(NOTE ADDED 12/7/2010: Kim Tinkham has died of what was almost certainly metastatic breast cancer.)
Cancer is scary. It's very, very scary, even when it is a cancer that is treatable and potentially curable. It's such a common disease that, by the time we reach a certain age, the vast majority of us have seen at least one friend or loved one die of some form of cancer. All too often, that death is horrific, and even when it is not the wasting and weakness that is often seen before the end provokes a visceral reaction matched by few diseases. Moreover, the treatments of cancer can be toxic. For solid tumors, surgery, sometimes disfiguring, is often required. Radiation therapy may be needed, or, most feared of all, chemotherapy. Contrary to what is said on many websites dedicated to "alternative" medicine, doctors do not "cut," "burn," and "poison" cancer patients (as proponents of unscientific treatments for cancer often characterize cancer trieatments) because we enjoy it or because of failure of imagination. We use them because they are the best treatments that we currently have, and, for several common malignancies, they are quite effective.
However, given the fear of cancer and, almost as equally, the fear of cancer treatments, it is not surprisingly that nonscientific treatments flourish and many people, unfortunately, fall prey to them. Of course, it is not science that drives these sorts of therapies, although they are often dressed up in "science-y" sounding terminology in order to obscure what to an oncologist or cancer investigator would obviously be the extreme biological or even physical implausibility of the remedy. These treatments do not relay in randomized clinical trials to demonstrate their efficacy and safety, either. Rather, they rely on testimonials, and, alas, I've found a doozy. It's an instructive example, though, which is why I'm going to discuss it.
The testimonial is about a woman with breast cancer named Kim Tinkham, and here is her story:
After a mammogram and a biopsy, Tinkham's doctor told her that she has stage three breast cancer. That moment, she said, was one of the rare times in her life that she broke down and didn't know what to do.
"My 50th birthday was a milestone. I started thinking, 'What am I going to do for the next 50 years?' I never, ever planned for this," Tinkham said. "I'm not someone who breaks down. It was a scary time for me and it wasn't a situation I wanted to deal with, but it wasn't going to go away. I had that feeling of hopelessness and that feeling when you finally realize, 'I'm not immortal.'"
Her doctors wanted to perform a partial mastectomy immediately, as well as remove her lymph nodes. She had 15 minutes to call her husband before going through more tests and discussing a combative plan.
This is very typical of breast cancer testimonials. There is the diagnosis. Then, the doctors seemingly pressure the patient into surgery, heedless of what she wants. Whether true or not, the woman perceives it to be this way. Be that as it may, this story gives me a fair amount of information, as vague as it is. Stage III breast cancer tells me that at least one of two things must be true: Either the tumor must be large (greater than 5 cm in diameter), and/or there must be significant lymph node involvement. Furthermore, stage III is divided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC. Of these, only Stage IIIA is considered operable, while Stage IIIB and IIIC are defined as "locally advanced" (defined as the tumor having grown into the skin or chest wall or has produced numerous positive lymph nodes) and require treatment with chemotherapy first to shrink them before surgery. (Stage IIIB also include inflammatory breast cancer that hasn't spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes). Consequently, from this story, we can reasonably conclude that, if Tinkham's account is correct, her tumor was stage IIIA. Finally, because we do not know how many of her lymph nodes were positive, we can speculate that the reason her tumor was stage IIIA is because her tumor was large, greater than 5 cm in diameter, although it's possible that she had enough tumorous lymph nodes on physical examination and a smaller tumor. Moreover, we can assume that, whatever the status of her nodes, the primary tumor must not be that much larger than 5 cm, because otherwise a partial mastectomy without preoperative chemotherapy to shrink the tumor would not have been possible, given that it is the size of the tumor relative to the size of the breast that determines whether breast conserving therapy in the form of lumpectomy is possible. Finally, looking at the picture of Tinkham examining her own mammogram, I have a hard time seeing the mass. Although there are exceptions, usually, stage IIIA cancer is pretty obvious on a mammogram, even from across the room. This leads me to speculate that the most likely reason Tinkham was told that she has stage III cancer is because of extensive lymph node involvement, with a smaller tumor.
The treatment options for stage IIIA cancer include lumpectomy or total mastectomy plus lymph node sampling in the form of a procedure called sentinel lymph node biopsy, which tests to see if the lymph nodes are involved. If the patient has clinically positive lymph nodes on physical examination or by a fine needle aspiration of an axillary lymph node or if the sentinel lymph node is positive for cancer, then complete removal of all the lymph nodes under the arm in the form of an axillary dissection is performed. For a patient with stage IIIA cancer, the chances are very high that one (and usually several) lymph nodes will be involved; so most patients undergo axillary dissection. Also, since by definition stage IIIA implies a large tumor, many of them undergo mastectomy as well, although an attempt at breast conservation can be made by giving chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor with an equal chance of survival. Surgery is then followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Given that Tinkham was offered a partial mastectomy (i. e., lumpectomy), one can assume that she was probably in the better prognosis stage IIIA patients.
The next step of the testimonial is the "courageous" decision to "go alternative":
Hours and hours of research followed, and Tinkham realized that an alternative solution would be best for her.
"I knew, for me, the best route would be alternative. I don't like surgery. I guess I don't like the loss of control," Tinkham said. "After thinking about it, there's a quality of life that is involved. It's not about just existing. For me, the quality wouldn't be there if I had the surgery and went through the other things. I decided not to do it. That was a big step."
In deciding to treat cancer without surgeries and chemotherapy, she had to tell her husband, Scott, son, Garrett, and her family and friends.
I really hate when this happens, because a patient who decides to forgo effective conventional therapy for unscientific woo is giving up her single best shot at surviving her cancer. This is not a woman with metastatic disease that is incurable. Patients with stage IIIA cancer, although they don't have the best prognosis in the world, are definitely eminently curable with conventional therapy. Unfortunately, Tinkham found one Robert O. Young, a proponent of the pseudoscientific idea that essentially all disease is due to "excess acidity" and can therefore be treated with alkalinization. I've dealt with acid-base pseudoscience before, as well as Young's belief that cancer is a "liquid"; so I won't belabor why I believe Young's diagnostic tests and treatments to have no basis in science. For purposes of this post, I'm more interested in the testimonial and why this woman clearly believes she is now "cured" of her disease or that it is in remission and unlikely to harm her for decades. How can she believe this? One reason that women with breast cancer who decide to opt for "alternative treatment" come to believe that their treatment cured them is because they have had a biopsy that completely excised the tumor. Remember, radiation and chemotherapy only decrease the chance of the tumor recurring after lumpectomy; the lumpectomy itself cures cancer in a significant proportion of cases. However, Tinkham did not undergo an exicisonal biopsy or lumpectomy, only Young's unscientific and useless treatments. So, after "hyperalkalinizing" her body by changing her diet radically and imbibing all sorts of supplements, did her tumor shrink radically?
