I consider posts like the one I’m writing now to be public service, an obligation. There are times when I don’t want to do them, when they become so sadly, depressingly repetitive in overall outline (and, unfortunately, likely outcome) that it takes an effort to begin. However, given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as a result these sorts of stories seem to pop out of the woodwork this time of year, I feel I must. It doesn’t matter that I just discussed another one of these cases a mere month ago. This time around, the article appears (as is so frequently the case) in The Daily Mail, and, as is so frequently the case with the Daily Fail, boasts a near-hysterical headline, Mother, 41, with advanced breast cancer REFUSES chemotherapy in favour of drinking her own urine, homoeopathy and a psychic surgeon to try and cure herself.

Let’s step back a minute and look at the world of alternative cancer cure testimonials as reported in the news. Sometimes these stories are exploitative. No, strike that. These stories always exploitative in a sort of “look at the crazy patient” kind of way, basically a freak show. However,sometimes they can be sympathetic, as in “look at that brave maverick patient bucking the status quo and choosing her own way.” Of course, the two takes on these stories are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes the spin is along the lines of, “This patient is crazy but quite brave. Look at her bravely choose her own way in her fight for survival.”

This particular article, about a 41-year-old woman named Sam Ravelle, strikes me as leaning more towards the exploitative freak show angle than the sympathetic portrait of a brave, “go her own way, damned the consequences” patient. The reason is obvious. She’s trying to cure her breast cancer by drinking her own urine! How crazy is that? But even freak show portrayals of patients, which this most definitely has the flavor of, besides bordering on the mocking of a desperately ill cancer patient, can still have unintended consequences. For one thing, by simply promoting such quackery as a viable option, such stories promote it. It doesn’t matter how many medical experts the article trots out to decry how stupid this is, how the woman is harming herself and needs conventional care. What a significant part of the population will see is that the woman is still alive, that she’s appealing and plucky, and that maybe her way will work, particularly when the article provides a link to her GoFundMe page and includes lots of pictures of Ravelle looking happy and vital.

So let’s take a look at the story:

A woman with breast cancer has refused chemotherapy and is instead trying to cure herself through drinking her own urine.

Former carer Sam Ravelle, 41, of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, is also using homeopathic medicines, herbs and supplements in a bid to beat the illness.

She was diagnosed with an aggressive grade three tumour in her right breast in August 2012.

Doctors at Ashford Hospital, Middlesex, offered her a lumpectomy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy but she has rejected the treatments in favour of urine therapy and alternative medicines.

Urine therapy? There’s one alternative treatment whose rationale I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around. It’s also a rather strange incongruence. After all, alternative medicine is all about removing “toxins” from your body, and what organ does that better from the kidneys? Yet, here we have a woman drinking the very toxins her very effective kidneys have excreted, thus reintroducing them into her body in order to cure herself!

In any case, this story differs from the typical breast cancer alternative cure testimonial in that usually in these stories the patient has undergone surgery but decided to refuse chemotherapy. As I’ve described so many times, going back to the very earliest days of this blog, surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer, with the chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy (as appropriate) decreasing the chance of its recurring. When a patient undergoes surgery but eschews chemotherapy and continues to do well, make no mistake; it was the surgery that cured her, and she was just lucky that she didn’t have a recurrence. In Ravelle’s case, she did nothing, other than drink her own pee and go to homeopathic quacks. (Does diluting them make them stronger?)

But what about her tumor? We don’t really learn how large it was upon diagnosis, only that it was grade 3. There’s more on her GoFundMe page, though:

My friend Sam Ravelle has the aggressive triple negative breast cancer. There is no ‘good’ type of breast cancer, but to those working in breast cancer treatment and research – and the patients that hear about it – the phrase ‘triple negative’ carries a heavy weight, and affects 15 – 20% of breast cancer patients, such as my daughter. The disease is notorious for having a poorer survival rate (only 14% using conventional aggressive treatments survive over a five-year period) and is less well understood than other types of breast cancer.

I remember Sam telling me what happened when she was diagnosed back in 2012. After being told she would die if she didn’t follow surgery, chemotherapy and then radiation. Sam asked her Oncologist what the alternatives to that were… whereupon Sam was yelled at and the Oncologists words were ‘there isn’t any and if you do anything else while I’m treating you then I’m not treating you!’

Um, no. I study triple negative breast cancer. I treat triple negative breast cancer. It’s true that triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) has a poorer prognosis, stage for stage, than cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive. Compared to these cancers, TNBC tends to be very sensitive to chemotherapy initially but to develop resistance rapidly and to recur early. I have to question where Mr. Tor Hoie, who wrote the above passage, got the 14% five year survival figure. To put it in perspective, the five year survival for women with metastatic breast cancer is 22%, and Hoie is claiming that, among all comers with TNBC treated with conventional therapy, five year survival is 14%. Unless Ravelle had distant metastases at the time of her original diagnosis—I note that nowhere does it say that she did and her being offered surgery rather argues that she did not—an estimated five year survival of 14% is not credible. In fact, I know where that 14% survival figure came from, and it applies to African-American women with late stage TNBC. In fact, here is an estimated survival curve for TNBC:

Five year triple negative breast cancer survival by stage.

