Respectful Insolence

Chemotherapy versus death from cancer

I know I’ve been writing a lot about the Daniel Hauser case, and forgive me if I may be beating a dead horse, but cases like these reprsent supreme “teachable” moments that don’t come along that often. The antivaccine movement, for instance, will be with us always (or at least, I fear, as long as I still walk this earth and beyond), but cases like that of Daniel Hauser don’t come along that often. As tragic as they are, they always bring up so many issues that I have a hard time leaving them alone.

This time around, I wanted to touch on an issue that has come up frequently in the discussions of this case, and that’s the issue of chemotherapy. Specifically, it’s the issue of how horrible chemotherapy can be. Again, make no mistake about it, chemotherapy can be rough. Very rough. But what is often forgotten is that it can also be life-saving, particularly in the case of hematologic malignancies, where it is the primary therapy. What is also often forgotten or intentionally ignored is that doctors don’t use chemotherapy because they love “torturing” patients or because they’re in the pockets of big pharma and looking for cash or because they are too lazy to find another way. They do it because, at least right now, it’s the best scientific medicine has. And in the case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, for example, it’s life-saving.

Yes, chemotherapy can make you feel nauseated and make you throw up. It can make your hair fall out. It can temporarily depress the immune system. It can cause bleeding complications, such as GI bleeding. It can cause kidney damage. It can cause heart damage. It can cause lung damage. it can cause nerve damage. It can make you lose weight. It can even result in your death from complications. In short, it is not something to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, the disease it’s meant to fight is a formidable foe indeed. It is your own cells, and often the difference between the toxicity of chemotherapy against the cancer and against normal cells is all too often not that great.

But what does cancer do? How do cancer patients die? They suffer and die in protean ways. Cancer can do everything chemotherapy can do (with the exception of hair loss) and more. I’ve seen more patients than I care to know suffer and die from cancer. I’ve seen family members suffer and die from cancer, most recently my mother-in-law.

One of the most frequent claims of cancer patients who opt for quackery instead of chemotherapy and effective science-based therapies is that they want to remain healthy. Some, as Abraham Cherrix did, state that, even if they end up dying, they want to “die healthy.” It’s a dangerous illusion. There is nothing “healthy” about dying from cancer. Dying from cancer is anything but “healthy.” What does dying from untreated cancer mean? What happens? What does it involve?

Dying from cancer can mean unrelenting pain that leaves you the choice of being drugged up with narcotics or being in agony.

Dying from cancer can mean unrelenting vomiting from an uncorrectable bowel obstruction. It can mean having a nasogastric tube to drain your digestive juices and prevent you from throwing up. Alternatively, it can mean having to have a tube sticking out of your stomach to drain its fluids.

Dying from cancer can mean bleeding because you don’t have enough platelets to clot. The bleeding can come in many forms. It can be bleeding into the brain, in essence a hemorrhagic stroke. It can mean bleeding from the rectum or vomiting blood incessantly. And, because so many transfusions are all too often necessary, immune reactions can chew up new platelets as fast as they’re infused. Yes, paradoxically, even when a cancer patient’s immune system is suppressed in late stage cancer, frequently it does work against the one thing you don’t want it to: Transfusions of blood products.

Dying from cancer can mean horrific cachexia. Think Nazi concentration camp survivor. think starving Africans. Think famine. Think having cheeks so sunken that your face looks like the skull underlying it.

Dying from cancer can mean your lungs progressively filling with fluid from tumor infiltration. Think choking on your own secretions. Think a progressive shortness of breath. Think an unrelenting feeling of suffocation but with no possibility of relief.

Dying from cancer can mean having your belly fill with ascites fluid due to a liver chock full of tumor.

Dying from cancer can mean so many other horrific things happening to you that they are way to numerous to include a comprehensive list in a blog post, even a post by a blogger as regularly logorrheic as Orac.

Modern medicine can alleviate many of the symptoms people with terminal cancer suffer, but it can’t reverse the disease process. However, the relief of these symptoms requires that the patient actually accept treatment. Hospice can minimize such symptoms, often for significant periods of time. However, even with the very best hospice care, there is nothing “healthy” or pleasant about dying from cancer. It means a loss of control. It means being too weak to get up by yourself, to feed yourself, to go to the bathroom yourself, to bathe yourself, or do do much other than lie in your bed and wait for the end. Without such treatment, a patient who chooses quackery over effective curative or palliative therapy dooms himself to a painful and unpleasant death. He in effect dooms himself to the sorts of ends untreated cancer patients suffered hundreds of years ago, before there was effective therapy. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the seductive promise of a cure without pain, without hair falling out, without nausea lures cancer patients to havens of quackery in Tijuana or to flee from authorities trying to see that a child obtains potentially life-saving treatment, all because of a magnified fear of chemotherapy, all because of the propaganda that paints chemotherapy as “poison,” radiation as “burning,” and surgery as “slashing.”

Here’s the dirty little secret behind “alternative cancer cure” (ACC) promises. They are seductive because it is true that cancer patients who stop their chemotherapy will do feel better than they did when undergoing chemotherapy. Of course they do, at least for a while! Often what’s happened, as in Daniel Hauser’s case, is that the tumor shrinks, and, once the chemotherapy course is done, the patient does feel better because the tumor is no longer causing B symptoms or compressing lungs and making him short of breath or whatever. It is also true that more chemotherapy will make the patient feel lousy again for a time. Unfortunately, in the case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the additional chemotherapy is necessary to maximize the chance of cure. Hodgkin’s disease frequently relapses without the additional courses of chemotherapy. Science and clinical trials have told us that. Daniel Hauser is living proof, an anecdote that is consistent with what science tells us.

In other words, the promise of ACCs is a lie. They promise that cancer patients will always feel the way they do after the first course of chemotherapy is over, and they lie. That’s because cancer doesn’t give up. It’s like the Terminator. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And, if it is not treated, it absolutely will not stop, ever, until the patient is dead. And it won’t be a pretty end.

Chemotherapy or death by cancer? For cancers for which chemotherapy is so effective, like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s really a no-brainer.

Orac’s commentary

  1. Another child sacrificing himself on the altar of irrational belief
  2. Daniel Hauser and his rejection of chemotherapy: Is religion the driving force or just a convenient excuse?
  3. Judge John Rodenberg gives chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser a chance to live
  4. Mike Adams brings home the crazy over the Daniel Hauser case
  5. The case of chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser: I was afraid of this
  6. Chemotherapy versus death from cancer
  7. Chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser: On the way to Mexico with his mother?
  8. An astoundingly inaccurate headline about the Daniel Hauser case
  9. Good news for Daniel Hauser!
  10. Daniel Hauser, fundraising, and “health freedom”

Comments

  1. #1 FreeSpeaker
    May 20, 2009

    I watched my mother go through chemo and I watched her die. Chemo was far more “pleasant”, for want of a better word.

  2. #2 Dafmeister
    May 20, 2009

    “Chemotherapy or death by cancer? For cancers for which chemotherapy is so effective, like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s really a no-brainer.”

    Sadly, Daniel Hauser and his mother aren’t completely brainless, they’re exemplars of knowing just enough to be dangerous.

  3. #3 Sigmund
    May 20, 2009

    My mother, likewise, went through surgery and chemotherapy for three years before she died of ovarian cancer. The greatest pain she went through was from obstructions caused by tumor growth, not from the chemotherapy itself, which she never complained about. The extra two and a half years she got from conventional treatment allowed her to get to know her two youngest grandchildren and will allow them to remember her as a real person, rather than a nameless face in the family photo album.

  4. #4 tony
    May 20, 2009

    My mother is currently going through chemotherapy for breast cancer that was removed a month ago. It had not spread but the protein markers in it indicated that without treatment there was a 50% chance of it coming back. Chemo, together with several targeted antibody and hormone treatments, is cutting that risk to about 5%.

    After her first infusion, she had terrible GI issues for a week. She told her doctors, and THEY GAVE HER MEDICINE TO COUNTERACT THE SYMPTOMS and her second round is going far better. It does not even have to be hell like so many people think.

  5. #5 Abel Pharmboy
    May 20, 2009

    Sorry to be offline so much lately but I’ve had a lot of distractions. However, I had to read this post and must say that this is one of your best I have seen, perhaps colored by my professional relationship to this field.

    Beyond docs not wanting to “torture” patients with cytotoxic drugs, I think that the general public does not adequately appreciate just how similar cancer cells are to normal, untransformed cells. With antibiotics, it is quite easy to selectively kill bacteria without damaging normal tissue, in most cases. This is because bacterial drug targets are very different structurally from analogous proteins in human cells or, say in the case of penicillins and cephalosporins, target a process that is completely absent from human cells.

    In cancer, the best we can do right now is to target those processes that are most different between cancer cells and normal cells. In the majority of cases, this is not possible because some normal cells depend on the very same processes for growth as do cancer cells, such as blood-forming elements of the bone marrow.

    Those of us in the field of anticancer drug discovery are doing our absolute best to try and identify targets that are most different between normal and cancer cells. All of us have that goal for the very reasons you describe.

    What is not appreciated by many who wish to “die healthy” is that over 12 million cancer survivors are alive today in the US because of surgical oncologists like you, as well as medical oncologists who direct cancer chemotherapy regimens, and radiation oncologists. Yes, the treatments are not easy to endure but depending on the type of cancer, the benefits far outweigh the risks and adverse reactions.

    I wish the public knew just how hard we are all working together to relieve human suffering from cancer.

  6. #6 Squillo
    May 20, 2009

    It looks like Colleen Hauser has taken her son and disappeared. The press is reporting that they went missing after a court-ordered x-ray showed the tumor had grown.

    An arrest-warrent for Ms. Hauser has been issued.

  7. #7 Bill Silberg
    May 20, 2009

    Reading about this case made me cringe, then cry, then howl with fury at how any adult, much less a parent, could be so demented.

    Chemo is horrible, even when it goes well and side effects, which can be reasonably well controlled now in more and more patients, are minimal. It is, in some ways, barbaric. It is, in many ways, stuck in time, as many of the baseline chemo drugs that do seem to work by battering cancer cells into submission were developed decades ago. There have been substantial advances in targeted therapy, to be sure, but a number of the big guns of chemo aren’t all that different than what has been given patients for a generation, or even two or three. Long-term effects of chemo, whether for the old line treatments or the new stuff, are not as well understood as they must be, especially for children. The irony is that for many childhood cancers, especially hematologic cancers, remission and, dare we say it, cure rates have soared in recent years. So worrying about the long-term impact of chemo in long-term survivors is a worthwhile problem to have.

    Why do I know this? Why do I have the greatest pity for this poor child and nothing but scorn for his parents and others like them who squander the gift God gave them? Because my son is now 18 months cancer-free after a brutal regimen of treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma, the fastest-growing cancer of childhood. With lightning-fast metabolic activity, this malignancy would have easily killed my son if not aggressively treated, and quickly. It was, and the same high rate of activity that makes it so lethal also means it sucks up the poisons the oncologists used.

    My son is now approaching age 17, healthy, happy, vibrant and confident of a long and fulfilling life. There’s every reason he should be. Would that we could say the same for Daniel Hauser.