She can still feel the tumor just underneath the surface of her skin, where it will probably remain for a while.
But she knows it's harmless. Now, it's simply her badge of honor - the reminder that she, Kim Tinkham, defeated cancer without any surgery, invasive procedures, radiation or chemotherapy.
The tumor is still there! Note also that no mention is made of whether the tumor has grown or shrunk. What is most likely going on is that Tinkham is fortunate enough to have a relatively indolent, nonaggressive tumor. It is probably slowly growing; so that in the ten months or so since her diagnosis it may not be obvious that it's grown unless she regularly undergoes ultrasounds, mammograms, or MRIs, which would give an objective measurement of its size. So, if the tumor is still there and is not obviously shrinking, how on earth can Young tell Tinkham that her tumor is gone? Here's how:
A recent blood test proved that the stage three breast cancer diagnosed in February is absent from her body. But she really didn't need a blood test to tell her that. Just hours after she had her blood taken for the test, and days before she knew the results, she was confident that her new lifestyle had allowed her body to fight the cancer.
There is no blood test that can tell a woman that she is breast cancer free. None. Unlike PSA for prostate cancer and CEA for colorectal cancer, tumor markers for breast cancer are notoriously unreliable. Moreover, even if she did have a blood test that told her she is tumor free, if the tumor is still there, she should pay attention to the tumor, not to any dubious "blood test" that a dubious practitioner represents to her as having any validity whatsoever in determining the status of her tumor.
How anyone could believe this testimonial is beyond me. Then I did a seearch on her name, and it became clear in accounts of how Oprah Winfrey had Tinkham on her show to discuss her decision to treat her breast cancer with "natural" methods that Tinkham really, really believes in The Secret. The same sort of wishful thinking that led her to fall for nonsense such as the "Law of Attraction" has led her to fall for the science-free nonsense that Young is telling her about her cancer. Both Robert Young and Oprah Winfrey, in my opinion, will have been complicit in Tinkham's death when her tumor progresses, and this sort of story is the reason that I have lost what little respect I had left for Oprah. She has become about as woo-friendly as they come.
The bottom line is that, to those with little knowledge of medicine, testimonials can sound convincing. However, there has to be a Secret-like element of really, really wanting to believe. After all, how else could Tinkham believe she is cancer free when her cancer is obviously still in her breast? Moreover, even someone without much medical knowledge but with halfway decent critical thinking skills and some skepticism should be able to come up with the right question, namely: How on earth can Tinkham claim that she is cancer-free on the basis of a blood test alone when her tumor is still there? Such a person will see this testimonial for what it obviously is, and that person won't necessarily have to be highly educated to do it. The person who will swallow these sorts of testimonials, hook, line, and sinker for whatever reason has an inherent need to believe in this stuff.
I just hope Tinkham sees a real breast surgeon and a real oncologist and undertakes effective therapy before it's too late, as her life might still be saved. She may be incredibly lucky that she has what appears to be an indolent, slow-growing tumor, but even indolent tumors eventually grow and kill, usually in particularly unpleasant and nasty ways.
Kim is my cousin. She is an intelligent, strong woman, and is inspiring for her family, especially her younger sisters. But when I heard last year that she had breast cancer and was going to treat it with alternative medicine - I had my own vision. I had a vision of walking up to our grandmother, her parents and all our family, and looking at their tear filled eyes during her funeral.
She announced recently to us that she was cured. Since I don't believe in miracles, I doubted if she'd ever had cancer in the first place. But according to this article, she really was diagnosed with breast cancer - and still has it. She truly believes she is cured. It makes my heart sink.
Now I hear that her parents plan to start the special "Dr. Young Diet" she's been on for the past year. Although I don't subscribe to any "woo woo", I do think that her strict diet and exercise routine probably has resulted in her situation not getting any or much worse for the moment. Kim has amazing self-discipline, but I fear it won't be enough to save her life.
"I don't like surgery. I guess I don't like the loss of control."
You know what? I don't like a loss of control either. To me, though, a "loss of control" isn't being under anesthesia for several hours - it's having a malignant tumor in my body. Cancer involves a loss of control over one's own body. It just does. Eventually, this woman is likely going to die a fairly unpleasant death; that strikes me as being the ultimate loss of control.
So pH therapy cured the cancer but the lump is still there. I hope that this goes and bites the alties in the rear, but only if that that bite in the ass doesn't cost this women her life.
What really shocks me is that everyone is fine with believing that she's cured when she can FEEL the tumor. That's like saying that faith healing cured my vision while still using a seeing eye dog. I'm at a lose for words on this one.
My understanding with breast cancer is that some of them could have no symptoms other then a lump until it metastasizes. Still little or no symptoms until the other tumors have reached a certain size to start impeding biological function. At this point it's all way too late to do anything. So this thing could sit there and by the time she starts feeling the physical effects she's finished.
This kind of thing makes my blood boil. A co-worker of mine claims that her mother cured her breast cancer with a routine of herbal supplements and bee pollen based elixir. She later admitted that her mother did in fact undergo chemo and mastectomy. She still maintains that those procedures did nothing but the alternative methods did the trick.
What offends me most is that she recommends this potion to our clientÃ¨le after recounting her mother's health struggles.
The stupid not only burns, it is dangerous.
check out what the cited blog also says: "In today's fast-paced world, acidic food and drink are everywhere - cheeseburgers at the fast-food restaurant,pizza, coffee and tea, Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper in vending machines, beer and wine, anything containing artificial sweeteners, even bottled water. But it's also at home, in any meal which contains chicken, beef or pork, many fruits, dairy products, potatoes and sugar."