Five year triple negative breast cancer survival by stage.

And here is a comparison of survival by stage in TNBC patients versus non-TNBC patients:

Five year survival by stage for triple negative breast cancer compared to other forms of breast cancer.

Five year survival by stage for triple negative breast cancer compared to other forms of breast cancer.

As you can see, TNBC patients do worse, but the prognosis is nowhere near as grim as Hoie claims, nor would we expect it to be only a 14% five year survival for Ms. Ravelle, who is neither African-American nor had stage IV disease upon diagnosis. According to the story, her cancer was stage III when diagnosed. So, if you look at the second figure, you’ll see that her expected five year survival is in the 40% range, and since that graph also includes stage IV patients I’d expect it to be somewhat higher, perhaps 50% or a bit higher. I understand that a 50% chance of surviving five years sucks. It’s a horrible blow to endure and a horrible uncertain future for a 41 year old woman to face. But it’s not hopeless by any stretch of the imagination. Choosing quackery instead of medicine is what renders Ravelle’s future “hopeless.”

And, make no mistake, the cancer is progressing. Yes, it’s progressing slower than I would have predicted, given that it’s been three years since Ravelle’s diagnosis, but it’s grown:

Miss Ravelle said she felt well until February 2014 when she decided to start treating herself, despite having no formal medical training.

She spread herbs over the tumour in her breast, which has left an ‘apricot-sized hole’ in her breast, in a bid to ‘bring out’ her cancer.

‘The first time it worked well and brought three lumps out of me- it collects into a scab which falls off and then heals over- but the second time it was hell and I was in agony,’ she said.

That’s because what Ravelle is using is commonly called black salve, and what it does is to chemically burn the skin. There’s a photo of the side of her breast with an ugly black area on it from the burn. Black salve can “work” (if you can call it that) sometimes, albeit in a painful, imprecise, and needlessly disfiguring way, for cancers of the skin, but it’s useless for cancers beneath the skin, like breast cancer. All it does is to burn, and sometimes spectacularly. It’s incredibly painful and quite imprecise; yet patients like Ravelle choose it even though surgery would be far less painful and wouldn’t leave nearly as nasty a scar. Indeed, Hoie describes her scar thusly, “She has a hole in the side of her breast larger than a large apricot that needs constant tending for hours each day (I’ve seen it; it’s not pretty).” One notes that the photo of Ravelle’s breast in the article doesn’t actually match Hoie’s description, which makes me think it’s an old photo.

I know what happened, of course. I’ve seen this from time to time over the 25 years I’ve been in surgery. Her breast cancer grew to the point of eroding through the skin and outstripping its blood supply, which led it to die inside. What died started rotting, as any dead meat rots, liquified, leaving behind that hole. I’ve seen these locally advanced cases of breast cancer. They’re incredibly disgusting and sometimes very painful. At times the smell is almost unbearable, even for a surgeon like me. Even if Lavelle managed to clean up the wound so that it’s begun to heal some, she still has a big hole in the side of her breast that will never heal because there is still cancer there. We almost never see this sort of thing in patients who undergo treatment; it is, thankfully, rare that we lose control of the local disease so horribly. Unfortunately, this sort of presentation is not uncommon in patients who refuse conventional therapy. (Indeed, these are the only patients I’ve seen this sort of problem in.) At the very least, even if surgeons and oncologists couldn’t have saved Lavelle’s life, they could almost certainly have prevented this big hole in her breast and her going through 200 dressings a month taking care of it, as she describes on her GoFundMe page.

Overall, Ravelle’s having survived three years with untreated stage III TNBC is a bit unusual. It is not, however, in any way miraculous. Breast cancer exhibits considerable variability in its biology, with different cancers progressing at very different rates and taking widely different amounts of time to metastasize For instance, Ravelle herself states that she didn’t start treating herself until February 2014, a year and a half after her diagnosis, the implication being that she did nothing during that time. What happened during that time? Likely her tumor slowly progressed and then, as happens not uncommonly, its rate of progression sped up. Indeed, her GoFundMe page indicates that she had to stop working in August 2014, which is why she’s asking for money.

Unfortunately, biology finally appears to be winning. Indeed, there are enough hints in the Daily Fail story and Ravelle’s GoFundMe page that her cancer has likely progressed to stage IV. For instance, in the story:

Now the illness has left her feeling sick and having trouble breathing but she is still determined to go on without chemotherapy.

‘I’m using homeopathic drops and I’m going to give that a chance now,’ she said.

I suppose that using water is better than drinking urine.

Why is she feeling sick? Why is she short of breath? My money’s on the likelihood that she has lung metastases and, quite possibly, a pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) due to those metastases. Indeed, in the photo of Ravelle wearing a hat, said to have been taken earlier this year, she most definitely does not look entirely healthy, even with the Photoshopping.