  8. #8 MarkW
    May 20, 2009

    Thanks Orac. For this post, for all you do on this blog, and for all your medical work. Thanks to you too, Abel Pharmboy, and thanks to all the doctors and researchers trying to find cures and treatments for cancers.

    Your efforts may seem in vain when confronted by cases like Daniel Hauser’s. But they are not.

    So thank you. Thank you all.

  9. #9 Luis
    May 20, 2009

    Just wanted to share some anecdotal evidence: My father in law had a large-cell lung cancer surgically removed, did several rounds of chemotherapy, and the following 4th of july will mark 3 years of non-recurrence! We will be having a party and his physician and oncologist will both be present and celebrating with the familly and friends.

    No woo whatsoever was involved! (In fact he was quite pissed at someone who gave him a heal with your mind type book)

  10. #10 Chemgeek
    May 20, 2009

    Abel said: “I wish the public knew just how hard we are all working together to relieve human suffering from cancer.”

    I couldn’t agree with this more. We (and this includes ‘evil’ big pharma) would love to stop all of those things Orac has described. Sadly, it is incredibly difficult and currently impossible.

  11. #11 NoAstronomer
    May 20, 2009

    My brother-in-law died from melanoma 3 years ago. Mercifully it was pretty quick. Six months from diagnosis and just a month from the start of hospice care. But he packed a whole lot of suffering into that last month.

    Tom was a tall strong guy who could easily have beaten the crap out of me.

    At the end I could have picked him up with one arm.

    Mike.

  12. #12 James Sweet
    May 20, 2009

    That’s all fine and good… but chemo involves teh-toxins-zomg, and as we all know, it is never acceptable to use teh-toxins-zomg to save the lives of children. It is only acceptable to use teh-toxins-zomg in order to make a fashion statement:

    http://www.oprah.com/bi/jenny-mccarthy/blogs/A-girls-gotta-do-what-a-girls-gotta-do.html

  13. #13 BB
    May 20, 2009

    Another cancer researcher here, working on cancer-targeted therapeutics.
    What Abel Pharmboy and Orac said. Great posts and comment.

  14. #14 Corina Becker
    May 20, 2009

    Agreeing with you Orac, just pointing out a mistake, grammatically. Cause, you know, I’m an English major. And as an autistic, slightly obsessive :D

    “But what is often forgotten is that it can also be life-saving, particularly in the case of hematologic malignancies, where it is the primary therapy. What is also often forgotten or intentionally ignored is that doctors don’t use chemotherapy because they love “torturing” patients or because they’re in the pockets of big pharma and looking for cash or because they are too lazy to find another way.”
    Did you mean to start two sentences the same, and in a way that implies there is a big pharma conspiracy?

    Not grammar question:
    “It can temporarily depress the immune system.”
    Is this why I’ve been seeing a little girl and her father(?) wearing gas masks? I’ve seen them walking around wearing these masks, and wondered why. To me, it makes sense that if one or the other had something that affected the immune system and getting sick would affect treatment, that they were trying not to get sick. It then makes sense that if it was the little girl, that her parent(s) would also wear a mask as a way to make her feel better about wearing a mask.
    But then, I’m not a medical expert.

  15. #15 Jim
    May 20, 2009

    After reading this series and being in my 70′s, it seem logical to me that should cancer strike, one should end things rather than go through all the suffering and burden and costs put on others.

  16. #16 Michael Simpson
    May 20, 2009

    @Jim. Huh? I don’t think Orac or anyone else is saying that. I’m sure that there are things to weigh, but there are so many different cancers, along with a lot of different therapies for those cancers. If you ever get such a diagnosis, giving up shouldn’t be the first decision you make.

  17. #17 Rjaye
    May 20, 2009

    I had to add my two cents.

    Yes, there are many people who have a horrible time with chemo, yet in the two years of working at a cancer clinic, most people did very well, and were able to cope. My best friend had to have treatment for a rare, aggressive uterine cancer with poor outlook, and went through one of the most extensive treatment I’d witnessed, and with only minor side effects-and yes, I know she was very lucky.

    I take many of the same drugs that dampen the immune system for severe RA, and while I have the occasional nausea, and occasionally have to hermit myself when people are sick, those drugs did one thing altmed never did: relieve my symptoms. I can have a life now, and walk, and return to living. No diet, herbs, or massage did anything to help me walk. Modern medicine did.

    While my experience is anecdotal, I am still grateful for what medicine has done for me. I have no illusions about its limits, but for what it can do at this point in time, I really am grateful.

  18. #18 Prup (aka Jim Benton)
    May 20, 2009

    It seems each of us has known a cancer patient. In my case it is my sister-in-law, who has, so far, survived ovarian cancer. (Fortunately she had moved to Canada some years before, or my in-laws, rightly, would have sold our house out from under us to pay for her treatment — but that’s another argument.)

    She has told us that the chemo was not that uncomfortable — but perhaps she inherited her mother’s stoicism. (My mother-in-law broke her arm, refused any prescription pain killers stronger than Tylenol, refused to cancel a dinner party that was scheduled last night, and was hanging clothes in the basement — they had a washer but not a drier — the next day, She had already reached 80 years old when this happened.)

    There is nothing more to be said about DANIEL Hauser, but no one has made one comment — or if they have, I missed it — that needs to be said. Why haven’t the other children been taken out of the Hausers’ care before another tragedy happens?

  19. #19 Ranson
    May 20, 2009

    To all of you who work on cancer, particularly the drugs, I want to say a personal thank you.

    Two month’s after my mom’s diagnosis (inoperable lung, liver, and “other”; terminal, because it was a long time coming, and she was reluctant to check it out), she was laying in a hospital bed, drugged out of her mind for pain, with a torso swollen almost to the point of bursting. All we could do for her was stroke the swollen spot — that seemed to relieve some of the pain. Her doctor worked for weeks to get her to take chemo, one of the newer treatments,even though mom had given up on living. She finally took the chemo. It had an immediate and dramatic effect on the tumor, beyond what anything in the literature suggested was reasonable.

    We got another year of an outgoing, vibrant woman. Sure, the chemo and radiation only delayed the inevitable, but she got another year to spend with her husband, children, grandchildren, and siblings. Cancer took her, eventually, and it wasn’t pleasant, but she got more time than she had, and it was good time, not lying in a bed in a dark hospital room, waiting. She was capable of traveling, and talking, and enjoying herself, though it was more difficult than before the cancer.

    If that chemo hadn’t worked as well, had left her tied to a bed and just prolonged things without quality-of-life, she likely would have stopped it and let death come. As it was, she got to be herself for another year, and died at home.

    Thank you for that.

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    May 20, 2009

    My aunt died of ovarian cancer a few years ago. She’d had a remarkable progress, having lived with the cancer for an astonishing 14 years before it killed her. Her case got written up several times in medical journals, because it was so remarkable. Most likely, she was just an outlier, but it sure would be nice if someone could work out why she survived so long. It wasn’t always pretty, of course. There was a lot of chemo involved, and it was harsh on her system. But she also had long periods of remission during which she got to enjoy life, attending all of her daughters’ weddings and meeting most of her grandchildren. If she hadn’t used chemo, that would not have happened. She would never have seen the 1990s, much less the 21st century. She was a staunch advocate for ovarian cancer research and for prompt treatment.

    So even when chemo doesn’t cure, it can still be worthwhile.

  21. #21 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 20, 2009

    “Chemotherapy or death by cancer? For cancers for which chemotherapy is so effective, like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s really a no-brainer.”

    Yep. My uncle went through chemo. Lost his hair and a fair amount of weight, was sick some and fairly exhausted through the whole experience.

    But he’s here. 4 years later with a clear board and clear of cancer.

    Playing golf with him this weekend.

    Yep, I sure wish he hadn’t done the chemo.

  22. #22 kathleen
    May 20, 2009

    I think that the scariest part of this post is the sheer amount of people whose lives have been affected by cancer(as noted in comments) I think that the best thing that an oncologist has ever said to me(in the case of my sister) was-”If I didn’t think that chemo would give her a chance for some quality of life-I wouldn’t give it to her-because that would be against everything I stand for”

  23. #23 long island gal
    May 20, 2009

    The mother of the boy may have a lot of reasons why she is doing this to her son because i still believe that a mother always knows what’s best for their child and that is if this mother is on her proper state of mind. Natural healing is okay and works but i find it hard to believe with treating cancer. It may work miraculously. Hope that the mother will be enlightened that his son needs immediate treatment before she realizes everything to be too late to regret everything.

  24. #24 AnnR
    May 20, 2009

    I believe this is individualism run amok.

    Getting through chemo thearpy throws you into a situation where you must work with others. It is not the time to be a cow boy.

    Why deny yourself the fruits of others labors, people exercising their God-given talents to heal?

    I read that the father is arguing for “low-dose” chemo thearpy. It’s one more futile attempt to exercise self-will. At some point we all have to bow to a power greater than ourselves. It really doesn’t matter what you call that power as long as you don’t call it “me.”

  25. #25 JennyJo
    May 20, 2009

    @ Calli Arcal:

    4 years ago my best friend – the mother of our now-step daughter – died of ovarian cancer. Thanks to conventional medicine she lived with it for nearly 13 years and most of the time had a good quality of life. She lived to see her daughter turn 16. Had she not taken conventional treatments, her daughter might well have not been able to remember her mother.

  26. #26 Landru
    May 20, 2009

    After exploratory surgery (this was 23 years ago), my grandfather got a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and a stated life expectancy of 6 weeks. He underwent chemotherapy and lived 15 more months, all of it at high quality (except for his last week of life). This allowed for him to continue to care for his wife, who had Alzheimer’s.

    I don’t have a problem with the practice of medicine.

  27. #27 Prup (aka Jim Benton)
    May 20, 2009

    I hate to jump up and down on someone as well meaning as you pbviously are, LIGal, but PLEASE, if you get anything from your sojurn here — and hopefully this will lead you to something like the Skeptic’s Circle as well — get this one thing.

    If you catch yourself quoting a cliche, particularly one with an implied ‘all’ like “a mother always knows what’s best for their child” check it against your own experience. Do you know of no one who has been seriously disturbed or damaged because of the way their mother — well-meaning as she might have been — treated that person or brought them up. I don’t need to quote something like the Kimes, the mother-son homicide team that has gotten a tv movie. Think of your friends, think about stories they might have told you.

    Check your cliches against the real world and question them. And then, secondly, when you say something as simple as ‘Natural healing is okay and works’ question that. Does it? Ho9w do you know? (Again, spend some time with the Skeptic’s Circle that will be coming up, and even check the past compilations, and learn from what you read, so that your brain begins to work as well as your heart obviously does.)

  28. #28 Natalie
    May 20, 2009

    because i still believe that a mother always knows what’s best for their child

    Really? Always? What specifically makes a mother infallible?

  29. #29 Calli Arcale
    May 20, 2009

    Awesome. (Well, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, but it’s awesome that she had such a good 13 years despite the cancer.) I know such cases are rare, but without modern medicine they wouldn’t occur at all.

