Tag Archives: commercialism

Support My Site in September and get My Book Free!

Staring at my budget with blurred eyes and a brain addled by a host of fun chemicals, I have to pinch myself and remind myself there are reasons that I chose the long game; there are reasons I passed over GoFundMe or GiveForward or any of the other single-goal fundraising websites my friends have used wisely to bridge specific financial gaps. I’ve seen those sites work super effectively, raising $3,000 or more in less than a week while targeting figures high enough to cover a host of potential costs ahead. For those friends, who would be “out of the woods” in a few months or so, where all their resources will be expended in a concentrated time, I think the outreach and the community reciprocity is amazing and a great testament to compassion within our social groups. But I’m not hard-wired that way, and my condition is not so neatly tied up in a closed time-frame.

Longer stretch, earning smaller frequent support goals

img_20151130_120725At this point, though it could change, I am on this merry-go-round every three weeks until I die — preferably quite a few years from now. And while I am still riding my chosen horse (a big, jet-black unicorn with a dangerously sharp silver horn, if you must know), I have a lot that I want to accomplish. I can’t manage a job for more than an hour or two most mornings, so I haven’t been traditionally employed for over two years. And yet, I have so much work to do! Like my book on living well with advanced cancer, getting on with life in spite of new limitations and finding the very best of ourselves along theway. Continue reading Support My Site in September and get My Book Free!

Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem

I’ve heard a lot lately about fears that a conspiracy is being perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry and the government to keep natural cancer cures (and natural or holistic care in general) away from patients. It makes for a dramatic story with lots of Hollywood appeal, but examining the accusations leads down a more insidious path. To get there and understand the full extent of the problem, we need to step back and look at a range of sub-industries within the healthcare umbrella, what they provide and how they intertwine. We also need to understand some basics about statistics and probability that will clarify what some of the facts surrounding this conspiracy really mean. [And when you are done reading this, please continue on with the next chapter in this ongoing series.]

Supplementing the Truth

To begin with, let’s examine the hugely profitable supplements industry (mentioned in Forbes’ SportsMoney column as one of the fastest growing industries in the world). “Natural health” advocates and self-proclaimed gurus often have their own supplement brands which they sell as part of  treatment plans pushed on their web sites, or they have affiliate arrangements with a brand that they offer as being somehow superior to other brands. The supplement industry has grown from the notion that manufactured (or synthetic) vitamins could be used to supplement areas in the diet where a person was not able to consume adequate quantities to be healthy. In an indirect way, it can be traced back hundreds of years to the discovery that citrus fruit — particularly lemons — could prevent sailors from getting scurvy. It turned out that scurvy was a disease caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. By “supplementing” this vitamin, the disease could be avoided. Continue reading Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem

Girls Literature and the Culture of What’s Wrong With Me?

I have a daughter and I care what she reads. From her earliest days, books have been an important part of her life. She’s ten now and I still read to her regularly, though she reads voraciously on her own (and far more than I ever was able as a child, since she reads like lightning when left to her own device-free devices). That kid can devour stories, though lately has taken to being very choosy with her time. If a book doesn’t hook her, it goes back to the library unfinished. She wants to be sucked in; once she is engaged she absolutely must finish. Because it matters, I am always concerned with the messages in the stories she finds most enticing.

When she chooses her books, her mother and I try to be aware of the content and whether there is an underlying theme of “what’s wrong with me?” running through the pages. More and more, it seems easy to identify this theme almost as its own genre in children’s and specifically girls’ literature. The seeds of necessary therapy are sown implicitly between the lines as books for these young readers guide them to feeling less than adequate, training them for a life of unnecessarily pursuing products to fix themselves. This is a predictable byproduct of corporate America, where publishing is largely controlled by conglomerates that feed revenue streams in any way possible. Branding and downstream profits are the backbone of our consumer culture. But feeding this beast is optional. Continue reading Girls Literature and the Culture of What’s Wrong With Me?

How My First Year of Chemotherapy Changed My Christmas Wish for You

The holidays are upon us and I am sitting at my keyboard two days after my latest infusion, my brain awash in a heady mix of chemo drugs and residual steroids. I can feel the moisture in my nasal passages dissipating as it tends to do at this time, my eyes drying up along with them. Food doesn’t taste as profound and I gravitate toward sweeter options just to find them more palatable, or more bitter options because that bitterness is only intensified. But aside from a slight sleepiness that keeps threatening to overtake me, I’m actually feeling pretty good, very happy and more or less alert… And I’ve been thinking about this whole holiday thing since I was in the chair at the clinic, watching the drip come slowly down that long tube.

Snowman Believe
This snowman has some good advice at his fingertips.

I’m a big fan of Christmas. Always have been. Not the commercial side of it, so much, but that is because consumerism and gluttony always rub me the wrong way. And not the religious side of it, so much, because dogma rubs me the wrong way, too. But the spirit of Christmas, that I do love. The concepts of peace, unification, giving — and taking the time with family and friends to focus on the love, joy and small miracles of life — these are very good things, indeed.

Every year I try to look at these positive elements (that should be) exemplified by the holiday. I think it is important to contemplate the meaning of Christmas, even from a secular perspective. This time around, there is little doubt that my views and my wishes have been influenced by my treatment. Here is my Christmas wish for you. Continue reading How My First Year of Chemotherapy Changed My Christmas Wish for You

The Myth of the Wellness Warrior

Please note, this is Part One of a series. Click here to jump to Part Two or follow the link at the end of this post. Part Two contains some very important information that greatly expands upon some of what is raised here.