I understand how scary breast cancer is. Remember, my mother-in-law died of triple negative breast cancer six years ago and had brain, bowel, lung, and skin metastases when she died. I can understand the desperation. I also understand the fear of chemotherapy that drives patients to seek other options. Unfortunately, whether they’re well-meaning true believers or con men, cancer quacks take advantage of that fear to sell their wares, leading women like Ravelle to jump from urine drinking, to homeopathy, to psychic surgery (yes, the story lists her as having undergone psychic surgery), to Fred Eichhorn:

Here’s an extract from Fred on cancer: “To many people are still looking to “KILL” cancer it because they think it is an outside invader, they do not realize that the cancer cell has the “SAME PHENOTYPE” which means it was designed by the person’s DNA and made by the body, therefore, not affected by the immune system because the immune system only goes after cells with a different phenotype than the body’s phenotype. These are the results of mutations. Instead of toxic applications, simply correct the atmosphere which caused the body to produce it. Then the “incorrectly made cell” can no longer survive in the corrected environment and will die from its own starvation. Society does not seem to understand that cancer and non-cancer conditions are results from incorrect biochemistry, not outside invaders. Upon correcting the biochemistry, domino effects are corrected, results are corrected. The body is a simple machine of “Action causes Reaction” totally dependent of what you supply it to cause the initiating “Action” to “Cause” the “Reaction

www.cellect.org
www.ncrf.org
http://www.essentialsfactor.com
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cellect
www.facebook.com/groups/NCRF2011/?fref=ts
www.fredeichhorn.com

When I came across Fred’s work I got rather excited as here was an expert who has all the research and knowledge on what I had come to discover for myself over the last couple of years.

It is true that cancer consists of the body’s own cells gone wrong (so to speak) and that there is indeed a contribution to what we in the biz call the “tumor microenvironment”; i.e., the cellular environment immediately surrounding the cancer. Tumor microenvironment includes the surrounding connective tissue, the normal and tumor blood vessels, the immune system, and basically any cell that comes in contact with the tumor, and is an active area of cancer research. Indeed, we even have a whole program at our cancer institute dedicated to studying tumor microenvironment. Here’s the problem. Nothing in the above quackery corrects the “incorrect biochemistry,” and mutations are forever. As I’ve pointed out, by the time cells become cancerous, their DNA is really, really messed up. Moreover, the body is most definitely not a “simple machine.”

If you want an idea of how bad Eichhorn’s and the NCRF’s understanding of cancer is, just get a load of this question:

Killing cancer cells is not the answer. How can you kill a cell made by the body as per DNA instructions without expecting the body to manufacture more after you killed it????

My answer: It is quite possible to kill cells without the body manufacturing more. For example, if I kill neurons (perhaps by reading idiocy like the above passage), the body does not manufacture more neurons.

I hadn’t heard of CELLECT before, though. I might have to do a whole post on it, but the CliffsNotes version is that CELLECT is a powdered concoction that you mix with water or food or that can be purchased in capsule form. (If you get it in capsule form, though, be aware that one serving equals 25 capsules.) Its manufacturer says that you also have to take it with cod liver oil gelcaps. What’s in CELLECT? Just a bunch of vitamins, shark cartilage, hydrolyzed collagen, milk thistle, minerals, and what’s described as 74 trace minerals.

The hilarious thing is that the CELLECT website directs readers to a page on the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center page on it, which states explicitly:

Cellect has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

And:

It is thought to help maintain the body’s normal functions, to boost the immune system, and to help fight cancer by fixing the body’s chemical imbalances. However, none of these claims are backed by scientific evidence. Some of the ingredients such as milk thistle may cause drug interactions.

And:

Purported uses:

  • Cancer Treatment: No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • Health maintenance: There are no published data to back this claim.
  • Immunostimulation: There is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

And:

Cellect has not been studied in clinical trials and there is no evidence that it can be used to prevent or treat any diseases in humans. We do not support using this product as a cancer treatment.

No wonder there’s a Quack Miranda warning on the front page of the CELLECT website.

It always depresses the hell out of me to see a young woman with a treatable cancer falling down the rabbit hole of abject quackery, such as CELLECT, homeopathy, black salve, and urine drinking. Sam Ravelle appears to have thrown her life away unnecessarily. Is it possible that she could have undergone surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation and still died? Of course it is. TNBC is a nasty cancer, and she had stage III disease. Conventional medicine makes no guarantees, nor can it save everyone with a life-threatening disease. Unfortunately, because of quacks like Fred Eichhorn, homeopaths, and the sellers of CELLECT, Sam Ravelle traded a fighting chance for no chance, and now it’s very likely too late. Unfortunately, while seemingly presenting her as a cautionary tale, the Daily Fail actually made her rather appealing and provided a link to her GoFundMe page, virtually guaranteeing more donations to help her pay for her quackery.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Finfer, MD
    Edison, NJ
    October 23, 2015

    Unfortunately, homeopathy produces a 100% mortality rate as does urine.