    A quick response to Jim:

    After reading this series and being in my 70′s, it seem logical to me that should cancer strike, one should end things rather than go through all the suffering and burden and costs put on others.

    Don’t forget about the burden to your loved ones of watching you die if there was an alternative. Not all cancers are hopeless. My grandmother is in her late 80s, and had another melanoma removed recently. She’s in poor health generally, but is still doing well enough to stay in her own home. The surgery carried some risks because of her paper-thin skin (she’s a severe asthmatic, and had to take lots of oral prednisone for many years), but she did it anyway, because of the high likelihood of cure and the likelihood of a premature death if she left it alone. Some cancers are definitely still worth treating at your age.

    On the flipside, my grandfather (on the other side) recently passed away at the age of 91. Nobody knows what killed him, but it’s suspected that he had cancer given his symptoms. He was a doctor himself and made the decision that there was no point determining the source of his symptoms; he’d lived a long and full life, and the odds of gaining any long-term benefit were marginal at best, in his estimation. He chose palliative care, and died at home last January. There was no autopsy and he was subsequently cremated, so the cause will never be known. But that’s okay. I understand his decision. He also did not want to be a burden, and it was clear that he had something very nasty that probably wouldn’t respond well to treatment in any case. He was lingering a lot longer than he’d expected, and was making some modest improvements, but an episode of hypothermia last December after he slipped on the ice was the final straw for his body. He went with dignity, and I respect that.

    So in the end, the choice is yours, and there is merit in both sides. It all depends on your individual situation and your own feelings on the matter. I just hope you don’t focus too much on the shame of being a burden, because you may be surprised at how your relatives feel about that.

  30. #30 magista
    May 20, 2009

    Jim @ #15:

    My dad just turned 79 this year. Two years ago in the summer he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. It was discovered only because he was having blood tests prior to a gall bladder operation.

    He was on chemo within a month, two different drugs, one of which was absolute hell – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, weight loss, you name it. But he never once even considered the possibility of ‘just ending things’. Now two years later, he’s been more than a year in remission. He’s a lot thinner, as is his hair, but about the only thing he’s had to give up is his annual skiing holiday.

    Oh, and his gall bladder – which probably has more effect on him on a day-to-day basis now than the cancer will. More time to see his grandsons grow up, more time for me and my husband to visit him this summer…

    Thanks Orac, and Abel Pharmboy, for keeping us informed and keeping on finding new treatements. 20 years ago, before Gleevec, the prognosis wouldn’t be nearly so rosy.

    But thank goodness that living in the US he had always been able to afford to keep up a good medical insurance program. Because if you can’t afford the drugs, you don’t get them. And that’s a sad story of a completely different stripe.

  31. #31 Danimal
    May 20, 2009

    “Chemotherapy or death by cancer?” In the case of an uncle of mine a bullet to the head worked just fine. He also said that if he ever got to a certain point he would take his own life. He did and I respected him for that. That is going out with dignity.

  32. #32 Daniel J. Andrews
    May 20, 2009

    I’d also like to add my thanks to the oncologists (doctors and researchers). My friend was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 21. Surgery and chemotherapy followed, and he lived cancer-free till his late 30s when it recurred on one of his ribs. More surgery, more chemo, and back to his life he went minus part of his rib and lung but still healthy and athletic. He had a wife, 5 children, all of whom would not exist if he had failed to treat his original cancer.

    Incidentally, he was told there was a very good chance his original chemotherapy would leave him sterile so when he married they didn’t expect to have kids. She became pregnant and that was their miracle child…they then had 4 more miracle children.

    And my uncle was diagnosed with testicular cancer over 25-30 years ago. He’s still healthy and in his 60s, no recurrence for which his family and relatives are also grateful.

    So thank you for my friend, thank you for my uncle both of whom would have died painfully if they hadn’t been treated by evidence-based medicine. Chemotherapy is poisonous and can cause other complications/cancers to occur later in life, but it comes down to that rhetorical question: Why would you take a medicine that might kill you tomorrow? Because if you don’t the disease will kill you today.

  33. #33 Interrobang
    May 20, 2009

    Back in the early 1980s my grandmother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I still remember the horrible time she had with the radiation and surgery. (These days, I guess it’s a little easier, because technology does get better.) My grandfather passed away this past August, and my grandmother — now a still fairly robust woman in her mid-80s — nursed him through his last days. I can’t even imagine what life would have been like for all of us if my grandma had died in 1982…

    So thanks to all the cancer researchers, oncologists, OHIP and everyone else for making the Interrofamily’s lives better too. Signing off so I don’t start blubbing at work…

  34. #34 LovleAnjel
    May 20, 2009

    “because i still believe that a mother always knows what’s best for their child”

    Mothers are not magical creatures come down from the heavens to care for you (hard to overcome, I know I couldn’t conceive of my mom being a ‘real person’ with faults until I graduated college).

    They are human– like you. They make mistakes– like you. Do you feel, right now, that you intrinsically know what is best for your (current or future) children, without consulting any other person? Do you trust yourself to come up with, by yourself, solutions to any health problem your children may face?

    The truthful answer for any parent, if they think about it, is no. This is why we rely on doctors to help us decide what is best.

    And to give a second lie to the statement above, if mothers always knew what was best for their children, my husband’s mom would not have married his abusive alcoholic stepdad.

  35. #35 Liz
    May 20, 2009

    THANK YOU! I have heard numerous people say “I’d rather just go in peace…” When the subject of chemo comes up.

    As someone who has seen enough cancer and simply death, I say to them “Death is not peaceful unless you have a heart-attack in your sleep.” I mean, just watching someone go through the death process of old age isn’t always peaceful. Or short.

    For those of us who have seen all the realities listed above… chemo is a walk in the park. And a blessing for those who would die without it (in agony, I might add.)

  36. #36 HealthEd
    May 20, 2009

    Just to pile on …

    The chemo for my grandmother’s colon cancer was a relative piece of cake. It was the radiation that made her life miserable. (Possibly b.c the radiation onc bungled it)

    But even with that, she is 11-years cancer free. Yes, she has to wear a colostomy bag. Yes, now she’s afflicted with crippling osteoporosis and had to give up almost everything she enjoys because of macular degeneration. But she’s still eating cheeseburgers!

    I just last night sent her flowers for her 89th birthday on Saturday. I am damn glad there are so many dedicated, talented, caring cancer docs (and other docs, and researchers) who gave her so many years and kept her from becoming a cancer “victim.”

    I hope someday the same can be said for young Daniel Hauser, though I’m guessing this unfortunately won’t be the case.

  37. #37 quisquose
    May 20, 2009

    Gosh this story feels so close to me. I had Hodgkin’s Disease 15 years ago, fortunately Stage I, and had chemo and radiotherapy.

    All I want to shout is “FOR DOG’S SAKE GO AND GET THE TREATMENT!”

    From memory, apart from feeling a little tired, and sickness now and again, I found the treatment pretty easy. If you could choose your cancer, then choose Hodgkin’s. It is VERY curable.

  38. #38 Lepht
    May 20, 2009

    Orac, Abel – i’d be dead if it weren’t for chemo. thanks.

  39. #39 DonZilla
    May 20, 2009

    This Hodgkin’s survivor (who lived with “cancer itching” for almost a year, thinking it was allergies, before her ob-gyn figured out what it was) says:

    Thanks Orac! Wonderful post. I’ll take chemo over cancer itching any day (never mind dying from it). I wish there was a forum or website for those of us who have had relatively smooth sailing through chemo where we could post testimonials, so that folks aren’t frightened away from it so much.

    And be sure to check out cancerfightingstrategies.com. Good for a chuckle.

  40. #40 Serdar
    May 20, 2009

    My father went through chemo and surgery for prostate cancer. This was ten year ago. I know now, today, that there are questions about how vital it is to attack prostate cancer, especially if its growth is relatively sluggish. His case was not this ambiguous.

    The treatment itself was not pleasant, but he endured it and when it was over he was back to his old self. In fact, if anything, he was better than his old self, because he’d faced down something that he thought was going to kill him and found that it didn’t have to be that way.

    This is, I guess, my way of saying: Thank you, Orac. Keep ‘em coming.

  41. #41 luna1580@gmail.com
    May 20, 2009

    UPDATE:

    now daniel’s father has told the media:

    “I’d like to tell them, you know, ‘Come back and be safe and be a family again,’ ” he said. “That’s what I’d like to tell them.”

    if they’ve really left the country, especially for latin america, they may never be found, daniel will never be treated, and will die. then what happens to colleen?

    does she stay in hiding forever, not wanting to admit his death, and leave her 7 other kids without a mom?

    does she return to the states, either lie and say daniel recovered and is living abroad, or admit he died, face legal action either way, and again leave 7 other kids, a husband, and a farm abandoned?

    social services really needs to check on those other children and see how this woman was raising them, as it seems she’s not any kind of responsible or rational parent.

  42. #42 Phoenix Woman
    May 20, 2009

    It just occurred to me that the Hauser family very likely doesn’t have health insurance of any sort. (Not that health insurance is a guarantee that you won’t be reduced to abject poverty during the course of cancer treatment.)

    A while back, Orac suggested that the family’s professed religious beliefs were a front for their fear/dislike of chemo. I think that a fear of losing everything they owned may also be at work. There’s a reason there are lots of fundraisers for cancer patients: It’s because their medical bills AREN’T all covered by insurance.

    If I knew that the cancer treatment that could save my life would also bankrupt my family, I’d be tempted to forego it, too. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to take my loved ones down with me.

  43. #43 Calli Arcale
    May 20, 2009

    If that turns out to be the case, Phoenix Woman, then it’s doubly tragic that they’re getting fleeced by the cancer quacks. There are people who’ve spent their life savings and more on bogus therapies — and *then* discovered that it didn’t work, and the slightly more expensive (or in some cases cheaper) mainstream treatment would’ve given them a decent shot at a productive life.

    My plea to anyone in a situation where you consider denying your child life-saving medication because you fear losing the farm — ASK FOR HELP!!!! There are loads of people who’d be happy to donate to your cause. I don’t know any cancer survivors personally who needed this kind of assistance, but I have other friends who have benefited from fundraisers to cover things that health insurance didn’t but which were absolutely necessary. There are programs that can help, too. Ask around. Ask the hospital. Ask your doctor. Ask your church. Ask your friends. Ask your city hall; many have a hotline for those kinds of questions. United Way has a hotline for that sort of thing too. Life-changing medical diagnoses are scary, and you don’t have to suffer alone.

  44. #44 bparton
    May 20, 2009

    Jim @ 15 –

    You said:

    “After reading this series and being in my 70′s, it seem logical to me that should cancer strike, one should end things rather than go through all the suffering and burden and costs put on others.”

    I used to say the same thing until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 7 years out with no evidence of disease thanks to my wonderful oncologists. I was lucky – I didn’t have to have chemo – but the surgery and radiation therapy weren’t that bad at all. And if I have a recurrence and need chemo, I’ll go for it. I want to live!

  45. #45 Natalie
    May 20, 2009

    Phoenix Woman, that’s a good point, but Minnesota does still have a good social safety net, despite our current governor’s wishes. I hope the hospital would have had someone talk to them about payment options. Then again, perhaps they never brought it up in the first place.