So...basically everything. Even bottled water! Absurd.
who ever likes surgery? brutal, bloody, painful, dangerous business; carving into humans like sides of beef; poisoning them half to death first so they won't expire from the shock of the cutting. barbarous affair, really. only reason we keep it around at all is it keeps saving so many lives.
Come now, you know that Mr. Robert O. Young will have a fine line of approved foods that you can eat/drink/be merry! Well maybe not him but his brother/sister/wife/friend/'partner'/etc...
For just 199.99 a month you to can receive the benefits of his "acid free" water and potatoes.
"Her doctors wanted to perform a partial mastectomy immediately, as well as remove her lymph nodes. She had 15 minutes to call her husband before going through more tests and discussing a combative plan."
Orac -- Just call B.S. on the story. You can't get a PPO or HMO on the phone, much less get pre-approval for an operation, in 15 min. Even if she was uninsured and was going to pay using her Visa, it would take longer than that to get through and verify credit limits, or if she was uninsured and covered using Medicaid, it'd take more than 15 min to get through to the case worker, much less get pre-approval. Pre-approval for surgery isn't done over the phone. I don't need any medical knowledge to know that the "story" didn't happen.
Now that *is* depressing -- a woman convinced her cancer is gone for no reason more than because she feels that if she wants something, it should be so. Despite the fact that she knows the tumor is present and hasn't changed (at least as far as she can tell). I second the user who said that it's like claiming faith healing cured a person's blindness while they're using a seeing eye dog. It's staggering.
I'm used to the folks who have a mastectomy plus woo and then claim the woo cured them, or the folks who didn't really have a diagnosis in the first place and claim that woo cured their (probably nonexistant) condition, or the folks who claim woo cured their [fill in condition that can go away, or seem to, all on its own]. But someone who obviously was not cured claiming that woo cured her....
Deeply, deeply depressing. And yes, horrifying. When I heard "horrifying", I expected to read of some nasty tumor that had erupted through the skin, but this is actually more horrifying in its way, because of what it says about human nature -- and because this is a tragedy which hasn't played out yet. If you model this story as a classical tragedy, we are still in the rising action and the worst is yet to come.
wfjag -- you raise an important point. A lot of these testimonials are not entirely accurate, and we should not be too hasty to assume that the medical details she gives are accurate. That said, I wouldn't rush to assuming that the woman is making the whole thing up. I think it's more likely that it's been exaggerated after a series of retellings.
Possibly. The version of her story told on Oprah is somewhat different:
Surgery within a month is hardly "immediately" or "rushing." It's also quite reasonableto recommend that the surgery be done within a month, except in fairly rare cases of very rapidly growing tumors, where it should be done sooner. Indeed, this version of her story rings much truer, as far as how surgeons would counsel her, than the version she told in the main story that I quoted.
So she thinks she won't have quality of life if she has surgery, chemotherapy or radiation?
Gee, I guess that makes me a pitiful sucker for agreeing to CHOP and radiation for my DLBC lymphoma.
*Millions* of people have undergone cancer tx and lived to tell about it. Yes, it's difficult. Who ever promised it would be easy? But it's not insurmountable.
I wonder how much of her decision is actually based on fear and inaccurate ideas about what cancer tx entails. I find it ironic and sad that in her quest to maintain "quality of life," she will probably end up sacrificing that very thing.
Now that *is* depressing -- a woman convinced her cancer is gone for no reason more than because she feels that if she wants something, it should be so.
From the Oprah interview:
So, if you want to be cured, you will be cured.
According to the LOA, you can "attract" cancer to yourself with negative thoughts. And if you just banish those negative thoughts, start thinking positively and STOP thinking about cancer, you will cure yourself.
So why is she using any treatment at all? After all, isn't following even woo treatment for cancer making her think about her cancer?
And can the LOA fans explain why the LOA can't cure her cancer by "attracting" excellent and timely medical care to her?
Nice law they've got there. I will be thinking of women even more then.
Can somebody explain to me the "loss of control" issue?
I'm serious. How is having surgery and/or chemotherapy "losing control"?
I would have thought that having cells in your body departing from "the plan" and dividing without restraint would be the worst kind of "losing control" that there is.
Compared to that, having surgery and/or chemotherapy - both of which require your written consent - seems like the ultimate in "taking back control".
I've heard this complaint before in "alternative" medicine and I am truly at a loss to understand it. Are people saying that they "lose control" because they aren't the ones doing the surgery or administering the chemo? If so, then they must really hate flying (or riding the bus or train).
Or is it that they don't understand all of the data and clinical experience that drives the decisions their doctors are making? Do they feel better when somebody gives them a simple-to-understand (but wrong) explanation like "acid pH causes cancer - alkaline pH cures cancer"?
I think that surgery and chemo are just as easy to understand ("cut out the cancer" and "poison the heck out of the remaining cancer cells") and they have the added benefit of actually working.
So, can somebody please explain this "loss of control" thing?
Can you postpone aging and death with The Secret too? I guess Oprah should never grow old or die. We'll see how that goes.
So, her "story" went from:
"She visited three doctors, all with the same result. They said she had stage three breast cancer. *** All three doctors said surgery - a partial radical mastectomy of the right breast and lymph nodes - was necessary within a month."
"Her doctors wanted to perform a partial mastectomy immediately, as well as remove her lymph nodes. She had 15 minutes to call her husband before going through more tests and discussing a combative plan."
and, from different consults by "three doctors" to "After a mammogram and a biopsy, Tinkham's doctor [singular] told her that she has stage three breast cancer."
Those are major differences in material facts which even a layperson ought to be able to keep straight. That calls into question other "facts" asserted that are not readily checked or understood by a layperson -- like the uncaring, unprofessional attitude of the treating physician (or is that physicians?), as well as the success of the CAM treatment.
The difference between a War Story, a Fairy Tale, and an Internet Testimonial is:
A War Story begins "No Sh*t, I was really there.";
A Fairy Tale begins "Once upon a time."; and,
An Internet Testimonial begins "This really happened to me."
The lose of control issue is odd but in a sick way I can understand where they are coming form. The woo meister gives them the illusion of control. They can actively do something without risks that will directly and positivly affect the outcome of the situation. The people have a false sense of empowerment. Doctor and modern medicine (by their nature) force people to put their lives in the hands of the surgeon. If the surgeon makes a mistake there is nothing you can do about it. As far as flying or riding a train/bus, you have some control though not much. You can as a minimum get up and go to the can. Not control in any meaningful sense but something is better then nothing to a control freak.