    A triple negative breast cancer at age 41, I would recommend genetic testing.

  2. #2 Orac
    October 23, 2015

    Well, yeah. The recommendations are for genetic testing for TNBC for anyone under 60. However, what makes you think a woman refusing all treatment would willingly undergo genetic testing, particularly given that she’s following a protocol that promises to “correct” the “terrain” and reverse the tumor?

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    October 23, 2015

    After all, alternative medicine is all about removing “toxins” from your body, and what organ does that better from the kidneys?

    If you start from the premise that diluting a substance makes it more powerful, as Ms. Ravelle seems to be doing, it follows that concentrating the substance makes it less powerful. It’s valid logical reasoning from a faulty premise.

    Of course, you also have to overcome the squick involved in orally consuming your own waste products. It might be done, if your survival is at stake. That’s the position Ms. Ravelle seems to have arrived at. What I’m not seeing is how she arrived at that position. She lives just outside London, so there should be ways for her to obtain just about any substance she might think she should ingest without having to get it from her own body’s waste products.

    Worst of all, the Daily Fail describes her as a “former carer”. In other words, somebody who should know better.

  4. #4 DarkScholar82
    Philadelphia
    October 23, 2015

    I fail to see how the Daily Mail paints an appealing picture, based on how you describe the article. (I have slow internet and cannot load their website.) The descriptions of the treatment quoted from the article sound genuinely hellish, and more likely to put readers off of quack therapies. It’s a rare public glimpse of how awful alt-med can be for people who probably don’t read blogs like Respectful Insolence and SBM. It may be treating her as a freak, but what do you expect if you try to cure cancer by drinking pee?

    As for the photos, they were probably reliant on whatever pictures she provided or posed for.

  5. #5 TBruce
    October 23, 2015

    She spread herbs over the tumour in her breast, which has left an ‘apricot-sized hole’ in her breast, in a bid to ‘bring out’ her cancer.

    ‘The first time it worked well and brought three lumps out of me- it collects into a scab which falls off and then heals over- but the second time it was hell and I was in agony,’ she said.

    At least she doesn’t have to endure the “slashing, burning and poisoning”.
    Especially the burning.

  6. #6 Michael Finfer, MD
    Edison, NJ
    October 23, 2015

    The quick answer is I don’t, but I might hope she will read that comment and wake up. Probably not, but I can hope.

  7. #7 darwinslapdog
    The Beagle
    October 23, 2015

    Ahhh, the thrill of “health freedom”!

    There has to be a name in the DSMV for delusions serious enough to convince someone that a hole bigger than an apricot in your breast is an acceptable option to surgery.

    Another interesting thing is the “doctor yelled at her…” bit. I hear that from allies a lot. I’ve had many doctors over the years, some of whom, looking back, I asked some pretty dumb questions. Not one of them ever yelled at me. A bit condescending a couple of times, but never yelling. Mostly patient and happy to explain. I wonder why so many allies hear so much “yelling”?

  8. #8 darwinslapdog
    October 23, 2015

    Alties, not allies–stupid auto-correct.

  9. #9 SelenaWolf
    Ontario, Canada
    October 23, 2015

    I hate reading stuff like this. I really do. I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that there is a whole whack of people out there that believe in this stuff. As a former breast cancer patient, it makes me so very angry that people who advocate things like this cannot be held accountable.

  10. #10 Rich Woods
    October 23, 2015

    and what’s described as 74 trace minerals.

    Hydrogen through to tungsten, I expect.

  11. #11 margaret
    October 23, 2015

    a general plea – can you please make your images in such a way that they’re bigger when we click on them? On mobile I can sort of zoom but on the desktop, they’re the so small & there’s no zoom; I can’t make out the graphs. 🙁

    • #12 Orac
      October 23, 2015

      I take the images I can get. Those images are original size; I didn’t shrink them.

  12. #13 doug
    October 23, 2015

    If I want a closer look at an image, I drag and drop it on my desktop, then use a viewer that allows easy zooming. Some websites block the drag & drop process and some images are illegible anyway. Unfortunately, today’s graphs fall into the latter category.

  13. #14 James Peters
    UK
    October 23, 2015

    @Margaret #11 If you click the link to the article on TNBC and then click ‘Enhanced Article (HTML)’ it will have zoomable (bigger) Images

  14. #15 Ieva
    Latvija
    October 23, 2015

    Pee-drinking is very popular in Russia and the advocates, for example, compare it with amniotic fluid and point to the smooth skin of newborns (who cares about vernix caseosa), and, of course, they also believe that organism cannot eliminate toxins, especially because of the present state of ecology (it’s what they are saying), SO, I think that one should start and ask such pee-drinker to define toxin, because many of them have not got any idea. Members of another group know that toxins are material, however, they believe that pee can serve as a vaccine (does it contain miasmas? Opinions differ). And, of course, cancer – so many otherwise reasonable people become superstitious when it comes to cancer, although when compared to psychiatric or autoimmune diseases, cancer is pretty straightforward.