  46. #46 Donna B.
    May 20, 2009

    My father will be 86 on June 1. He’ll start the day with his 7am radiation treatment for lung cancer. So far, no one is suggesting chemotherapy. All doctors he’s seen have encouraged him by saying that treatment (in his case, surgery or radiation) would give him at least another five years of good living.

    He just called me a few minutes ago. Thanks to all the scientists, doctors, and, I’m sure numerous others, I think I’ll get lots more phone calls and many more birthdays to celebrate with him than if he’d chosen no treatment.

    He seriously considered no treatment as well as not even having a biopsy to confirm the cancer. It was, eventually, curiosity I think that led him to the biopsy. After that, he said, “Now that I know for sure, I can’t ignore it.”

  47. #48 James Sweet
    May 20, 2009

    OT: Major measles outbreak in Wales.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/8057661.stm

    Awesome show, great job! At least all those kids whose lives are now at risk weren’t exposed to tehtoxinszomg.

  48. #49 Jacob V
    May 20, 2009

    Diagnosed with cancer a year ago, had surgery and radiation and currently have a reasonably low likelihood for any significant reduction in life expectancy. It is not unlikely that I may have treatable recurrences and future surgeries and my cancer is not one that responds to chemo. Despite the inconvenience any future surgery may present, my cancer will only remain treatable if any future positive lymph node are removed. To all the sudden decide to not have a required surgery at some point in my life will only be explained by brain injury or possibly being beyond my 90th birthday. I’m going to be alive for many years to come thanks to modern scientific medicine.

  49. #50 Alan Kellogg
    May 20, 2009

    Some folks think they can refuse medical treatment. Got news for them…

    Bullshit.

    You present a clear and present danger to yourself or to others, you can be made to accept medical treatment. Your disease could be clinical depression, some form of schizophrenia, or even Tuberculosis, you can be ordered by the courts to be treated against your will and you have damn all to say about it.

    Nor do you have the right to refuse treatment for someone in your care when your refusal is based on misinformation.

    BTW, if you think the medical profession is hardcore about Hauser’s case, wait until a contagious cancer evolves. It’s happened twice before, in dogs and tasmanian devils. Other cancers are known to try infecting other victims, only to be stopped by the potential host’s immune system. It is possible for something very much like Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor to appear from a human cancer. Should that happen you had better believe you will be getting treated whether you want it or not.

  50. #51 Rogue Epidemiologist
    May 20, 2009

    I watched chemotherapy age my father ten years in the one month I was home for winter break during my first year of college. He was Dx’d with Stage III CA colon just a week before Christmas.

    I also watched my normally-stoic mother storm through the house tearing up all the Christmas cards. We had never seen her so upset, but who could blame her? After all, she had just been told that dad had a 50% shot at survival.

    He spent 18 months total undergoing chemo, and he’s still with us today. I thank science and progress, and I sure as hell thank the oncologist and the cytotoxic things he had to push into my dad’s veins (at least he was already bald, so hair loss was a moot point)

    Because, by golly, we fear what would happen if my mother were to become a widow.

  51. #52 D. C. Sessions
    May 20, 2009

    Well, the way this one is going:

    * Grandmother (breast cancer) — died when Mom was 13
    * Best childhood friend (GI cancer) — died just short of 50 after being appointed to the appellate bench.
    * $HERSELF’s father — prostate cancer.
    * My favorite uncle (haematological cancer)
    * Another aunt (colon cancer)
    * Another uncle (melanoma)
    * Me? Basal cell carcinoma thirty years ago, too many actinic keratoses to count, all readily dealt with — so far.

    My cardiologist tells me I’d better figure on cancer getting me, so here’s to Orac, Abel, and the rest of you. For all the shit that goes around, some of us appreciate the work you do.

  52. #53 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 20, 2009

    In Daniel’s case, the alternative to chemo is death from Hodgkin’s. You have mentioned some of the complications. If Daniel is lucky, he will die of pneumonia because of bronchial obstruction, or of a pulmonary embolus – both relatively quick and not so painful. If he is unucky, he will die with superior vena cava obstruction, or tumor erosion into the spine, or progressive tracheal obstruction. Slow and painful.
    I’m sure there are other complications. Since we don’t see people die from Hodgkin’s much anymore, I’m not so familiar with all the possibilities.
    I also have several people close to me who are cancer survivors, thanks to medical interventions that work (surgery, radiation and chemo).

  53. #54 SGNeill
    May 20, 2009

    If this lady has indeed skipped the country and is not found until after her son is dead, do you prosecute her for killing her kid? I admit to being tempted.

  54. #55 Donna B.
    May 20, 2009

    Who is this Susan Daya, apparently an attorney from California, who accompanied Hauser and his mother to the appointment on Monday?

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/05/19/2009-05-19_arrest_warrant_issued_for_mother_daniel_hauser_13yearold_resisting_chemo_for_tre.html

  55. #56 Lisa J
    May 20, 2009

    There are those who would prefer to not endure chemotherapy, in rare cases, at least. My father had spino-cerebellar ataxia (hereditary), and had gotten to a point physically where he retired his Harley when he was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer. His wife, a nurse, talked him into enduring chemotherapy, which absolutely shocked me. In his lifetime he had endured numerous cancer losses, including my mother, a sister, a brother and a best friend. Also, I knew in my heart he would rather die of cancer, quickly, than face the continuing decline of hereditary ataxia.

    Sadly, he had a rare complication – the chemo caused a stroke that left him with significant deficits on his left side. At that point he discontinued treatment and died four months later.

    I know from my own recent cancer scare (they believe the biopsy got it and I go back in six months) that, REGARDLESS of all the bad chemo stories, and my own family history and all those I’ve watched endure it, that I would do chemo if it were recommended – I would do radiation…

    I would take EVERY CHANCE at life. I get so frustrated by people who are so blinded by hope and lying promises that they do not adequately way their options, and end up losing such precious time…

  56. #57 Elaine
    May 20, 2009

    About Susan Daya:
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/05/20/hauser/

    “Daya is a Los Angeles-based lawyer who specializes in juvenile and indigenous rights. She is also a member of Nemenhah, the religious group the family belongs to.”

  57. #58 luna1580
    May 20, 2009

    well, at least minnesota public radio has the sense not to explicitly refer to the nemenhah as a “native american” religious group. and to call landis directly. who knows if he’s telling the truth, but he seems savvy enough not to directly dirty his hands with this madness -even if he knows what is going on. i emailed them all the real nemenhah/landis faux-native faux-mormon info i could gather when this story broke (and before the star-tribune’s excellent jon tevlin broke that part of the story in the MSM.)

    it sickens me that actual indians and their beliefs may be slandered in the press by false-association with this group of pro-profit woosters.

  58. #59 Natalie
    May 21, 2009

    Luna1580, it sickens me, too. I just saw a report on our local news (Minneapolis) that simply referred to Nemenhah as a “Native American tribe” – no context, no critical commentary, no comments from actual tribes’ representatives. They mentioned briefly that one has to pay to become “spiritually adopted” by the tribe, but didn’t bother to point out that actual tribes don’t operate that way.

  59. #60 Sara
    May 21, 2009

    I work in a pediatric oncology clinic – managing numerous clinical oncology research studies. The Children’s Oncology Group protocol therapy that Daniel was initially offered is considered standard of care for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is highly effective. Our children really do show much fewer effects from chemotherapy than adults, and we are very proactive in managing side effects.

    I’ve been reading the testimony from Daniel himself (pdf link found here:

    http://www.nujournal.com/page/content.detail/id/506967.html )

    and he has no idea what’s going on. He’s illiterate, does not understand the concept of chemotherapy and isn’t capable of giving informed consent. I hope that he is found soon, before his tumor progresses to an unfavorable stage. It would be unforgivable to lose a child to something that was so easily treatable.

  60. #61 Orac
    May 21, 2009

    It would be unforgivable to lose a child to something that was so easily treatable.

    Absolutely. Unfortunately, it’s looking more likely that Daniel will not get adequate treatment in a timely fashion. He and his mother are reportedly on their way to Tijuana; that is, unless his father is lying to throw authorities off the trail:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/05/chemotherapy_refusenik_daniel_hauser_on.php

  61. #62 Laser Potato
    May 21, 2009

    Cake or death?

  62. #63 Alan Kellogg
    May 21, 2009

    Got news for people, as long as you were born in this country you are a Native American. White, Black, South Asian, Pacific Islander, you are a Native American. American Indians are only one population of Native Americans. The population with the longest history, but only one population. Insisting that only American Indians can be Native Americans is racism of a vile and virulent sort.

    Until you came along and told us we didn’t even know we were a people.
    —Russel Means, American Indian activist

  63. #64 Natalie
    May 21, 2009

    Oh please, Alan. You know as well as I do that “Native American” and “American Indian” refer to the same thing. Yes, the two words “native” and “American” together can also mean something else, but in this case it’s clear the phrase is referring to the ethnic group. And neither “Cloudpiler” or the Hausers is a Native American.

  64. #65 Scicurious
    May 21, 2009

    This is a killer post, with some great commentary, Orac. Please submit to OpenLab!!!

  65. #66 dean
    May 21, 2009

    ” Insisting that only American Indians can be Native Americans is racism of a vile and virulent sort.”

    Allen, the only comment about this in any direct post was in Natalie’s #59 – and it wasn’t about “insisting” anything. Try to stick to facts for a change.

  66. #67 luna1580
    May 21, 2009

    alan, have you read mean’s book where white men fear to tread? it’s very interesting.

    i feel that he would have some problems with you saying that any old american-born descendant of europeans can just wake up and decide that “native born american” and “indian” are interchangeable due to semantic arguments.

    phillip “cloudpiler” landis ND somehow reached this stunning conclusion:

    “i’m an indian! i’m totally a spiritual grandson of Chief Joseph, the great Nez Perce Chief (as he has no living blood relatives), i think i’ll start my own “native band!” i can’t call it a “tribe” because when i tried that the actual nez perce stopped me in court, so “band” it must be. and i can now use the Federal Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act of 1993 (NAFERA) to protect my supplement business from legal action when my “native herbs” fail to cure cancer. that’s awesome, because the last two felony fraud convictions i got weren’t that fun….hhhmmmm, what should i call my “native” group? how about nemenhah, a “mormon” “native” group i “discovered” in some “ancient plates” that i “translated” (i’m totally like the new joseph smith). this is going to be so great! i’m so lucky to be an indian.”

    ok, so that’s not a real quote, but the information in it is all true. i am quite sure that russel means would object to what landis “cloudpiler” has done.

  67. #68 luna1580
    May 21, 2009

    and i’m pretty sure this quote:

    “Until you came along and told us we didn’t even know we were a people.”
    —Russel Means, American Indian activist

    is a reference to white americans thinking that all first-peoples were one big group of “native americans” not the individual lakota, hopi, menominee, etc. that they actually were.

    and i think means prefers “american indians” to “native american” when actual real tribal affiliations aren’t being referred to (he’s oglala, for example). most “indians” i’ve met feel the same. also, means is a fairly divisive figure among actual indians.

