

If change comes, it will come in the way most change happens. One person at a time will get off the ride and try something else, call for change, and demand accountability. One by one, we may wake up and take back the autonomy of our bodies. Our bodies, and I speak to women especially, are not disease-ridden things. We needn’t swallow pharmaceuticals when nutritional therapy and stress reduction is a better treatment that won’t leave us desperate, depressed, miserable, bald, and broke.

Doctors receive miniscule to no nutrition training in medical school. It’s simply not on the syllabus. It galls me that I’m again watching a person with a cancer diagnosis placed on the chemotherapy treadmill with not an inkling of nutrition counseling and diet management. And she gets sicker and more frightened each day.

We need a fresh paradigm. We need more turning to alternatives. We need to go back to basics. There are forgotten medicines out there – nutrition, herbs, stress reduction, and more. Simple, safe, and effective. We need to stop being patients and start being people.

As for the medical professionals who sincerely believe that what they’re doing is best, I have this to say: you can be sincere about what you’re doing, and be sincerely wrong. Cancer remains our number two cause of untimely deaths, second only to heart disease. We’re fighting cancer with one hand behind our backs. This is not OK. This must be changed.

Live in peace. Live in abundance. Eat well.

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