  15. #16 margaret
    October 23, 2015

    Big thanks to @ James Peters #14
    That works brilliantly. 🙂

  16. #17 capnkrunch
    October 23, 2015

    I feel bad for the woman. She’s the victim here. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to put the woo pushers away for negligent homicide or something.

    DarkScholar82@4

    I fail to see how the Daily Mail paints an appealing picture, based on how you describe the article.

    They don’t really paint an appealing story but it’s not very cautionary either. For example what Orac quoted about black salve is everything the Daily Mail had to say. There was no mention of how dangerous it is so it could easily be interpreted as it worked, at least the first time. In these kind of articles there’s almost there’s always false balance issues. To wit:

    Critics have argued the alternative therapies do not work and can put patients at risk by moving them away from more traditional treatments.
    […]
    Advocates of the treatments believe these excreted ingredients have health benefits including a boosted immune system.

    darwinslapdog@7

    Another interesting thing is the “doctor yelled at her…” bit.

    It could be true, you never know. Actually, Ravelle’s account from the Daily Mail is much more tempered.

    ‘I asked what the alternative was, and when he said there was none, I walked away.’

    Besides the yelling, I think it’s very possible the oncologist did say something along the lines of:

    ‘there isn’t any and if you do anything else while I’m treating you then I’m not treating you!’

    I’ve got the “no compliance equals no treatment” speech before myself. It’s a liability issue. For obvious reasons he/she can’t recommend unproven alternatives. Slightly less obvious is the liability from potential interactions.

  17. #18 herr doktor bimler
    October 23, 2015

    drinking your own urine will not cure breast cancer

    OK, whose urine should one drink?

  18. #19 Alain
    October 23, 2015

    HDB,

    None. in this case, I suspect urine is the poor (wo)man’s antineoplaston. In her case, I’M wondering myself if she had that line of thinking…

    Alain

  19. #20 Rich Bly
    Ocean Shores
    October 23, 2015

    There is the story of the horse thief brought before the king who sentenced him to death. The horse thief being quick thinker told the king if you give me year I can teach your favorite horse to sing. So every day the thief tried to teach the horse to sing. Another prisoner said you’ll never teach that horse to sing. The thief replied: the horse may die, the king may die or the horse may learn to sing.

    For the wooist “dr.” it would be: the patient may die, I may die or the patient may be cured somehow. No matter what I win.

  20. #21 David Whitlock
    October 23, 2015

    The custom of urine drinking seems to have originated in India or perhaps Tibet. Various application methods included drinking it and also applying it to the skin.

    Urine does contain nitrate, and in the absence of green leafy vegetables, it might be the only available source of dietary nitrate. If you let it sit, it might acquire ammonia oxidizing bacteria which would increase the nitrite/nitrate level. That is still not going to cure breast cancer.

  21. #22 K.
    October 23, 2015

    Thank you for writing these articles. They have been healing/grieving for me this year. I appreciate the compassion and I really appreciate the truth.

  22. #23 Lenny
    UK
    October 23, 2015

    The terribly sad thing is the denialism. It’s the “If I stop thinking about it, it’ll go away” approach. A friend of ours (a medical professional to boot) ignored her breast lump for nine months before seeking treatment. She died last July.

    My wife felt a lump in her breast one morning at 6am, was seen by her doctor at 10am, had it biopsied within a week and had the triple positive tumour removed two weeks later. Adjunctive chemo and radiotherapy used, disease free thus far two years on.

  23. #24 Takiar
    Sherbrooke, Canada
    October 23, 2015

    Actually, according to homeopathy’s “like cures like”, drinking her own urine (which, in some distorted way, is diluting it in all her other body fluids), she should cure herself from herself, making herself go away….Looks like she’s actually succeeding…Sad story…

  24. #25 Dan Welch
    October 23, 2015

    CELLECT™ is a dietary supplement formulated and manufactured by CELLECT™. It is manufactured to meet the highest quality and standards set by CELLECT™.

    So they set the standards to which they manufacture their own product? Must make things easier.

  25. #26 Jazzlet
    UK
    October 23, 2015

    I too have a friend who having had her initial breast cancer treated conventionally went down the path of woo when metasises (sp?) were discovered in her liver. Expensive trips to Germany and then Mexico ensued with reports of regeimes that left her sick and weak. She died earlier this year far short of the five year prognosis she had been given had she accepted further treatment. She was an intelligent woman, an IT specialist, yet she rejected the only proven treatments available to pursue the false promises these clinics offered. It makes me furious with the purveyors of this crap and with the friends who encouraged her to follow that path. Yes the chemotherapy left her sick and weak, but no more so that the fake therapies and at least she was at home with friends around to support her rather than hundreds of miles away all alone.

  26. #27 has
    October 24, 2015

    capnkrunch@17:

    I feel bad for the woman. She’s the victim here.

    She may be the victim, but she’s also the lead perpetrator. Feel sorrier for her kids, who she’ll traumatize and orphan just ‘cos she can’t be honest with herself.