  68. #69 Michaël
    May 22, 2009

    I’d just like to offer my thanks for this article, Orac. As with the many people above me, this hit very close to home. My mother was diagnosed 9 years ago with colon cancer. The combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy was aggressive and has taken its toll on her immune system. However, without these treatments she would invariably have have suffered an excruciating death.

    I am infinitely grateful for the work of the oncologists and researchers whose work saved her life, and so is she. Every day is now a blessing.

    Even if you have faith in alternative medicine, it is undeniable that many people who are alive and well today would not be so without chemotherapy. To write chemotherapy off as ‘poison’ and a deliberate attempt to harm people is pure, malicious ignorance, not to mention an insult to the people who work tirelessly so that our loved ones stricken with this disease have the best chances of survival.

  69. #70 Michaël
    May 22, 2009

    I’d just like to offer my thanks for this article, Orac. As with the many people above me, this hit very close to home. My mother was diagnosed 9 years ago with colon cancer. The combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy was aggressive and has taken its toll on her immune system. However, without these treatments she would invariably have have suffered an excruciating death.

    I am infinitely grateful for the work of the oncologists and researchers whose work saved her life, and so is she. Every day is now a blessing.

    Even if you have faith in alternative medicine, it is undeniable that many people who are alive and well today would not be so without chemotherapy. To write chemotherapy off as ‘poison’ and a deliberate attempt to harm people is pure, malicious ignorance, not to mention an insult to the people who work tirelessly so that our loved ones stricken with this disease have the best chances of survival.

  70. #71 Michaël
    May 22, 2009

    Oops, apologies for the double-post. I was having timeout issues with the page and must have submitted twice.

  71. #72 Patrick
    May 22, 2009

    According to the CIA Worldbook, Cuban only has a shorter lifespan that the Americans for only 6 months.

    All those technologies we have and all the billions we spend, we only outlive them for a mere 6 months.

    Thinks about this: Do you think Cubans never get sick?

    Does our medical intervention from orthodox medicine really prolongs life?

    Do we really have such a high quality of health than Cubans?

  72. #73 Natalie
    May 22, 2009

    Patrick, Cuban healthcare consists of the same kind of evidence based medicine as US healthcare. Try again.

  73. #74 Patrick
    May 22, 2009

    Chemo works for some cases.

    But I think that the fact it used huge has profit making incentive from the big pharma.

    I have read so much about the use of Vitamin C as part of an effective treatment against cancers. Linus Pauling, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Peace advocated the use of it.

    However, Mayo Clinic repeated his test three times and found no benefit. Mayo Clinic didn’t use IV Vitaminc C and didn’t follow Pauling procedure but claimed they did.

    Today, I have never seen any rebuttal to why IV Vitamin C was not use anywhere I researched (except ending at “Mayo Clinic says so”, now most mainstream medicine still don’t use Vitamin C.

    Why no reasonable rebuttal is found?

    One should understand that in free market system, profit is the primary objective of a company.

    Non-patentable substance like Vitamin C will not get much attention. Most researches are funded by pharmaceuticals.

    To be “proven”, you need huge sums of money to run a study.

    And sometimes if you have enough money, you can get anything “proven”.

  74. #75 Chris
    May 22, 2009

    Patrick:

    Why no reasonable rebuttal is found?

    Because you can’t find anything if you don’t look. Look in the archives of this blog, there has been plenty of coverage on Vitamin C. It is obvious that you are looking at things with blinders, and only see what you want to see.

  75. #76 Orac
    May 22, 2009

    I have read so much about the use of Vitamin C as part of an effective treatment against cancers. Linus Pauling, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Peace advocated the use of it.

    However, Mayo Clinic repeated his test three times and found no benefit. Mayo Clinic didn’t use IV Vitaminc C and didn’t follow Pauling procedure but claimed they did.

    Today, I have never seen any rebuttal to why IV Vitamin C was not use anywhere I researched (except ending at “Mayo Clinic says so”, now most mainstream medicine still don’t use Vitamin C.

    Why no reasonable rebuttal is found?

    Way ahead you you:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/04/by_seed_prodded_or_theres_les_1.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/10/the_vitamin_c_empire_strikes_back.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/02/vitamin_c_and_cancer_has_linus_pauling_b.php

    Read them. Learn them. Love them, especially this passage:

    The bottom line from my perspective: Yes, vitamin C probably has some antitumor activity for some tumors, but as I contemplate the evidence for this effect the word “underwhelming” comes to mind, as does one of my favorite metaphors, namely the long run for a short slide. Apparently there are a lot of people who like getting their butts dirty sliding into base after a long run, though, because the attraction to vitamin C still lives on despite unimpressive evidence. Naturally, the authors of the phase I trial suggest using vitamin C in combination with chemotherapy, which is a perfectly reasonable approach for drugs that don’t show any objective evidence of activity as a single agent. However, this will not be easy, given that the sheer mass and volume of ascorbate that must be administered and the very high concentrations that are required even in the best case scenario could easily interfere with other chemotherapeutic agents.

    One thing is fairly clear from the data reported thus far, even Mark Levine’s data and his calls to “revisit” the question of vitamin C and cancer with an “open mind”: If high dose intravenous ascorbate has antitumor activity in humans, that activity is almost certainly quite modest at best, and to achieve even such modest antitumor activity definitely requires incredibly high doses of ascorbate. Once again, I point out that any other experimental drug requiring such high plasma concentrations and high doses to achieve such a modest antitumor effect would probably garner very little interest from anyone, even if it were a potentially patentable product of big pharma. It’s possible that high dose IV ascorbate might ultimately find its way into the armamentarium of science-based oncology, but it’s very unlikely ever to become a mainstay of treatment for any malignancy. It’s just too wimpy.

  76. #77 Patrick
    May 22, 2009

    Natalie,

    Method may be similar. But our technologies our free-market system may not be as much benefit as you might think.

    Have you been to Cuba?
    They are still using horse-drawn carriage for transportation on the highway.

  77. #78 RP
    May 22, 2009

    Jim, one more anecdote. My dad was diagnosed with tongue cancer 4 years ago right before he turned 70. Being of the same worse-case-scenario mindset as I am, he was telling me that he didn’t want too much intervention, that he wanted to go to hospice, etc. Thanks to his dentist (who spotted the lesion quickly) and the great folks at the U of Iowa Medical Center (who removed the cancer), he’s cancer-free now. Did he have a horrid 3 months recovering from surgery? Oh yeah. Was he 95% back to normal 3 months after that? Yep.

    Patrick, I recommend you look at more countries than the US and Cuba. A lot of first-world countries have far better health statistics than the US does just because there are a lot of people in the US not getting the health care they need. It has very little to do with how well we treat cancer.

  78. #79 Patrick
    May 22, 2009

    Orca,
    Thanks for the link about Vitamin C.
    I will read it carefully and try to be open-minded.

    I need to investigate the sources of the references and consider their motives outside of science.

    I read Stephen Barret and his page about Vitamin C. Although, I stopped when I read he attacked Pauling using his cause of death (cancer) instead of mentioning his work and without mentioning he died at above average age (93).

  79. #80 Chris
    May 23, 2009

    Patrick:

    Orca,
    Thanks for the link about Vitamin C.
    I will read it carefully and try to be open-minded.

    Ummm, Orca? Read a little bit more carefully.

  80. #81 Kerry
    May 23, 2009

    Daniel needs treatment.
    Have had stage 4 non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma someone doctors gave three months . After being treated in 97,2000 and 2001. I am here due the research out there and clinical trials and stable today.
    To not get treatment is sure death form this disease. I have to say not a pretty death either.
    I would rather have treatment. I was really sick due to bone marrow issues. It was ugly to be really honest what its like.
    So I feel to deny this boy is just so very cruel.

    I totally agree with this:
    *Even if you have faith in alternative medicine, it is undeniable that many people who are alive and well today would not be so without chemotherapy. To write chemotherapy off as ‘poison’ and a deliberate attempt to harm people is pure, malicious ignorance, not to mention an insult to the people who work tirelessly so that our loved ones stricken with this disease have the best chances of survival.*

    I know to many who trust in alternative medicine and die. So that said. I never refer to what I did as *poison.* What I like to say now twelve years later is what I did was to maintain my life though hard.I would do it again in a heartbeat if need be. Beats the alturnative. I m still here to tell the tail and doing very well I might add.

    Daniel needs treatment to me that is abuse not getting him what he needs.

  81. #82 Nat W.
    May 23, 2009

    Great post. My cousin had Hodgkins at 17 (he’s now 19 and just finished his first year of college), and yep, he hated chemo. He would start vomiting at the sight of it. At the same time, he continued playing on his school’s varsity basketball team (he’s 6’7″–basketball is his life!) and managed to not miss much school, despite traveling 2.5 hours for chemo. So yeah, chemo sucks, but with a cancer as curable as Hodgkins, it’s worth it and doesn’t mean you can’t keep living your life.

  82. #83 paddy
    May 24, 2009

    Great. So many people would choose Chemo. Wonderful. Do it. Some people do not. At issue is if the government can tell you what to do with your body. Clearly you think the government should. I disagree. People like you scare me.

  83. #84 Skemono
    May 24, 2009

    People like you scare me.

    And people like you, who want a child to die of his own ignorance, scare us. So we’re even!

  84. #85 Spider
    May 26, 2009

    No one wants a child to die of cancer and ignorance. What I want is a society where the government cannot force their will on someone’s personal choice that does not affect anyone but themselves. This isn’t a public health issue, it’s not like cancer is infectious. Let people do what they want, so that you can do what you want. Increase education, not invasive power of government.

  85. #86 Chris
    May 26, 2009

    Spider:

    Let people do what they want, so that you can do what you want.

    This weekend a woman threw her four year old son and seven year old daughter off of a bridge into the Willamette River. A couple nearby heard the splash and screams, they called emergency, got in their boat and recovered the two children downstream. The boy was dead and the little girl is in the hospital.

    Do you think it was okay for their mother to decide that she did not want to share custody, and that a solution would be to throw them away? Do you think that is was too much invasive power of the government to arrest the woman for killing her son and almost killing her daughter?

    After all, in your world these children are not real human beings but mere possessions that she could do with as she wants.

  86. #87 Kerry
    May 29, 2009

    I find it really sad that in this society children are not of value just possession and show pieces. The sad thing is Daniel is to young and in this society the parents had a choice to make. Thank God medical Doctors had the brass ones to step up and say he needed treatment now. This isn’t about his parents but Daniel.
    Had he had treatment and finished it already a cure was possible but now I hope it does the trick. Treatment is not something to put off.
    As for letting others make the choice if your talking about adults then fine but Children don’t get that right. Its over the heads the validity of the choice made.
    It becomes an issue when its a Child. Someone out here has to protect the rights and health of that child.

  87. #88 Barb
    June 3, 2009

    You are missing the point in pushing chemo. 75% of ALL doctors polled said they would refuse chemo for family members/themselves if offered. WHY? Each doctor said “becasue it does not work”.

    Death by cancer, death by chemo. Your choice. Cancer survivor is a term which is not accurate. As one oncologist put it “chemo survivor” is the best choice of terms. One NEVER survives cancer it always returns, one can only survive chemo.