Woo peddlers are above all else really good sales people. Doctors (no offense to any one here) are usually lousy sales people. The good ones explain the treatment in simple facts and sugar coat nothing. "If you go through chemo you will feel like shit. We are going to cut you open and pull the thing out." Not hard for most people to picture getting sliced open and hammered by essentially toxin chemicals. Woo meisters go into ancient (insert favorite culture here), astral projection and the power of positive thinking. They appeal to the hope these people are desperate for. Then they convince them that not only is there hope but that it will result from their direct actions. There's a term for it but I can't remeber.
I think there is also a popular cultural aspect particularly directed towards women. The message is that, as females, we presumably have special intuitions and ways of knowing, a mother-instinct, a deeper spiritual connection to the earth -- and our greatest strength lies in how we yield to our child-like faith.
A friend and I went Christmas shopping recently and hit all the little precious little boutiques -- the ones that smell like potpourri, play Enya in the background, and are filled with "unique gifts."
We noticed something. Over and over again, we saw pillows, wall hangings, signs, and furniture marked with appropriately ornate letters spelling out "Believe." Sometimes the word was accompanied by angels, or a cross. Sometimes it was simply the word itself, carved in wood or brass. We laughed, yet when we were done and sat in the coffee shop with the other ladies to have our mochas and whipped cream, there was a carved stone on the table, instead of a floral arrangement. It had been engraved with "Believe." Makes you come over all feminine and girl-y.
It's gotten really out of hand. Or maybe it's always been there, but now it's being over-marketed. And so you get crap like The Secret and women thinking you can wish your cancer away, if you only Believe. I bet some of her friends have bought her some of those signs.
The two versions aren't that different really. Easiest is the number of doctors. It didn't necessarily take three to diagnos, she might have got second opinions. First one tells her she's stage three get surgery, second one tells her she has stage three get surgery, and third says stage three get surgery. Immediately can be a tricky word too, I took the statement to mean that the doctors all recommended scheduling surgery right away. If you need an operation within a month, you can't sit back for a week getting used to the idea, there's paperwork to take care off, operating rooms and surgeons to book, it probably felt like she was being rushed into something. This one should be self-explanatory: "She had 15 minutes to call her husband before going through more tests and discussing a combative plan."
You once dissed me for using a WWII/Nazi analogy to the problem of occultists/cultists/new agers in medicine (when I was still in shock over the death of my mother-in-law) but I see, now, you hold Oprah and co. guilty if this woman dies. Now think: How many other women are there, out there, falling for this line?
Can't you see there's a massive loss of life occuring right under our noses - just like the Jews were killed with the world watching the ascent of the Nazis - and, just like with the Nazis, these New Agers (especially the celebrities) won't take "no" for an answer, when it comes to vaccinations or anything else?
Or do you still think I'm being unreasonable? I'll grant you that seeing it first hand, and as a layperson, may color my perspective (I know you're a doctor and I respect that) but something tells me, on this, I'm closer to the truth than you think.
Please, tell me why I'm wrong: I really want to know. The New Age is always described as an interlocking matrix of unreasonable interests with a common goal - to insideously (that's very important part) "change the planet" - what makes New Agers different from Hitler's nutjobs?
Several things that I should mention here:
Oprah devoted two episodes to The Secret.
Oprah is backing Obama - who is running on "Hope" - and is asking his fans, in his speeches and banners, to "Believe".
Obama has a webpage on his site devoted to The Secret.
To [REDACTED--KIM TINKHAM'S RELATIVE]:
Hang in there, kid. I've been there and, believe me, things could get rough if you're not part of the indoctrinated set. Death, arguments, instances of pure insanity, etc., could be in your family's future.
Are there any other skeptics in your family? How about friends of your family's or just your cousin's friends? You need some back-up, now, because things have already spun out of control if Kim's husband, and parents, have already been sucked in. American society is biting hard on this stuff and trying to deal with it alone, when your cousin's life is on the line, is a no-win situation. I lost everything (marriage, money, career, friends, family) because a single quack doctor entered my life and got his hooks into my wife's and mother-in-law's heads. It was the single most horrible time of my life and I'm a black guy from one of America's most notoriously dysfunctional parts of the country (South Central, LA).
I thought I'd left weird life-and-death nonsense behind when I got out of there - but this - this New Age shit puts all the in-your-face gangbanging crap to shame because it's supposedly non-violent, and based on "peace and love", and people claiming to help. It can stop the rational mind cold to try to get a handle on the implications of how good intentions can be warped to such evil ends.
My heart goes out to you, and I wish you all the best, but, before I end here, I want to leave you with this advice:
Either get your people together, develop a strategy of attack, and mobilize to get control of your family again - or run and don't look back. Cut them all off and, as best you can, don't allow what's happening to affect you, in any way, for the sake of yourself and those you love that are still reachable.
It's that serious.
"So pH therapy cured the cancer but the lump is still there. I hope that this goes and bites the alties in the rear, but only if that that bite in the ass doesn't cost this women her life."
Your attitude is unbelievable! You are effectively wishing ill health on someone so you can get satisfaction that that someone else is proven wrong. How incredibly selfish and unethical. Just listen to yourself.
No, Vlad is looking at "the big picture", just as I am: These people must be stopped. They are causing far more harm than good. (There's no "good" coming out of it, at all, actually.) We have to stop being so damn sentimental about this and get serious about what we're going to do about the problem of cultists influencing the direction of medicine, education, our country - and, yes, even the world (if you keep up with the battles over homeopathy, vaccinations, etc., in England, New Zealand, and the rest of the Western world, then you understand my meaning) it's all gone too far.
Will I be "happy" if alties get their comeuppance? Yes. Most definitely. And, if a few people die for that to happen, then too bad:
People are already dying, at the hand of New Agers, with no one looking out for them.
It's time to say "Enough is enough!"
Although I would not advocate such an approach, this could be the placebo effect which as we know can actually work.
I can tell you my mother was not appropriately helped by the medical system in her fight with breast cancer. I don't think it was the treatments themselves at fault, but there was a great disconnect and a vast amount of poor commnication between the various professionals trying to treat her.