    Hopefully someday we’ll be able to put the woo pushers away for negligent homicide or something.

    As I’ve no doubt modestly proposed before:

    Arguing against Woo is a waste of time, because Woo is a Religion and nobody ever wins an argument against that. Instead, we should be arguing for Complementary and Alternative Justice, wherein the distraught families and friends of Woo’s victims can treat its perpetrators to a free shotgun enema without fear of censure or criticism by Big Allopathic Law.

  27. #28 Annie
    United States
    October 24, 2015

    These stories always make me shiver. A little over a year ago I watched my 50 year old mother-in-law die slowly from untreated cancer. She also was using homeopathy and diets instead of seeing a real physician. This blog is so important, and I’m really glad to see people getting educated on how to avoid horrible quacks that tell them not to get chemo when they need it. Props to all of you.

  28. #29 Daniel Corcos
    France
    October 24, 2015

    Drinking sperm may be better, as men seem to have some protection against breast cancer.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sji.12348/full

  29. #30 capnkrunch
    October 24, 2015

    has@27

    She may be the victim, but she’s also the lead perpetrator.

    I’d have to disagree with you. She’s not selling something like Jess Ainscough was. Really the peddlers of woo and those who promote them (all the natural health bloggers) are the bad guys here.

    Of course it’s possible she would’ve chosen no treatment regardless but that is much more difficult choice to make when you’re not inundated with the flood of crap about profiteering cut, burn, poisoners and secret natural cures.

  30. #31 has
    October 24, 2015

    capnkrunch: She’s the perpetrator in that she’s the one making the choice to harm herself and those around her. That she also chooses to deny the harm this choice is doing does not let her off the hook. (Something I know all about having done it often enough myself; hence the ration of sympathy.)

    Sure, the altie blood suckers belong in a whole ‘nother circle of Hell again for their part in the subsequent tragedy. But when a person is so utterly determined to lie to herself with no regard to the pain and damage this causes, it should not be a surprise that they would join in as well. By abdicating responsibility to protect herself – and, by extension, all those around her – she made herself the victim.

  31. #32 Lighthorse
    October 25, 2015

    For the odd proponent of alt med for cancer who might be reading this, in all of my 40 plus years of studies on medicinal and other plants, including many traditionally used against cancer, well over 20 years ago, I lost count of the number of people who died despite their use. Having also watched the advances in cancer therapy over the same time, in some cases due to plant-derived chemicals, it boggles my mind to think that anyone would refuse so-called conventional medicine to treat cancer.

    Having visited the homes of those who died from their tumors, despite the use of alt med, I’ve seen the waste first-hand and met the angry relatives. A small fortune in herbal and other ‘natural’ products – from Essiac to pau d’arco, venus’s flytrap, chaparral, apricot seed extract, cannabis, vitamins, minerals, and sundry mushroom products, to name a handful of unsuccessful, unproven wares – hawked to the ignorant by those who prey upon the weak. Many of the hawkers believe their own lies, or have never acquired the knowledge to discriminate what constitutes an effective treatment from one based on wishful thinking. Others know full well that the products they sell are worthless as treatments for cancer. I’ve met more than I care or dare to mention; some being members of organized crime syndicates, and others powerful people in the dietary supplement business whose only care is to make a buck, and will viciously attack anyone who interferes. Some were more honest than others, telling me personally that if people are so gullible, who are they to stand in the way of an ongoing demand for the products? To do otherwise would be socialist and against so-called “health freedom”.

    More often than not, the patients I knew were terminal. Given no hope of successful treatment, they tried anything anyone held out. In other cases, they had already received conventional treatments, refused any more, and resorted alternative treatments. As Orac has repeatedly mentioned, there is no evidence that the alternative treatments were effective after patients had received conventional treatments, but they get touted as effective anyway, and their myth and sale to the gullible continues.

    Like Orac, I find it all so depressing. For many years I avoided even reading about cases. Now that I’m older and cantankerous, I don’t hesitate to voice my anger, no matter who is involved.

  32. #33 Lighthorse
    October 25, 2015

    Dare I add that any company selling shark cartilage should be put out of business. Apart from the fact that sharks are endangered, their cartilage is demonstrably ineffective.

  33. #34 Windriven
    Pacific Northwest
    October 25, 2015

    “In Ravelle’s case, she did nothing, other than drink her own pee and go to homeopathic quacks. (Does diluting them make them stronger?)”

    Yes, well this is one of the miracles of homeopathy. We all drink diluted urine every day. This has demonstrably reduced the incidence of smallpox and polio and all sorts of other diseases. Homeopathy rules!

  34. #35 DGR
    October 25, 2015

    Two gifts in one:

    http://wonkette.com/595295/the-snake-oil-bulletin-sesame-street-holocausting-your-children

    First part of the article discusses raving lunacy from Mike Adams directed at Sesame Street..

    Second part concerns Australian “mommy blogger” who, as I understand it, was recently accused of injecting urine into her daughter’s IV while the daughter was hospitalized.