  88. #89 Chris
    June 3, 2009

    Barb:

    75% of ALL doctors polled said they would refuse chemo for family members/themselves if offered. WHY? Each doctor said “becasue it does not work”.

    Do you have documentation of this claim?

  89. #90 Mu
    June 3, 2009

    It’s a known poll, conducted at ONE facility about ONE specific new drug they were testing. But we know it’s true for ALL doctors at ALL facilities and ALL drugs.

  90. #91 Barbara
    June 3, 2009

    >>What I want is a society where the government cannot force their will on someone’s personal choice that does not affect anyone but themselves.<<

    Ya…but appallingly homeschooled children ARE someone other than the parent who raised their child to be an ignorant illiterate and brainwashed that child with their bizarre beliefs.

    If the Mrs. Hauser gets cancer, let her do what she wants. But to pretend this boy, who can barely read or write basic English, much less understand complicated medical terminology, is making an informed choice is just plain stupid.

  91. #92 Kerry
    June 6, 2009

    Barb:

    75% of ALL doctors polled said they would refuse chemo for family members/themselves if offered. WHY? Each doctor said “because it does not work”.

    I to would love documentation on this claim as well.

    I m still here chemo did not kill me. Nor has my cancer.
    So if chemo is the best we have to treat it why would I not do it?

    So is it easier to die of cancer and do nothing.
    I have seen someone who didn’t do treatment and I do not want to go through that.

    What if you do the treatment and live??? Like many of us do and are. So it might come back . I m not living my life waiting for it to happen again. The best I got is treatment to prolong my life as many do. I’d be an idiot with a stage 4 cancer not to do treatment or give it a shot. Its better then just dying and saying I did nothing.

  92. #93 Anju
    July 17, 2009

    I am not a specialist to comment, but last month I saw my mother dying the same day as her first chemotherapy session for metastatic liver cancer that had spread from pancreas tail. Don’t know what the cause was, still it happening the same day only makes us feel – why the hell we chose to do chemotherapy. She was not really ill otherwise, she had few symptoms from over 2 months but cancer was confirmed only 2 days before. Doctor said that chemo cannot be the cause but he didn’t even say that cancer could be the cause. This will remain an open question forever now.

  93. #94 Rick Nelson
    July 19, 2009

    I am a Cancer survivor and chemo IS TOTAL shit you dumb fuck head!!! It HAS A 3% CURE rate you dickheads, if you do not think so look up the stats, it is about as curative as drinking water, it has been 4 years and I am still suffering the side affects, YOU fucking morons don’t have a fucking clue you fuckhead the only thing that really works is the operation and catching it early, and that is it!!!! CHEMO IS TOTAL AND COMPLETE GARBAGE always has been, your bad idea of destroying the bone to give the cancer an oxygen deprived enviroment is a really dumb IDEA!!! Kill the Cancer not the patient IT IS A VIRUS let me repeat that IT IS A VIRUS kill it and you will KILL the CANCER, DUHHHHHHHHHHH FUCK YOU NOW and FOREVER!!! you FUCKing MORON GET A FUCKING CLUE!!!!!!!

  94. #95 Chris
    July 19, 2009

    Mr. Nelson, do you really think that use of CAPS and profanity is a good substitute for evidence of your claims?

  95. #96 B Taylor
    December 16, 2009

    When i die it will be from CANCER ..not chemo..i will not die bald and vomiting..hospitals can keep pain away..they have enough stuff to tranquilize an active volcano…no pressure they put me under will ever make me give into their demands..chemo is death; cancer is death; death no matter what..i say die the way i was meant to..with DIGNITY not bald, vomiting and wearing adult diapers..i am not afraid of death..i will not give into the medical machine..they will make no profit from me…they killed my aunt after one treatment those ‘mild side effects’ you mentioned kicked in..by treatment 2 she was dying..before the third she had to be carried into the hospital..and placed into the lounge chair for more toxins..she died screaming in agony in the chair..during a treatment..her veins were on fire..and they INSISTED she could not stop treatment or the would sue the family..after her death..they said they ‘learned so much’ from her..lawsuit is in process WRONGFUL death..she was only stage one and did not need any further treatment..BUT they insisted or ‘no doctor will ever take you as a patient again’.

    no sir.. fool yourself if you want..but toxic waste, mustard gas and agent orange derivatives are not going into this body..as long as i inhabit it

  96. #97 Ben
    January 15, 2010

    The medical/drug industry is all about money, not saving lives.

  97. #98 Chris
    January 15, 2010

    Then Ben I suggest that if you should ever get injured you must refuse all help. Tell those evil money grubbing emergency medical techs driving that ambulance that responds that you do not want their help. And if you are bleeding you must absolutely refuse those Big Pharma sterile gauze bandages, just pull an old sheet out of your linen closet.

  98. #99 Christine
    January 16, 2010

    I’m going through chemo now. I read your article and I disagree. Chemo takes more from you than you state and it spreads it out over months if not years. Years of depression, years of being a shadow of your former self. Years of steadily sinking into a mental and physical weakness that you never recover from. No thanks. I will finish this treatment. But should the cancer ever come back, knowing what I know now… I WILL NEVER GO THROUGH IT AGAIN. Standing on the sidelines and watching someone else go through it you can not possibly even hope to understand just how devastating chemo is. Those who go through it can not relate to you what it’s like even if they try. That’s how bad it is. So even if they have said something to you that lead you to your belief – keep in mind there is so much more left unspoken – simply because there is no energy to do so and no words to describe it.
    I would rather die an agonizing death than live this way.

  99. #100 Louise
    January 20, 2010

    Christine, you are currently going through chemo. No wonder you feel crap, chemo does make you feel crap.

    But if this is the first time you’ve been through chemo, on what evidence are you basing your claims that chemo has the long term effects you describe?

    It is five and a half years since I finished chemotherapy. I am fit and well, I’m not mentally or physically weak, I am certainly not a shadow of my former self.

    I suffered badly from depression during chemotherapy; it’s a little known but common side effect. But I don’t suffer from it now.

    Are you assuming that you will always feel the way chemo is making you feel now? You won’t.

    If my cancer returns I will, as I did last time, establish the percentage by which chemotherapy will increase my chances of survival. If it’s high, as last time, I’ll do it again. If it’s low, I won’t.

  100. #101 Chandra25
    January 21, 2010

    My mother, 77, was just diagnosed with stage 3C uterine cancer. She just had surgery and is recovering from it. They are recommending radiation and chemo but we haven’t had the full oncology consultation since it’s only been a week since her surgery. I am terrified that she will not tolerate chemo well at all. She has a very low pain threshold, plus she has a way of focusing all her attention on discomfort of any kind whatsoever. When I read posts from people who had a relatively easy time with chemo, I feel encouraged, but just as often, I read of terrible complications which lead to life in and out of hospitals. I tend to think I would refuse chemo if it were me. I am so afraid of what is to come in the months ahead!

  101. #102 greever
    February 22, 2010

    I just lost a relative to chemotherapy & stereo-radiation to small brain tumors.
    There is no doubt that it was the treatment that killed her.
    She was diagnosed 6 months ago.
    The reason she was diagnosed, in my opinion, was her extreme diligence-she never missed a test, check-up , or appointment and had great insurance.
    She didn’t even feel sick from the cancer when she was diagnosed.
    Maybe the treatment did prevent the lung cancer from causing any symptoms.
    But the side-effects from the chemo, made her life not worth living in the condition that she was in.
    Not able to enjoy food at all for 4 months, and just one side-effect after another.
    Not able to go anywhere or see anyone for fear of a bad immune system, yet we found-out only after her death that the whole point of her treatment was to buy her a tiny bit of extra time.
    There was NEVER ANY CHANCE that the cancer would be stopped dead in its tracks. Apparently, there was a chance that she could gain 2 or 3 extra months.
    MONTHS that were ruined by the treatment.
    That time was wasted feeling sick and not being able to go anywhere.
    If we had to do it again, we would have accepted treatment only to control symptoms of the cancer, but not trying to gain extra time.
    Even if she had passed away 3 moths ago instead of this week, it would have been far better, but I have to repeat that aside from a mild chest-cold type illness, there were zero symptoms from the cancer.
    (the sick kid should get treatment, and any cancers that actually have a chance at remission, but for stage 4 lung cancer that isn’t causing any problems, chemo is CRUEL).

  102. #103 missM
    March 31, 2010

    The Business of Cancer is sickningly profitable. The average cost of care for a Leukemia patient is $200k a month, the average medical model for AML Leukemia is 6 months, you do the math. Since when in this free world should an American not have a choice of care for their own childrens bodies? We get to choose to vaccinate or not vacinnate; we get to choose to feed our children with either fast food or whole foods; we are able to choose to give our children second hand smoke or not; We get to choose what our child is exposed to or not on a daily basis through media and television, therefore aiding in the development of character and ethics of our children; Why do you think there is such flak for choice of medical care for our children? Because there is increasing profit in it for anyone directly or indirectly linked to pharmecueticals. Chemo is expensive=$$; malnutrition is a root cause of disease and virus in the body which leads to medical treatment=$$; second hand smoke can lead to asthma and a whole other onset of medical problems in children, thus leading to later medical treatment=$$; negative exposure to children leads to depressions and a slew of phsycological disorders=$$; And why do you think natural or holistic treatments are a joke? No government agency will conduct research or testing on its value becuase ultimately there is no profit!!!! That one less child in the cancer ward is a potential 1.2 million dollar loss if natural treatments just so happened to be beneficial.

    Chemo breaks down every natural fighting mechinism your natural body was naturally created/formed with. So then, you must have the 12 other meds to manage what your body is incapable of naturally doing on its own, each one with its own set of side effects.

    Why cant it just be a human right to choose to either have science fix you or your natural born body heal you? I know that when I get a cut, my body starts clotting the cut, creating a scab and healing itself even if i do nothing, no cream or bandaid involved. I know that a fever means my body is fighting something, so why kill a fever if your body is using the heat to kill the virus? I know that my body has the potential to grow a living being and birth that child with no intervention of medical science!! I know that my unvaccinated 2 yr old in play group of 10 vacinated 2 yr olds is the ONLY one who has NEVER had a cold, infection, ear ache, flu or virus of any kind since birth. And you want to tell me Medical intervention is the only way to a true cure and disease prevention? That is the real problem with our “healthcare” system, it is a sick care system. There is virtually NO support in any insurance company for preventative measures! Nutritional counseling, chiropractic care and natural treatments are not covered. Why? Because, again, there is no money to be made if you do not get sick! Hospitals were created for emergency treatments. If my leg gets hacked off, hey man, sew me up and take away the pain, doc. But I refuse to BUY into the lie that my “health” must be managed by medical science.