The Crack Emcee,
It is a free world and people will always be duped. If someone is acting criminally or unprofessionally, advertising incorrectly, then by all means I support trying to stop them.
However, to wish ill health on someone because they made what you feel is a poor personal choice is clearly unethical. You will never see a real health professional advocating that type of attitude on some who benefited from the placebo effect or who has a temporary cessation in health problems -- I certainly hope not.
Go ahead and try to keep convincing yourself that wishing ill health on these people is a necessary ethical sacrifice for the higher moral of saving vast numbers of people from a vast conspiracy. Give me a break.
Sastra: 'We noticed something. Over and over again, we saw pillows, wall hangings, signs, and furniture marked with appropriately ornate letters spelling out "Believe."'
I concede I'm cynical, and perhaps a little harsh. I really am sorry that the lady has cancer. However, I'm totally fed up with B.S. sob stories promoted by celebrities whose main effect seems to be to divert money from promising research and treatments, and not infrequently divert it to litigation. For example, see this one about a woman named Robyn O'Brien in "Food Allergies Stir a Mother to Action" www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/dining/09alle.html?em&ex=1200114000&en=6ecfc…
NY Times, Wining & Dining Section (January 9, 2008), which includes the following statements:
"Her story is one of several in a new book, "Healthy Child, Healthy World" (Dutton, March 2008), whose contributors include doctors, parents and celebrities like Meryl Streep.
Her theory -- that the food supply is being manipulated with additives, genetic modification, hormones and herbicides, causing increases in allergies, autism and other disorders in children -- is not supported by leading researchers or the largest allergy advocacy groups."
Or, perhaps the history of the Bendectin litigation is better support for my conclusions and attitude. Professor David Bernstein (Law, George Mason University) wrote a short summary of it in "Learning the Wrong Lessons from 'An American Tragedy': A Critique of the Berger-Twerski Informed Choice Proposal", Vol. 104 Michigan Law Rev., pp. 1961, et seq. (2005-2006).
In 1975 Betty Mekdeci gave birth to a son who suffered from limb reduction birth defects. The cause of most such birth defects is unknown. She became convinced that the cause was Bendectin. She hired Melvin Belli, the "King of Torts", to sue the manufacturer. Prof. Bernstein states:
"[F]ourteen epidemiological studies of varying strength and quality had examined the relationship between Bendectin and birth defects and found no association. While these studies were not powerful enough to rule out some connection between Bendectin and birth defects, they certainly provided no cause for alarm. Bendectin had been on the market since 1956 with no serious doubts raised regarding its safety in the scientific or medical community. Nor did Bendectin contain suspiciously toxic ingredients: one active ingredient of Bendectin was a simple B vitamin, and the other was an ingredient used in a popular over-the-counter sleeping pill."
"Beyond the mere fact that she ingested Bendectin during pregnancy and later gave birth to a child with a limb reduction birth defect, Mekdeci's evidence of causation consisted primarily of eighty-six reports to the FDA of other women who had also given birth to children with limb reduction defects after taking Bendectin.
.... [T]he mere fact that dozens or even hundreds of children were reported to have been born with limb reductions after their mothers ingested Bendectin doesn't, by itself, even suggest a risk. Approximately thirty million women took Bendectin, and by chance alone there would be ten thousand limb reduction defects among children born to these women.
Nevertheless, with the help of Belli's publicity machine, the Bendectin litigation eventually drew thousands of plaintiffs and cost Merrell Dow several hundred million dollars in defense costs (though not a penny was ever paid to a claimant, the courts universally overturning the 40% or so of jury verdicts favoring plaintiffs.)
Despite FDA approval, Bendectin, the only drug proved safe and effective in combating nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, remains unavailable in the U.S. (but is available everywhere else), having been taken off the market at the height of the litigation to avoid further lawsuits. Studies have shown that the rate of limb birth defects in the U.S. has not been affected by the removal of Bendectin from the market, but hospitalizations for severe morning sickness have soared.
Meanwhile, the persistence of plaintiffs in pursuing the Bendectin litigation despite mounting evidence of Bendectin's safety and the complete lack of valid contrary evidence, combined with juries nevertheless frequently ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, eventually became the leading cause of a severe backlash in federal courts against "junk science," culminating in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, itself a Bendectin case, and it progeny."
While I readily concede that all these women deserve sympathy, that there are plenty of physicians who should read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", that malpractice sometimes happens, and that there are money grubbing SOBs in every profession, that does not warrant to diversion of the immense amount of time, resources and money to address junk science allegations. When celebrities start watching their popularity ratings drop because people start publicly calling them on the B.S. they spread, when junk science advocates no longer are provided forums and are publicly discredited, and when our "news" organizations are called to task for repeating B.S. and watch their audiences (and ad revenues) drop, maybe the time, resources and money will be directed towards promising research and effective treatments. I see nothing wrong with taking the position "You have my sympathy, but I'm still calling you on your B.S." That is a necessary first step.
*grr* Now stories like that really make me mad. Having suffered only very mild morning sickness during my pregnancies, I know little about the treatment for it. But I do know a guy whose wife was repeatedly hospitalized during her pregnancy for morning sickness. It was so bad she couldn't keep anything down and was severely dehydrated. She required an IV drip. Still, the baby was born underweight, and this was attributed to the fact that the mom couldn't get adequate nutrition (a fairly obvious conclusion).
I guess getting some money and having someone to blame for your child's random defect is more important than the thousands of children who will be born underweight and possibly deformed themselves because their mothers couldn't get enough nutrition/hydration due to constant vomiting.
Really? Merely to "wish" it? Wow, that's a leap. And how does wishing compare, ethically, to actively bringing about, or assisting in, the ill health of others? (Heard of any quacks, New Age celebrities - or even the average New Age practitioner - staying up nights, wracked with guilt, over the misinformation they spread the day before? Nope. They move on to the next "patient" as soon as they lose the current one.) If you don't mind, I am going to keep wishing ill on New Agers, in hope they don't succeed at using the truth that "people will always be duped" to make the case that doctors are people, too.
Interesting post and I agree with your comments about alt med.