    The daughter was apparently born with an unnamed genetic condition.

    The article mentions “Munchausen by Proxy” however, having read about the various “cures” some parents of autistic children inflict upon their child, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point a claim is made concerning urine as a “treatment” for the genetic condition.

    I mean, according to some “resources”:

    http://www.biomedx.com/urine/

    urine seems to be the answer for “Multiple sclerosis, colitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, hepatitis, hyperactivity, pancreatic insufficiency, psoriasis, eczema, diabetes, herpes, mononucleosis, adrenal failure, allergies and so many other ailments”

    I wish it was beyond my imagination that some parents might be inflicting this on their child but, it isn’t.

  35. #36 capnkrunch
    October 25, 2015

    Totally off-topic but ran across this amusing article on NN where Mikey stops just short of calling himself Jesus.

    In other words, Jesus was an anti-establishment figure who wasn’t afraid to expose the lunacy of those who worship material things and adorn themselves with expensive forms of transportation. Sounds like the kind of person I admire! In a world where so many people are driven by symbols of wealth and glamour, I live a non-glamorous life […]

    Note the emphasis was in the original. What a lunatic. How’s the plans for Adamstown coming along? Mikey has been sipping his own Kool-Aid for a while now.

  36. #37 Renate
    October 25, 2015

    Those donkeys are more modest and smarter than Mikey.

  37. #38 Daniel Corcos
    France
    October 26, 2015

    I apologize for the reference I gave about about drinking sperm, which was not fully related to the subject.
    I found two links which I think are more relevant, one of them in French, more detailed.
    http://www.sementherapy.com
    http://www.terrafemina.com/vie-privee/sexo/articles/27321-le-sperme-et-ses-bienfaits-sur-la-sante.html
    Unfortunately, the Californian team could not get their results published, as judged by PubMed, but they are undertaking a prospective study that seems more rewarding.

  38. #39 herr doktor bimler
    October 26, 2015

    You are proceeding along a strange line of reasoning, Daniel, even by my poorly-filtered and loosely-associated standards.

  39. #40 MartinB
    October 26, 2015

    There’s one alternative treatment whose rationale I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around.

    I think it follows more or less from the first law of alternative medicine:
    1. The universe is a benevolent place.
    This law has a corollary
    1a. Therefore, a cure for any illness is provided by nature in a way that is easily accessible, you just have to find it.

  40. #41 herr doktor bimler
    October 26, 2015

    Two gifts in one:
    http://wonkette.com/595295/the-snake-oil-bulletin-sesame-street-holocausting-your-children
    First part of the article discusses raving lunacy from Mike Adams directed at Sesame Street..

    The Wonkette Snake-Oil Bulletin is all very well but a few weeks ago they confused macaques with chimpanzees, and now I can NEVER RESPECT THEM AGAIN.

  41. #42 Helianthus
    October 26, 2015

    @ Lighthorse #32

    To do otherwise would be socialist and against so-called “health freedom”.

    Socialist, I wouldn’t know, but what about being socialized?
    As in, realizing the ones a quack is fleecing are human beings right next door.

    I understand your anger, meeting these self-centered !diots.

  42. #44 Rich Scopie
    UK
    October 26, 2015

    Lynne McTaggart (of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” infamy) is also going off on the “Do we need to kill cancer” theme, although her take on it is a little different…

    http://www.lynnemctaggart.com/blog/333-do-we-have-to-kill-cancer

  43. #45 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 26, 2015

    The Wonkette Snake-Oil Bulletin is all very well but a few weeks ago they confused macaques with chimpanzees, and now I can NEVER RESPECT THEM AGAIN.

    I believe Zira said something similar about Cornelius after one late night.

  44. #46 Julian Frost
    South Africa
    October 26, 2015

    I know this is just tangentially related, but I thought it might interest everyone.
    http://joyreactor.com/post/2261432

  45. #47 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    October 26, 2015
  46. #48 Denice Walter
    October 26, 2015

    @ capnkrunch:

    Right. Occasionally, Mikey goes off on a Christian rant- I assume it’s just another attempt to attract customers. Notice which name ‘won’ his little contest. But , delusions of grandeur, why not?

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, both he and the other idiot have been frightening followers about the dangers of coastal and city life and extolling the values of rural, sustainable central/ eastern Texas. They both bought land and set up operations – a ranch and a spa/ resort/ woo/ estate –
    AND both have been hit by torrential rains, floods and nearby wild fires TWICE in the past 6 months!
    Mike writes a little about his past “charity” efforts and current issues. The other had to fly in to manage the situation a few months back.

    I suppose their paradises are also prone to natural disaster- just like the places on which they heap scorn.

  47. #49 Daniel Corcos
    October 26, 2015

    JoyReactor
    http://joyreactor.com/post/2261432
    Yes there was nothing about urine or sperm.

  48. #50 Daniel Corcos
    France
    October 26, 2015

    Oops the message was for Julian Frost.

