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When I’m 64

Very few things in this world scare me and Cancer is one of them. More than once in the past couple of weeks I have heard a startling number about the rates of cancer. 1 in 3.

One in three people in this world will develop some kind of cancer. The big C. I try not to let it overtake my thoughts, but you have to know that it’s frightening. I’m particularly sensitive since the death of my mother from Cancer 3 years ago. Both my grandparents died about a year before and i’m not haunted by their memories as much as I am with my mother. Sure you could say “well it’s because it’s your mother” and the pain of losing someone so close never leaves you. And I wouldn’t disagree with you one bit. It is however something more to the fact that she died much younger than my grandparents. They were older. My grandmother who had a slew of health issues died at 85 years, my grandfather who had several heart attacks and type-2 diabetes died at 91.

My mother had just turned 64.

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I think about how unfair it was, but remind myself that life isn’t fair. It never was, and it’s funny that we as human constantly seek out this urge for fairness. It’s innate. (Read Your Brain at Work by David Rock) Life, and this universe, is random. To cope with that scary notion we humans have developed several mechanisms that include the illusion of control, and even spirituality and religion.

I digress, I stumbled upon an article that said that taking baking soda and raising your pH levels is one way to fight cancer. While I am generally curious about natural methods for preventing disease I read it with sincere curiosity and utter disbelief. After googling “Does baking soda cure cancer” I read this article that I wanted to share because I found it so absurd. Not the article itself, but that it needs to exists: Cancer Research UK published the 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked. 

My feelings about this article was shock and sadness.  These myths seem to give people a sense of control over cancer that otherwise doesn’t exist. Most of the research into medicine offers percentages of efficacy by taking large enough samples and applying it to whole populations – there is an understanding that people on a individualistic level respond differently to well everything. Simply put from chemotherapy to taking vitamins, the science can say that it is X% effective in doing what it needs to do, but individually your body could respond better or worse than that percentage. Meaning that perhaps there is one person that gave themselves a coffee enema and it helped with their cancer, it doesn’t mean we should be all be bending over at the oncology office and have Cafe Verona shot up our bums.

These myths implant ideas that natural ways to cure cancer are more effective than they actually are, and gives people the false hope that by adopting these homeopathic practices and avoiding scientifically proven treatment they will cure themselves.

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I have to admit I found the “baking soda cures cancer” bit interesting because I am always looking for natural ways to improve myself. I have high cholesterol so I google ways to lower my cholesterol naturally. I’m considered a deep google researcher going to pages 5 and 6, sometimes as far as page 10 on google to see what’s out there. I’ve stayed away from certain foods, increased my intake on others, drink more fibre, eat more fibre, eat less sugar, eat less eggs. And the more I read about it the more confusing it gets. Some people swear by some things, others say it has no effect. In my case there is no harm in trying. It’s just my cholesterol – and all other indicators of heart disease are low in my case – so I don’t mind drinking bird seed powder for a month.

But Cholesterol is not Cancer. What I found so troublesome was Cancer shouldn’t be treated like it could be dealt with so casually. So superficially. There is a reason people say “it’s as serious as Cancer.”

I remember in the last weeks of my mother’s life I ended up watching a documentary called The Beautiful Truth which talks about alternative cancer treatment the Gerson Therapy. This therapy includes the coffee enemas (in case you were wondering why I would even joke about shooting coffee grinds up your rectum.)  Part of me, that ever hopeful-naive-I wish I could control everything around me-type, thought maybe if my mother knew about this, it would have helped somehow. Even a little.

My wife once told me this Russian saying “Hope is the last thing to die,” and I guess if you are losing someone so precious to you you can’t help but wonder what sort of miracle drug or remedy is out there. What do you have to lose, when you seemingly are close to losing everything?

We just want to believe that the earth will provide us with everything we need. But science has. And science is a part of this earth. It reminds me of that old joke about the man standing on his roof waiting for God to help him, while his town is flooded. A raft, a boat and a helicopter all come to save him but he rebuffs them all saying “I believe in God, s/he will save me!” When the man gets to heaven he asks God why he didn’t come and save him, he had believed in God all his life, why had he forsaken him? To which, as I’m sure you already know, God replied “Who do you think sent you the raft, boat and helicopter?”

It’s amazing that our days of selling snake oil are still here. And part of me believes that with the power of the Internet it has only grown exponentially. There is a sucker born every minute and there is someone online every minute of every day. And that’s why articles from Cancer Research UK are out there.  For every counter-culture alternative idea out there, science needs to swing back.

When I get older, losing my hair many years from now, will I be lucky enough to be in that 66%? Will I find myself trying to do whatever it takes to cure myself? Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

For now I’ll stick with the bird seeds.

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