A different situation sometimes comes up where cancer patients have to choose between treatments offered by mainstream practitioners where sufficient evidence on the effectiveness or possible side effects of the treatments does not yet exist. I'm a breast cancer survivor, and I've been in that situation.
I wish the commenter who made the claim that Obama supports the Belief would provide us with a link. I have been all over his political site and it seems to me he is as reality based as a religious person can be. If you are gonna make a statement like that which refers to a website, you need to provide a link otherwise it is just BS.
That is not the story being bandied around on the internet. There are significant differences between this story and theirs in fact. Notably, she had a mammogram in that story rather than a blood test which said she was all clear...interesting.
Hands up who thinks she had chemo and surgery to complement her cancer-cure?
Sorry but I don't have time to dig up every link for every idiot idea I've found out there. Here's a recent one, from The Wall Street Journal, on Obama, Iowa, and Transcendental Meditation:
"During an outdoor rally here last summer, Sen. Barack Obama turned his podium east out of respect for the Transcendental Meditation view that east is the natural direction of energy flow."
Sounds like a New Ager to me,...
Mr Eis - the way I read the story the only mammogram was when she was diagnosed. What floored me was this:
Tinkham traded her original pH level of "5 point something" to 8
Aside from being an example atrocious grammar (I thought reporters had to be at least literate), wouldn't either pH be lethal? Perhaps Orac can enlighten us on what is the survivable range of pH for a human (I thought it was very narrow) and how the "Acidity is Evil" woos measure pH.
Is there a "Alkalinity is the Cause of All Illness" school of woo as well?
"So pH therapy cured the cancer but the lump is still there. I hope that this goes and bites the alties in the rear, but only if that that bite in the ass doesn't cost this women her life."
Your attitude is unbelievable! You are effectively wishing ill health on someone so you can get satisfaction that that someone else is proven wrong. How incredibly selfish and unethical. Just listen to yourself.
Schwartz, you may have missed the part where Vlad says but only if that bite in the ass doesn't cost this woman her life.
He wants the alties to crash and burn; he'd rather people didn't have to suffer for that to happen. Vlad's meaning was very clear to me.
Crack Emcee, did you even read the Wall Street Journal article you linked to? It describes the nauseating pandering of EVERY presidential candidate wooing the wooers in Iowa leading up to the Caucus. Obama doesn't stand out as any more sincere in his woo appreciation than the rest of them.
Yes, I read it, but not every candidate has Oprah's backing, gives The Secret a place on their website, or asks us to "believe" in the "audacity of hope" - while turning his podium to the east because the Maharishi said that's how the energy flows. If there's one thing I've learned from all this, it's to take these people at their word, and keep a sharp eye on their actions:
Obama's got the LOA, Dennis Kucinich believes in little green men, Hillary talks to the dead, etc., and they're all angling for power.
There's no more need to give them the benefit of the doubt than Mike Huckabee. As a matter of fact, Huckabee's better than most, in my book, because, at least, he's open and honest about it. (I know: Honest about being a Christian - Big Whoop,...) Still, woo is woo, and, depending on your flavor, it turns people off and he knows it. That's good:
In the primaries, no one gets a pass.
Dude, just to clarify, I think they're all 20 pounds of bullshit in 10 pound bags, and I agree that no one should 'get a pass', but many of us are in the position of trying to figure out who will screw the country (and us) the least, so these facts do have some weight. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about whether Obama's irrationality sticks out like a sore thumb among all the candidates, because I just don't see it. I can't find any reference to 'The Secret' on his web page. Not to say it isn't there, but it certainly isn't very prominent. And as far as I'm aware he doesn't turn his podium to the East at every speaking engagement--just when he's courting the votes of a bunch of ramalamadingdongs in the Midwest. I see this as analogous to a political candidate donning a yamulke when entering a temple to speak to Jewish constituents, etc. Respect the customs, show awareness of the culture/belief system, get the vote.
With outright denial of evolution and statements indicating that his prime motive for entering politics at all is that it gives him the greatest opportunity for spreading Jesus around, Huckabee is in a completely different category. Just sayin'.
I really like your lingo ("20 pounds of bullshit in 10 pound bags", "ramalamadingdongs"). Keep it comin'.
I'm not saying Obama's shit sticks out, especially, just that it's there. (Notice he hasn't accused this Secret page of stealing his look or anything.) But could you imagine Rudy, or Fred Thompson, for instance, turning their podiums around for meditators? (A yamulke? Sure, but for the Maharishi?) I seriously doubt it.
I hear ya (about Huckabee) but, unlike most skeptics, I don't make "a completely different category" for idiots who deny evolution and New Agers believing in energy - they're all, equally, bonkers and trying to pull a "spiritual" fast one in politics - and it's up to the rest of us to watch 'em. As I said, I even give credit to the up-front ones.
I don't want to scare you away but, I think, the words of a certain once-popular political fruitloop are to be kept in mind as the covert spiritual types angle for control. This guy did it best, and his words should be a warning to all of us, so I put them here for all to see.
Nice talkin' to you.
(sorry, haven't figured out how to do block quotes yet):
TCE said: "But could you imagine Rudy, or Fred Thompson, for instance, turning their podiums around for meditators? (A yamulke? Sure, but for the Maharishi?) I seriously doubt it."
I doubt it too, but only because those aren't the votes the Republicans are striving to capture/keep. They may have hoped to grab a few of the independent votes in that community, but their cash cows--the strong base of Christian voters--would certainly look askance at any sincere kowtowing to New Age woo. It's clearly a calculated process about generating new support without pissing off the old supporters, but honestly I think these candidates would perform a masturbatory tap dance in full public view if they sincerely thought it would win them the election (thus creating yet another gender inequality issue for poor Hillary--alas!)
TCE said: "I hear ya (about Huckabee) but, unlike most skeptics, I don't make "a completely different category" for idiots who deny evolution and New Agers believing in energy - they're all, equally, bonkers and trying to pull a "spiritual" fast one in politics - and it's up to the rest of us to watch 'em. As I said, I even give credit to the up-front ones."
Woo is woo, as you said earlier. I don't weigh any irrational beliefs on the basis of how popular they are, etc. My categorization comes from the public impact of these various wooish beliefs. I live in an extremely liberal, woo-rich community. Every single bit of woo featured on Orac's wonderful blog since I started reading it is alive and flourishing here. It's annoying, and even within my eminently rational ivory tower I have the occasional run in with some fool of a co-worker who's been lured into some form of quackery or another. But I have yet to have my doorbell rung by anyone preaching the Word of Ram Daas. The Reiki folks aren't lobbying the state legislature to deny civil unions to same sex couples or picketing at Planned Parenthood.