  103. #104 Larry Stanley
    May 10, 2010

    EVERYONE SHOULD ASK THERE ONCOLIGIST “DO YOU OR WOULD YOU TAKE CHEMO,RADIATION” OR GIVE IT TO THERE FAMILYS???? YOU’LL FIND THE ANSWER IS NO!!! DO YOUR RESEARCH THERE ARE TEAS, ORGANIC NUTRITION THAT WORK. JUST WENT THROUGH ALL OF THIS WITH AML. YOU CAN HAVE THE CHEMO,AND ON TOP OF THAT THE FOOD IN THE HOSPITALS, THERE SURE TO KILL YOU (REALLY) THERE IS NO HEALING FOODS IN THE HOSPITAL. DOESN’T THAT STRIKE YOU AS ABSOLUTE CRAZINESS??

  104. #105 a-non
    May 10, 2010

    All of your alt-med and anti-vaccine wackaloons realize that you’re the only ones posting on this thread, right?

  105. #106 cheap beijing tours
    May 21, 2010

    “But what is often forgotten is that it can also be life-saving, particularly in the case of hematologic malignancies, where it is the primary therapy. What is also often forgotten or intentionally ignored is that doctors don’t use chemotherapy because they love “torturing” patients or because they’re in the pockets of big pharma and looking for cash or because they are too lazy to find another way.”

  106. #107 Scottynuke
    May 21, 2010

    I hope Orac can erase the blogspam at #106 (2:43 a.m.) *SIGH*

  107. #108 Jake
    May 25, 2010

    Chemotherapy is a rising argument. Most people believe it is good because it can get rid of the cancer cells, but let me tell you the other side of the story. In the research I have done, I have found that there are in upwards of one-hundred and fifty side effects of chemotherapy treatments. This is why I am against chemotherapy treatments and radiation. The main chemotherapy treatment is radiation. This radiation is delivered to the patient directly through and IV. Now look at these brief percentages of cancer patients who underwent chemotherapy and those who did not: “A study of over 10,000 patients shows clearly that chemo’s supposedly strong track record with Hodgkin’s disease or lymphoma is actually a lie. Patients who underwent chemo were 14 times more likely to develop leukemia and 6 times more likely to develop cancers of the bones, joints, and soft tissues than those patients who did not undergo chemotherapy (NCI Journal 87:10).”—John Diamond. If these facts can’t persuade you to go against chemotherapy and help find other means of curing cancer, listen to some of the side effects. These include: Fatigue, depression of the immune system, tendency to bleed easy, dry mouth, red skin, dry skin, sexual impotence, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and the one that scares a lot of people is death from complications. Also chemotherapy can damage your organs. It can cause heart damage, liver damage, and kidney damage. Also, chemotherapy has only a limited effectiveness against any tumor that is large or has spread and radiation not only kills the cancerous cells but also the good and healthy cells. I believe that we need to find other ways that we can cure cancer. Ways that are safe and that do not involve radiation. One possibility of these alternate cures is biological therapy, which uses your immune system to cure the cancer. One way to cure prostate or breast cancer is through hormonal therapy. Chemotherapy is actually rarely effective. One two to four percent of patients respond to the chemotherapy. I found an interesting fact from a doctor about chemotherapy: “Most cancer patients in this country die of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy does not eliminate breast, colon or lung cancers. This fact has been documented for over a decade. Yet doctors still use chemotherapy for these tumors. Women with breast cancer are likely to die faster with chemo than without it.”—Alan Levin, M.D. As a matter of fact, only 3 percent of cancer patients lives are predictably saved by chemotherapy. Yet 75 percent of people with cancer in the U.S. still receive chemotherapy! So I ask you again, do you believe chemotherapy is the way to cure cancer or should we find a safer and more productive way?

  108. #109 Chris
    May 25, 2010

    So, Jake, did it take a whole year to come up with that fact free wall of text?

    Or are you Googling any and all blog posts that mention chemotherapy to spam them with that illiterate screed?

  109. #110 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 25, 2010

    The main chemotherapy treatment is radiation. This radiation is delivered to the patient directly through and IV.

    This pair of sentences alone demonstrates what an idiot you are.

  110. #111 AJ
    June 20, 2010

    Hi

    I was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B cell lymphoma stage 2a bulky presentation. I had nodes under my arms the size of small apples and lymphedema so bad I could not put shirts on. Within 7 days of starting chemo ( R CHOP 21) the nodes under my arms had shrunk to size of small grapes. Now thats what I call a miracle. Without the chemotherapy I would be dead by now. If I had relied on bogus ‘natural’ therapies I would also be dead. The chemo was so good I did not even need radiotherapy at the end of my treatment.

    I’m here 2 years later and feel better than I ever have.

  111. #112 Dr. George De Lion
    November 3, 2010

    When I read all those comments I can’t understand why people still go to Chemo Treatments, since its known that chemo kills 97% of the cancer patients. (please consider a 6 year phase after chemo). The disease itself is not the cause of death!

    “Chemo cures cancer… and the earth is flat” by Lothar Hirneise is a good read who ever wants to know more about the toxic effects of chemical drugs. We can cure cancer (any cancer) since over 50 years, but it seems that people out there are so manipulated by mainstream media that no other clue is accepted. We have endless recourses on or blog incl. the 100% success Cancer Regime. No pain, no side effects – cancer must be cured holistically. Mainstream medicine has failed over the last 120 years. How long you wanna wait?

    ANY CANCER has to have always without exception a traumatic conflict first. When a tumor comes up you are already in the healing phase. It would be more than stupid to kill the healing phase with chemo, radiation or surgery – don’t you think?

  112. #113 Scott
    November 3, 2010

    We can cure cancer (any cancer) since over 50 years, but it seems that people out there are so manipulated by mainstream media that no other clue is accepted. We have endless recourses on or blog incl. the 100% success Cancer Regime. No pain, no side effects – cancer must be cured holistically.

    Then you should have no difficulty whatsoever properly documenting and publishing these amazing results. I’ll be waiting on your paper in Science or Nature.

    But not exactly holding my breath, you’ll understand.

  113. #114 rick
    January 8, 2011

    I too have seen the debilitating effects of chemo, my daughter had a medullablastom, devastating!!,4 1/2 years of toruture is what she went through, between radiation and chemo, so I can see why she took her child to look for alternatives, right or wrong that is her decision, and she will have to live with that decision, so why!!, is she being chased like a dog for choosing the route she chose!. My daughter passed away becuase of the disease, so I know what that woman is going through as all aprents do, but, to chastice her because she wants to try some other protocol is not or should I say, should not be a crime!!.

  114. #115 Jessie
    May 7, 2011

    I’m not sure who this blogger thinks he’s helping with this overwhelmingly negative information. I think the worst thing that you can do for cancer patients is tell them that they don’t have any options. I believe in western medicine but I can also recognize that my cultural ways aren’t superior to the whole world. My mother has been a nurse all of her life and my family never considered alternative therapies when my father fought cancer. But my mother recently ran out of conventional options for her cancer. The doctors suggested that she try a very painful and risky treatment that they knew would not save her. Is that what you call good medicine? I don’t think that the doctors are necessarily the corrupt ones in this mess but I do think that they can’t always provide the best treatment. And that’s because it is illegal in the united states to treat cancer with any treatment other than radiation, surgery or chemotherapy. They can not suggest patients try dietary therapies because they are illegal because, drug companies can’t make money from diets.

    I think that this close minded bullshit is the worst way to address cancer. The therapies currently available clearly aren’t cutting it so why not explore other options instead of telling people that they’re better off dying.

    I would also like to say that the gruesome description of death by cancer was absolutely distasteful. Many people that would be inclined to read your article probably are dealing with the fear of such a death. What the fuck were you trying to accomplish is describing each and every possible symptom? Do you think they’re not scared or that they don’t know how shitty it would be to die of cancer?

  115. #116 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 7, 2011

    Jessie, you seem to think that ordinary people can transform the world if they can just succeed in killing that nasty messenger who brings the bad news. You yell at Orac for being “overwhelmingly negative” about the prospects of a certain situation but you don’t seem to consider that maybe that’s the way things are. You confidently claim that dietary therapies are illegal because they cut into drug company profits and never address the possibility that maybe it’s illegal to claim you’re curing cancer with this diet or that because there is no diet that can cure cancer.

    Did you somehow read the entire article enough to yell at Orac for being too detailed in his description of cancer, and fail to realize that the article was about someone who was not “out of options” but was having the options still available to him cut off by someone who should have been making sure he got the best of all realistic options? Seriously, did you completely ignore the context? Daniel Hauser had not run out of conventional options for treating his cancer; that’s the whole point. It’s frankly as dumb to rant about how you can’t judge someone who turns to unproven bullshit when conventional options run out in reference to Daniel Hauser, as it is to rant about how cannabalism is completely understandable when you’re stranded on an Andes mountaintop … in reference to Milwaukee resident Jeffrey Dahmer.

  116. #117 Pablo
    May 7, 2011

    Antaneus – it’s Saturday, which means it is time for necromancy.

  117. #118 Lee
    June 7, 2011

    My mother’s got a stage 3 breast tumour. I had advised her against XRay examinations after she had cancer in the past(breast thermography is a good alternative some believe). She was persuaded to have an XRay (and Tamoxifen which I didn’t agree with too). The XRay said she was clear of tumours. Weeks afterwards a very aggressive tumour appeared which she found by hand (due to its size). I had been worried about her for a while due to having early signs of degenerative disease (in traditional Chinese medical terms). I am an acupuncturist and researcher and from what I can tell chemo has never been proven to result in longer life-spans than non-chemo in large scientific studies. Chemo seems to only be tested against chemo (protocol one versus protocol two and so on). However chemo kills cells – that much is well proven. Most cancer is most likely the end stage of a long degenerative process (generally in older people) so the chemo can reduce or shrink the cancer cells that result from this process. The cancer cells may actually be a body-protection mechanism according to the work of some alternative researchers such as Wilhelm Reich (who was persecuted into prison and death by the FDA and AMA. Much of his work is actually being proven today so forget the ‘quack’ jibes. Quack originates from ‘quick’ by the way, quick being a medical slang for mercury, a favourite of doctors in the past).

    As a secondary cellular state cancer cells are weaker than the normal cells and thus when the body is poisoned the weaker ones die off first. Essentially modern medicine has not progressed beyond the point of holistic poisoning (chemotherapy was inspired as an adaptation of mustard gas, an anti-cellular agent, from the second world war). The techniques have been refined but the principle has not changed since the 1940s. In the meantime numerous cancer treatments have been sidelined and marginalised or criminalised. Killing a cancer with chemotherapy may be required at times I don’t know.

    My mother is going to use a combination of chemo and alternative anti-tumour processes including SPDT (targetted light and sound anti-tumour therapies) as well as nutrition and alkalinising the blood and so on. My choice would not be for the chemo part for her type of cancer but I respect her choice and will support her, perhaps the approach is justified. Chemo certainly kills cells and people are generally much stronger than they used to be and cancers are being picked up earlier which all might explain the improvement in survival rates – none of which proves chemo incidentally. But more people than ever are getting cancer which itself proves we don’t understand the process in the West, we have just refined techniques for killing off the end-stage of the disease. Sometimes this works, at least for a time, as people here testify when they speak of the benefits of chemo.

  118. #119 TBruce
    June 7, 2011

    Lee:

    There’s a lot that’s mistaken in your comment, but I’ll just ask you one thing: Why would you recommend treatment to your mother that has no proven benefit in preference to treatment that does have proven benefit?