Somehow I managed to miss the name Candice-Marie Fox when I was going through earlier research on foods that are claimed to cure cancer, of which her pineapple diet ranks as one of the more ludicrous. Through the grapevine, I learned of this diet yesterday and immediately I wanted to find out if there was anything plausible about it. Certainly, pineapple is healthy to eat and it is often used for digestive issues due to its enzymatic activity, so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. Of course, I did not expect that there would be an actual cure in there, but maybe I could ascertain some actual benefits to the diet that transcended my initial skepticism. I was excited about this possibility; less so about discovering one more person preparing to cash in on a faux cure.

Pineapple is good for you.

A quick Google search brought up hundreds of articles online about how this woman, Candice-Marie Fox, a former model (always in the lead of the story), beat “Stage 3” or “Stage 4” (depending on the article) thyroid cancer by “ditching her husband” and eating a diet dominated by pineapple and other fruits. As is often the case in this sort of story, even as it is translated into multiple languages, the text is almost identical from web site to web site. And most of those articles can be traced back to a source in that British rag called the Daily Mail — not exactly a solid, investigative news source.

A few other “news” outlets picked the story up. It makes great click bait, after all. But fascinatingly, these actual news stories manage to get a whole bunch of facts wrong. Which is not surprising, as the former model herself seems to trip over her own facts many times, even in interviews on other web sites after her celebrity began to grow.

Continue reading The Myth of the Wellness Warrior

Integrative Medicine, Positive Care and Negative Ramifications

If we, as a society, could allocate just an additional $120 million each year toward research and development of new cancer treatments, that would seem like a great idea. Because there is a lot of money out there already directed at existing therapies, running clinical trials of proven concepts and supporting the refinement of effective treatments already in existence, it also seems like a great idea to take this $120 million and direct it toward new concepts and approaches that are not yet mainstreamed into Western Medicine. This is the reason, I suspect, that over the past twenty years or so, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has morphed into Integrative Medicine and has been granted enormous research subsidies and acceptance within many mainstream health institutions. Allocating even a mere $120 million is a huge responsibility, so it also seems like it would be a great idea to carefully vet the areas on which the funding will be spent.

Here is some amazing news: the actual amount of government funding for research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2015 and 2016 has reached $369 and $378 million annually, according to the National Institute of Health. This should be a Golden Age of Medical Advancement! Sizable annual funding being made available outside of the mainstream of modern medicine must be the answer to why there has been no definitive Cancer Cure.

Only it isn’t. And the reason is Continue reading Integrative Medicine, Positive Care and Negative Ramifications

Changing the Narrative Through Language

In conversation with my mother, we began talking, as we often do, about politics. She related to me a story about how at a dinner party recently the topic of Ted Cruz came up and how he was receiving support from some of the more conservative members of the dinner party. One of the things that they raised as a positive issue was his opposition to gay marriage, in spite of the fact that, apparently, there were several gay or lesbian friends at this party. That alone seemed pretty uncool, but tact isn’t the point here. My mother’s response was that it isn’t the place of the government to police lifestyle options or the choice of homosexuals to publicly live that way. This is where I put the breaks on the conversation. Lifestyle options and choice are not matters that truly, empirically figure into the equation of whether homosexual, transgender or bisexual individuals are deserving of the same rights and privileges of their sexually straight counterparts, by which I mean fellow citizens. These words are linguistic tools that actually hamper the progress of our understanding by being misleading and, ultimately serve to enforce the stereotypes that the Far Right uses to suppress rights of individuals. As long as the narrative remains unchanged, progress does not occur. Continue reading Changing the Narrative Through Language

The True Meaning of Christmas, or Don’t Let Religion Ruin the Holidays

Christmas is quickly coming upon us — at least those of us who celebrate the holiday. True believers, and by that I do not necessarily mean believers in Truth, will have us know that this is the time when we celebrate the birth of their favorite martyr, Jesus Christ. They will tell you that the focus of this holiday is meant to be upon the deeds and messages of the Christ, and they will occasionally complain about the commercialized nature of the holiday. On that last point, I agree with them wholeheartedly. Too many people seem to believe that Christmas is about celebrating excess consumerism, branded marketing and petty indulgences. Yet the real meaning of the holiday isn’t exactly either of those extremes.
Continue reading The True Meaning of Christmas, or Don’t Let Religion Ruin the Holidays

When Being Unfortunate is Good Fortune

People talk about luck all the time. Good luck that this happened, bad luck that that happened. It is spoken of as if “luck” is an actual thing, with a consciousness or purpose. Yet, rationally, we should all understand that luck does not exist. There is “chance.” There are “odds.” But there is no such thing as luck outside of an emotional response to fortune (or lack of it). That is to say, one might feel fortunate if, for instance, one were to be diagnosed with a chronic disease early enough to do something to stem the tide, or live in a country where the survival rates are generally above 50 percent and increasing rather than decreasing.

Of course, there are those who would be in a wealthy country with cutting edge healthcare and an early diagnosis who would still only see their personal misfortune with such a diagnosis. But this isn’t about those pathetically myopic individuals, this is about the reason we should be glad we don’t live in India. And if you happen to be reading this from within the borders of India, my apologies, but hopefully you are a politically motivated activist with the means to make your voice heard.
Continue reading When Being Unfortunate is Good Fortune

Rejecting Research Is Never a Good Option

As a person living with cancer, I get suggestions all the time to look at non-medical treatments. By this, I mean mainly nutritional or holistic approaches that are meant to directly replace the use of “Western” medicine. Each suggestion comes with an anecdotal reference to someone who was “cured” by these methods, which range from the clearly bizarre to sensible health choices. Digging deeper, of course, reveals that every verifiable success story includes the use of early surgery or extensive chemo and radiation therapies.

And none of them, so far, have applied directly to my particular brand of cancer.

It doesn’t bother me so much to

Continue reading Rejecting Research Is Never a Good Option