Your point about not being too complacent about the New Age Spiritual BS is well taken, but at the present time, I don't see it as nearly the imminent threat to our civil liberties as that old time relijun is.
You give Huckabee props for being up front about his beliefs, and suggest that Obama, by contrast, is concealing some deeply held altie woo following, but I don't yet see compelling evidence for this latter. Find me a credible report of Obama using LOA to bring peace to the Middle East, or trying to promote a Universal Health Care system for Complementary/Alternative Medicine, and we'll talk. Meanwhile, I find Huckabee's frankness about his faith quite horrifying. That he feels confident enough in his constituency to be so forthcoming about his specific beliefs and how they drive his policy-making, etc. says a lot about the state of our democracy, and none of it is very encouraging for a godless liberal like myself.
At this point in history, it is clearly too much to hope for to have a rational presidential candidate, so I'm left with the task of determining not only who is the best one of the field for the job, but how effectively this person will be able to separate his or her personal brand of woo from the business of running the country.
The fact that you (Crack Emcee) have stated twice now that Obama has a web page on his site that links him to "The Secret" without providing a link in either case just means either (1) you are spreading BS or (2) you are repeating BS you heard from someone else. If Obama supports "The Secret" it is enough for me NOT to vote for him. Therefore I require a little more than your say-so, especially since I could not find any such page on his campaign web site and I don't have links to his personal site if one exists. A link to my.barackobama.com just doesn't get it since ANYONE can put a page there.
I gotta go with Oldfart here, Crack. Blaming Obama for this is like blaming MySpace for some idiot's page. Anyone can put something on my.barackobama.com. If you read the page at all, you'd see that no one from the actual campaign put up that site.
D'oh. Sorry for not closing the italics.
O.K., you're still funny! And I hear ya, but, I mean, who keeps up with the decisions made at Davos? The goings-on at Esalen? What James Randi labeled "the psychic mafia"? The gatherings of Oprah and other movers-and-shakers in Hawaii? Occultists aren't people who will ring your doorbell because you don't matter to their (fascist) world view. They're not trying to "bring you to Jesus" but to insidiously wrap their beliefs around you. And it's working - because they're diffuse and we don't take them, or the damage they do, seriously enough.
Putting Bill Clinton in office got us countless lies, a slew of women screaming some variation on the word "rape" (who Hillary and Bill, both, insisted were crazy) NCCAM, and the rise of Osama bin Laden - and, then, he spent his down-time ripping off the rubes with Tony Robbins. All of which gave Hillary "experience", of course.
Anyway, I think we're basically on the same page, but I'd suggest (without going totally conspiratorial) taking the New Age wingnuts a little more seriously: That's the key to slowing their roll.
I know, I know, but websites that copy the candidate's look - exactly - and the candidate's team doesn't say anything about copyright infringement? Now that's new (and I've been following politics for a long time.) I may be wrong but I don't think so: Obama's just got too much woo around him (or, put another way, he's too damn accepting of it) for it all to be a coincidence.
And Oldfart needs to get a grip. I don't know what his problem is but, for a mere fan of Obama's, he's just a bit over-the-top for my taste.
I'M over the top????? You make statements about people that you can't back up. I think you are over the top. Obviously, you can't be trusted for information, period. I am NOT an Obama supporter. If anything, I lean toward Hillary. But I need to know that, if Obama should win the nomination, I CAN support him. If he backs that kind of woo, I cannot. It's very simple. It is also simple that a blogger who makes baseless and unsupported statements needs to find something else to do with his/her/its spare time.
This just in:
Mitt Romney, campaigning for his life in Michigan, says "Michigan is in my DNA...and cars are in my bloodstream".
What is this new Cyborg-esque woo? Will a Romney presidency guarantee World Robot Domination? I certainly hope he's on the 'watch' list.
In our different styles, Oldfart, Cain and I are all expressing that we just don't find the 'evidence' you (TCE) have provided on Obama's New Age affiliations very convincing, or even credible. The Secret website thing is really a sham--Is Obama even aware of it? If he were, would he care enough to hack it down in the middle of the primary season? I don't buy the assertion that his (apparent) lack of litigation implies consent here. By all means, don't vote for the man if he's not your cup of herbal infusion, but please stop perpetuating the woo conspiracy theories if this is the best evidence you can provide.
I won't be able to deal with this until tonight but I will say, right now, I find the approach of ganging up on me (it is just me) behind the hair-pulling approach of Oldfart disconcerting.
Is the charge, that I may have gotten one thing wrong, surely to equal that I "can't be trusted for information, period."? (Even after I admit "I may be wrong" about that one thing?) Like I said, that's a bit over-the-top, but just the kind of illogical, overly-emotional, approach I expect from a Hillary/Obama supporter. You ask, "would [Obama] care enough to hack [the website] down in the middle of the primary season?" Well, my experience is that most politicians would - they wouldn't want their message, logo, etc., diluted by, or associated with, some wackos. You guys are asking me to believe, when the site looks exactly like Obabma's, that - with Oprah's full support behind him (and after she gave not one but two days to The Secret and said it was "the most important show" she'd ever done) that he's ignorant of it? Now who's pulling whose leg? I know - like Hillary's "experience" terrorizing Bill's unwilling playmates - this just speaks to Obama's qualifications for office, right?
And here I was thinking he's just too young,...
If you admitted you were wrong in this case, I must have missed it. I therefore apologize. Look at it from my point of view for a second before you jump off the bridge. I did not see your apology so I ASSumed you were pulling a Lou Dobbs by passing along bad information and refusing to correct it when it is brought to your attention. In the case of Lou Dobbs, he just stated "If we said it, it IS the truth!" much like Nixon's "If the President does it, it can't be illegal!" or some such nonsense.
As for getting gang-banged by three people who don't even know each other, that's just part of being exposed on the net. I know the feeling very well - I deal with right wing fanatics in gangs all the time - the NRA fanatics - the MADD fanatics - the Israel fanatics - the Evangelical fanatics - and the deniers, the Holocaust deniers, the Vaccination deniers, the AGW and GW deniers....the list is endless.