  49. #51 capnkrunch
    October 26, 2015

    Denice Walter@48

    AND both have been hit by torrential rains, floods and nearby wild fires TWICE in the past 6 months!

    That’s some Old Testament wrath. Are they Job or Aaron I wonder.

    Here’s some more from the ever humble Mikey from yesterday. Keep in mind that this from an article about how he uses the heat generated from high-end bitcoin mining ASIC’s to dry his boots.

    See how un-glamorous my life is?

    Yes, poor Mikey. He is still stuck using the Antminer S5 when the first batch of S7’s shipped last month.

  50. #52 Sara
    October 26, 2015

    A relative of mine was treated for DISC many years ago and opted to complement her conventional treatment with all manner of dietary changes and supplements. At that time her docs just ignored it because there was no apparent interference with chemo drugs. This year an acquaintance was similarly diagnosed and chose her own grab bag of dietary changes and supplements with far different results. She was told in no uncertain terms that dietary changes would do no good whatsoever and that any alternative remedy she used on herself would require finding another doctor pronto. I’m surprised at the vehemence of this and wonder whether some old-school oncologists are just getting incredibly frustrated by the emergence of CAM cancer centers offering whatever exotic form of magic/massage/mysterious potions they can get away with. The local Cancer Center of America offers reiki, therapeutic touch, etc. I wonder whether there’s a general backlash brewing or whether her doc is the exception.

  51. #53 Rich Bly
    Ocean Shores
    October 26, 2015

    #40

    Whatever gave alt med the idea the universe is a benevolent place?

    Except where has made it safer (only safer not safe) the universe will end your life with no after thought.

    So your corollary does not follow.

  52. #54 Ausduck
    under a spring sky
    October 26, 2015

    I can’t stand the alt med people who seem to descend on those who have cancer diagnoses – they are vultures, willing and ready to pick to the bone any vestige of dignity, quality, and meaningful life that the person has left to them. I know there are some who believe the crap they espouse, but there are many more who just see it as a way to make a buck. It’s sickening.
    I can understand how some patients can be so desperate to live that they will try anything, and simply don’t want to hear bad prognoses, jeebus knows I’ve been involved in those conversations as a nurse. But to be so deluded that you agree to be interviewed by any media, even with the best of intentions, shifts a portion of consequential responsibility onto you, imo.

  53. #55 Murmur
    UK-ia
    October 27, 2015

    Rich #44

    ‘Kin’ell! Even by McTaggart’s lowest-of-the-low standards that is very poor.

    And the comments, FFS, the comments…

  54. #56 Erik1986
    California
    October 27, 2015

    Just feel blessed that my SIL went straight to surgery when she got her breast cancer diagnosis in her 40s. The follow-up radiation left her weak for quite a while, but her attitude always was, “This is what needs to be done to maximize my chances of surviving.” 4 years now. Fingers crossed. She and my brother had their own business which was not doing well in the then-current economy, but she researched and found a State of California program for women with breast cancer that covered the great majority of her medical costs.

  55. #57 Alex Couzens
    Ny
    November 4, 2015

    Cellect and Fred eichorn are a total fraud. I have first hand knowledge as I watch my loved one get sicker and sicker over time and now close to death when he had a 85% chance of a cure. Tons of money to Fred’s sister company and direct medical advice not to combine with conventional medicine ! Heartless and foul.. Disgusting.

  56. #58 Lisa M
    ........
    December 11, 2015

    As a friend of Sam’s over many decades, and as a person that helped care for her at home, until she passed, I feel impelled to comment on this article. Firstly, I would like to commend the person that wrote this with their sound advice and statistics. Most of Sam’s friends had tried to convince her to take the conventional route, researched trials and provided information – we failed. I also wanted to mention that the tabloids did in fact miss quote Sam on many things. Urine therapy was not how she was treating her cancer, it was something she had tried in the past, but, I don’t want to side track the issue. Sam passed away sadly as expected and her funeral is today. My aim is to provide facts and if it makes an impression on one person to reconsider homeapathic medicine – placebo affect, then something good will have come out of it. Sam had a cavity that was 13 by 14 cm of fungating breast tissue, full of infection. The pain she endured was incredible, and although she was brave and full of dignity, it was a tough road and hard to watch. Any product or person promising a cure for cancer should be legally prosecuted! Even medical doctors can only offer a statistic of a possible survival rate! Sam was being treated by a charlaton (Dr Jacobs – using some German drops that had nothing cancer killing in them) telling her she was no worse. The days proceeding her appointment she had a stent placed due to odemas placing pressure on her Jugular, and another main artery, we nearly lost her. This man is only selling hope at a small fortune. Please, anyone person considering alternative medicine as a cure, simply don’t, not only does it cost a small fortune, you are making these people rich by paying for hope. The end results is devastating and too late to reverse. Many thanks, L

  57. #59 LouV
    France
    December 14, 2015

    @Lisa M
    I am sorry to read that…
    Thank you for informing readers here of the (sad) follow-up of this story, since I doubt the Daily Mail will do it.
    I wish you and her family well.

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