  119. #120 Calli Arcale
    June 7, 2011

    Lee –

    I’m very glad you’re so supportive of your mother, even through your disagreement. That’s more important than anything else, and shows that you truly love her. I’m sure she’s aware of that, and that can go a long way to keeping her spirits up through what could be a difficult road. I think that is very important to her long-term health and survival. I hope and pray that the therapy is effective. Good nutrition is always important, and as chemo can be very draining to a person, it might help ease that. If it helps, let her know that my godmother survived breast cancer, and is now believed to be cancer free! It doesn’t always end that well, but there is always room for hope.

    I have to disagree about a few things, though. Alkalizing the blood is futile. I know lots of sources that claim you can do this, and that acid blood is the cause of many diseases, but if you actually study the blood you find that it is nearly impossible to alter its pH at all — and that if it *does* get altered, the result is very very bad. Don’t mess with the body’s sophisticated and robust mechanisms for maintaining proper pH. It’s a waste of time. (You *can* alter the pH of various bodily fluids, such as urine and saliva, but this is mostly because of the body working so hard to maintain proper pH — it excretes whatever it needs to in order to maintain pH.)

    Chemo most certainly has been proven to extend life. I know several people who are cancer free today because of chemo; they would be dead without it. The principles of chemo have changed dramatically in the past 60 years, unless you think “giving a drug” counts as a principle. Honestly, if you think chemo hasn’t changed, you don’t really know much about it. Perhaps Orac can tell you more; he’s a surgical oncologist, so he specializes more in the “cut it out” strategy (which, if you can get it all, is very effective), but many of his patients need to use chemo as well to either shrink tumors beforehand or prevent a recurrence long enough to be sure all metastases are gone. Or, for the unlucky, to slow the progression of the disease and buy a little time.

    That more people are being diagnosed with cancer has no bearing whatsoever on whether we understand cancer (for instnace, we understand measles pretty well, yet a lot more people are getting that this year compared to last year) nor the effectiveness of chemo; chemo, after all, isn’t often used to prevent cancer. (Sometimes. Not often.) Some of the increase is doubtless due to lifestyle issues; we are more sedentary than we were even a generation ago, and vastly more than we were fifty years ago. That raises the risk of several cancers. Hormone exposure may be part of it; birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can both increase the risk of certain cancers. Early detection is part of it; some tumors grow so slowly that if you got one at age 60, you could still live to die of a heart attack at 90. But we’re now able to detect those tumors, so a person who would never have been diagnosed a decade ago (and who may even have *had* the cancer a decade ago) now is a cancer statistic.

    And we’re not dying as often of other things. We’re wearing seat belts; we’ve cleaned up a lot of pollutants (we’ve got a ways to go on that, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was in industrial areas a century ago); we’re vaccinating against a lot of the old scourges; we’ve got clean water and food supply standards that have greatly reduced the rate of foodborne illness; we’ve got sewage systems; we’ve got A/C in the summer and heating in the winter; we’ve got a whole host of things that help ER doctors save a lot of trauma patients; the rate of surgical infection has dropped hugely, to the point where infection is the exception rather than the rule — and we have antibiotics to treat those infections. Yeah, we’ve found resistant bacteria, but again, it’s the exception rather than the rule. A century ago, even minor surgery carried a high death rate due to septicemia.

    Cancer isn’t the only thing that has increased. We’re seeing more heart disease and diabetes, more Alzheimer’s, more osteoporosis (which yes, can be fatal, in that many elderly people do not survive the surgery or become bedridden and quickly decline). These are diseases of old age and an indolent lifestyle. Most of us are chained to a desk eight or more hours a day, plus an hour or more in the car commuting, and then we plunk ourselves in front of the TV or computer in the evening. We sit too much, we mess up our circadian rhythms, we eat too much (and especially too much fat and starch and sugar, because it’s easy), we drink too much coffee. It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that the rates of these conditions have increased. We get fat and grow old; of course more of us are going to get cancer at some point.

    What’s more, many of us will have cancer more than once. Yeah! Cancer treatment has improved so much that you can survive to get another cancer. I recently had to put my dog down due to bladder cancer. It was quite advanced, he was miserable, and chemo plus surgery could only have bought him a few utterly horrific months. I couldn’t do that to him, so we put him down. (Bladder cancer is nasty, because it usually goes a very long time before it is diagnosed. I have a relative who also has bladder cancer; he’s had it for several years now, and some months are better than others. Chemo has definitely extended his life, but it’s not going to cure it. Sooner or later, he’ll have a recurrence that will be the end, and he’ll go into hospice.) But here’s the amazing thing — eight years ago, he had a completely different cancer, and it was treated successfully. He lived to die of a different cancer — that sort of thing definitely contributes to the rise in cancer rates.

    I hope I don’t come across and jumping all over you; you seem like a reasonable man, and you DEFINITELY love your mother dearly. I will keep you and your mother in my thoughts and prayers (I don’t know if you’re the praying type, but if not, just think of it as well wishes).

  120. #121 Ankur
    July 16, 2011

    My Girlfriend is suffering from NHL Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Sh also had gastric cancer for which she had a surgery. Now after survey doc found out she is suffering from NHL as well she got 4 big lymph lumps. They can’t give her Chemo because she is still healing from the sugary. They gave her 3 months time to live. Can anyone tell me if it’s true that she can’t ge chemo yet?? She is stage 3 NHL. I am so scared.

  121. #122 Jethro
    August 23, 2011

    My dad had colon cancer surgery august 2010. It is now August 2011. He did not have chemo by his choise. He said his brother and dad both died from chemo not the cancer itself. He does know the cancer will kill him some days but other days he says he is going to beat it. Well he has good days and bad. He seems to be hurting hinself alot, sore shoulder, head pain, even poops on himself every few weeks he says is from the ducolax he is on to help him. i see him go downhill one week next week is like a 12yo. Why he did not want chemo is he wants qaulity of life now he would like to live a few more years but at the same time it is his life not some pharmacuetical companys life who will go after the family like hawks to get there high priced bills paid for. I know my pops and thats really why he wont do chemo does not want to cause grief for financials when he is dead. Heck even today i am starving for lunch but have to take my last $10 buy him some insure to drink and milk and i dont get paid for 3 days so no food for me but is worth it in a way. bottom line. say all you want about chemo helping but i agree with pops screw it let me live as long as i can he has had a good life and the golden years are not so golden. I just wish i had it where i could stay home with him things are rough right now but cannot afford to be out work. he did refuse hospice last friday also even tho would help me he says he dont want no help.. grrr ok bye and sometimes i wish it were me in his situation life is getting to hard helping him.

  122. #123 lilady
    August 23, 2011

    @ Ankur: I’m so sorry to hear that your girlfriend is sick with NHL…but your post didn’t give specifics about the specific “Type” of NHL. The specific “Types” of NHL are also “Graded” as very aggressive and still others are treatable and curable. I suggest you find out some more information from the doctor by accompanying your girlfriend to the next doctor’s visit. Once you have some more information you can key in “American Cancer Society-Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to find out more about the “Typing” of NHL and the “Grading” of her particular NHL.

    @ Jethro: The stresses of being the caregiver of a very ill cancer patient are very difficult. You dad made a health care decision based on his personal belief system…which I may not agree with…and which I will not debate with you on this blog.

    Hospice was offered to him and the offer was made because his prognosis is terminally ill with six month or less to live.

    I assume he has Medicare Coverage if you reside in the USA…and Medicare covers in home or out of home hospice. You can research the Medicare Hospice Care Program on the internet. There is an excellent “consumer friendly” publication available at the Medicare website.

    Whoever offered your dad the option of hospice care (doctor, nurse or social worker) can explain the in-home or out-of-home hospice programs that are available and I urge you to contact that person. If your dad refuses a consultation…then make the appointment for yourself, to see if you are comfortable with that option for your dad. Remember, it does not help you or or dad if the sole or primary caregiver is burned out from the responsibility of providing exclusive care to a terminally ill cancer patient.

  123. #124 Ankur
    August 28, 2011

    Its Mantle Cell lymphoma. Stage 4 S+E. First chemo session done. Doc gave her 3 months to live problem being agrresive cancer cells reaxting well to rchop but its not working om mild cancer cells. Such a dissapointment and such times :(

  124. #125 Ralph
    September 2, 2011

    I have mixed feelings. My son with Hodgkins Lymphoma died On August 3rd of lung failure very likely brought on by the strong chemo he received. He probably would have lived longer with less intervention and a weaker chemo drug, but the cancer was very aggressive and could likely have returned. I think about him all the time.
    My wife is 4 years post a stage 3 Primary Peritoneal cancer diagnosis. It has now moved into her lungs and I fear she hasn’t much time left. Multiple surgeries and rounds of chemo probably have given her these past 4 years, but it’s been painful for both of us. I hate cancer. I hope there will be new and better therapies in the future.
    Ralph

  125. #126 Lynn
    November 2, 2011

    Help

    Last week my Mother was diagnosed with Ovarium Cancer and it has already spread to the spleen, liver & bowel, my Mother is 83 years of age.

    They have told her that they cannot cure her. However they want her to have surgery to remove the ovaries and then they want her to have Chemo.

    As well as this my Mother has severe Ulceritis Colitis, has suffered Anemia for years constantly needing blood transfusions and has had two triple bypass operations.

    Mum dosen’t want to have the surgery and/or chemo, whilst I respect her decisions others DON’T and are very vocal in letting her know this. Mum (and I) do not believe she is strong enough to cope with anything else happening to her body but I have to wonder at the Doctors advice, if they cannot cure her, and she is already weak what benefit is surgery and chemo going to be to her????

    Can anyone offer me any answers, I’m torn between two evils.

    Lynn

  126. #127 Ravens Mommy
    December 28, 2011

    hello all can someone please tell me what it means when someone with terminal cancer starts bleeding from everywhere … Nose,Anial cavities,mouth does this mean they are in there last few weeks?? I am a caregiver for my father who was told he had terminal cancer from drinking and smoking … he tells my mother and I very little and I would like some insite on this being my 3 yr old daughter sleeps in the room with him. I don’t want her to wake up one morning and her paw paw be cold next to her someone please help me!!!

  127. #128 Axel
    January 27, 2012

    Question.

    Can chemotherapy actually accelerate death?
    I mean recently there was news that Joe Paterno had treatable lung cancer.

    Then, just a couple of months later after chemotherapy he passed away. Cancer spread as well.

    What about biopsies? Can they do more damage too?
    I ask that…because too many X-Rays and CAT scans aren’t good. Too many tests aren’t always good to have.

  128. #129 Matt
    February 9, 2012

    wow, this makes it seem like chemotherapy is some sort of miracle to the world. Sift through the garbage, and don’t be fooled. Carboplatin, for example, a chemotherapy medicine FOR Cancer (based on platinum — a cancer-causing metal), has CANCER itself listed as its side effect. Living 3,4,5 years “cancer-free” after chemo? Doctors call that patient “cured”. However, truth is truth. Look at the numbers and see for yourself. Do NOT be fooled.

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