There - I linked my blog to this post - you can pick on me in person there if it makes you feel better. I warn you that I am an iconoclast.
I'm sorry you feel ganged up on. It was not my intention to pile on. However, I think your expectation that your more or less unfounded charges would go unchallenged here might be a bit unrealistic. We are rational, analytical, skeptical bastards, to be sure.
I am not asking you to believe anything. I am simply declining to accept your assertions as fact, in the absence of further evidence. This is an important issue, and I will certainly regard any further woo murmurs about the Obama camp with more scrutiny, thanks to your cautions.
Apology accepted, though I don't see how you can quote my post and, then, claim you didn't see my caveat. (No biggie, really: I believe you.)
For a Democrat, who claims to be fighting fanatics, you do strike me as pretty fanatical yourself: Do you put any of the so-called "right wing" groups you deal with into any context, or is it just fighting so-called right wingers that gets you off? (Like, though I'm a stone-cold atheist, I've always put America's support of Israel in the context of our experience of WWII - the horror of pulling the Jews out of Nazi ovens morphed into our determination they'd always have somewhere safe to go - do you do that?) And the whole "denier" thing - especially in light of how ham-handed the subject of GW has been handled - leaves me, well, cold. Does that make me a bad person?
I'll check out your blog but I have no intention, or interest, to pick on you: We iconoclasts need each other too much.
Bastard or no, I like you. I told you: You're funny. (I like funny. That Mitt shit was a scream!) Here's my story on Obama:
After I released my anti-war album (which got some good reviews and even a nice nomination or two) I went to France, to be around some "Real Revolutionaries", right? Big mistake because, not only did I hate France, and found their revolutionaries to be stupid as hell - especially about how things work in America - but being in those shit hole villages gave me lots of time to investigate the charges against the War On Terror, which - from that all-important Afghani pipeline to "No Blood For Oil" - I found to be bogus. So my mind's starting to open up about a few things (like why I ever liked Michael Moore) and I'm starting to seriously question everything else I used to take for granted,...like the Left always tells the truth and the Right always lies. "Open-minded" type, I am.
O.K., it's 4AM in France, and I'm watching the boring-ass 2004 Dem convention (I'm still a registered Democrat at this time). There are various frogs sticking their sleepy heads in, occasionally, bothered because I would stay up to watch "politeeks" - and constantly muttering something negative about "zat Bush" - who, for that fact alone, I'm starting to appreciate more and more. I figure, if he can piss off those losers that much, the guy must be doing *something* right.
Then Obama comes on the TV and, like everyone else, I feel the earth stand still. Glorihalostupid, his kid has "got it", in spades - and he's a spade! No "red state", no "blue state" - we're the United States of America! Right? Hell Yea! That's it! I vow I'm gonna keep my eye on this guy: Damn it, I don't remember his name, but that black sombitch could be president one day.
Once I get back to America, to San Francisco especially, I'm embarrassed to be associated with the Left. They're organizing marches for one lie after another, and using the discontent of the French - the same idiot assholes I just left who don't know shit about America - as a reason to say we're wrong to fight a war. (Protesters: "The French don't agree!" Me: "Except for spending half-a-paycheck on a bottle of wine, and when it's time for lunch, what do those cowards ever agree with?") I'm starting to see Bush and the Republicans as waaay more serious than the Dems.
Meanwhile, Obama's becoming a *celebrity*!! He's doing the smarmy magazine layouts, and his language has started to shift into ever more "transcendent" newspeak. As a matter of fact, as his language becomes New Age, he makes no sense at all. (Nobody does.) Now he's full of himself. Then comes The Secret, and Oprah, and, finally, he finds his people in Iowa
Long story short: I no longer "believe" a word he says.
(1) I went back over every thing you wrote. I saw no caveat.
(2) You repeat the same statement at the end of your last piece:
without any caveat.
(3) All the fanatics I listed are "true believers". By "true believers" I mean no amount of contrary evidence will ever change their minds about what they believe. I could also add Greenpeace and a many others. There are organizations, for instance, that support gun ownership that are not "true believers". These organizations manage to support the 2nd amendment without vilifying their opponents and with some understanding of the gun control position. The NRA is incapable of that. Not all NRA members are incapable of that, just the NRA hierarchy. Greenpeace exhibits another feature of many "true believer" organization. An analysis of their agenda leads you to the "hidden" agenda (hidden from themselves)...the only way to recreate a "pure" earth is to eliminate all human life....
As an iconoclast, I am constrained to point these things out.
You are correct about one thing. I am a fanatic about people who believe in the Emperor's new clothes. I enjoy pointing out his nudity. And, yes, quite occasionally, I get busted by other iconoclasts. We all have our own fashion problems.
Here's the caveat, in context:
I know, I know, but websites that copy the candidate's look - exactly - and the candidate's team doesn't say anything about copyright infringement? Now that's new (and I've been following politics for a long time.) I may be wrong but I don't think so,..."
But really, dude, it's no biggie.
I'd just like to say that I went into the ER one afternoon, was transferred to Johns Hopkins that night, and scheduled for surgery the next day. My surgeon postponed it for two days since I was incredibly anemic - and my insurance company tried to weasel out of paying those two hospital days since the surgery was postponed (they paid in the end). I had my first chemo before I left the hospital.
Not to argue that my case was typical, but it didn't take very long to get the surgery apporved, scheduled, and performed (they did it on MLK day ... damn, six years ago this week, I just realized that).
Er. "but it didn't take very long to get the surgery approved, scheduled, and performed"
Must learn to use 'preview'...
T, am I reading this correctly? Are you basing your claim that Obama believes in The Secret on the fact that a website that looks like his website has a page about The Secret and the Obama campaign hasn't sued? That's some pretty shaky reasoning.
If not, I'll repeat a question other people have asked: what are you basing this claim on? Provide some actual evidence, please. So far all you have done is reiterate your claim without actually demonstrating it in any way.
thanks for blogging, Orac. Seriously. breast cancer and cancer run in my family, and I know the temptations of woo all too well myself. breast cancer killed both my grandmothers, and my mother is too scared to be tested. i keep reading and educating myself so i can educate my kids. thank you for all this information.