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.

To begin with, she does not seem to know anything about thyroid cancer staging. Aside from being reported somewhat arbitrarily, for thyroid cancer, she could not have been beyond a Stage 2. Unlike other cancers, thyroid cancer is staged based in part on the patient’s age and there is a hard and fast rule for papillary thyroid cancer, the type she claims to have beaten, that if she is under age 45 it can only be Stage 1 or Stage 2. In fact, she picked one of the most survivable and highly curable cancers about which to make her claims. In the news pieces and further postings she made across social media and in interviews, she repeats that she was given a five-year expectancy with her supposedly terminal diagnosis, yet papillary thyroid cancer has a 93% survival rate at ten years, and if you adjust for age and other risk factors, her survival rate would actually increase to 98% at 20 years. Part of the reason for this is that thyroid cancer is among the slowest growing cancers out there, so considering that she was “diagnosed” in 2011 — and immediately had both surgery and radiation therapy, which she confirms in virtually every version of her story — it is no surprise that she is still doing well. That is 100% within all logical expectations, even with minimal treatment.

So what makes her story even slightly compelling? She claims that the surgery and radiation therapy actually caused her cancer to spread to her liver and lungs. Later she admitted that the liver tumor was unrelated and benign, though I am still not quite clear on what the lung issue actually was. When scans are done, there are often numerous areas that look as though they could be additional tumors. Without biopsies of each site, however, it is often impossible to know whether there is a lesion, infection, cyst or tumor in any given “spot” on a scan. That is one reason scans are compared over time. Spotting comes and goes depending on what our bodies are up to. I had a spot on my liver in an early scan and my oncologist had the good sense not to make an issue of it, although he brought it up after a later scan to mention that it had disappeared — and only because I am particularly inquisitive about the scans and what they show. Typically, they show lots of things that could be issues, but the scans alone don’t verify that those things are issues.

In her story, it is also clear that the first “diagnosis” she got was not from a doctor, but from a technician who did a scan (apparently in Australia, if I read it correctly, while she was on vacation). Aside from not being a doctor, technicians (at least in the US) are generally prohibited from discussing the scans they perform for very good reasons. Chief among these is, well, they are not qualified. So getting info from a computer guy who has no real medical training and just has learned to notice spots on a scan is probably not the best way to learn about what is going on internally. But in this case, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an utter lack of critical thinking skills.

In an interview (posted on the Daily Mail site with the article), she even goes so far as to reference the acid/alkaline balance as a cause of cancer, along with emotional toxicity. While these are thoroughly debunked issues, it doesn’t stop the many markets that want to run with this story because, heck, it feels good to suggest that one of the easiest to cure cancers could be soundly defeated by juice. Which brings us to the point where Chris Beat Cancer steps in as a booster for this nonsense. Chris Wark, author of that site, cynically pushes alternatives to chemotherapy in order to take advantage of marketing partnerships and affiliate programs. His story as a colon-cancer survivor revolves around his personal refusal to get chemotherapy after being ostensibly cured by surgery. His cancer had not yet metastasized, being only Stage 3, and thus he is basing his success on avoiding a pre-emptive round of chemo. Beyond that, his own introductory video establishes a profound lack of scientific understanding as well as a lack of understanding of the history of cancer.

A reminder: the increase in cancer rates as compared to 100 years ago is almost entirely due to two factors. First, we live considerably longer and cancer is mainly going to show up in older populations. Second, we diagnose it better. 100 years ago, people did not live long enough to get cancer, much less die from it. 100 years ago, most people did not live in areas with the technology to actually diagnose (much less treat) cancer. Therefore, claiming that cancer death rates have tripled in the past 100 years because we don’t eat the same way is beyond stupid. That is like blaming the “healthy diet” of 100 years ago for the fact that most people died pretty dang young by modern standards. But this is the sort of logic you get from Chris Wark. Sure, his site carries a disclaimer that he is not a doctor and is just giving information he thinks will be helpful, but the certainty and authority with which he disseminates the so-called information is thoroughly misleading and pretty horrible all around.

Chris opted for an idiotic use of carrot juice to “beat” the cancer that had already been removed from his body rather than subject himself to proactive chemotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society, chemotherapy following surgery for Stage 3 colorectal cancer “works by killing the small number of cancer cells that may have been left behind at surgery because they were too small to see. Adjuvant chemo is also aimed at killing cancer cells that might have escaped from the main tumor and settled in other parts of the body (but are too small to see on imaging tests).” This is what Chris opted out of, and it may take years for any cancer cells that were left behind to metastasize and turn into viable tumors. For his sake, I hope this does not happen. If it does, it will not be a surprise. Sadly, if it does, it will be much harder to treat than his initial cancer.

As for the carrot juice approach, it is absolutely stupid on a number of levels (as are other diet-based alternative therapies), but one of the more interesting bits of information may be that beta-carotene, one of the main reasons that many people increase their carrot juice uptake, is potentially dangerous and may itself cause cancer. Granted, getting beta-carotene from carrots is not likely to cause cancer, but it is an ironic twist that the link exists. My greater concerns are for my liver, kidneys and bladder, and my overall pigment. Yet food-based “cures” are promoted all over the InterWebs, each with their own special brand of twisting logic against science. At the helm of this enterprise stands the multi-million dollar empire of Mercola.com and whatever it is trying to sell this week. “Dr.” Mercola has a range of pretense for why pineapples should be good for fighting cancer, and has latched onto this latest trend. As one might expect, Candice-Marie Fox relies on some of the out-of-context research and information that Mercola hosts (whether or not she got her info there is irrelevant). The propagation of this kind of idiocy has certainly helped lead to the rise of the “Wellness Warrior” sub-culture that has taken root over the past few years.

Fortunately, this movement has not been entirely without its critics. While the number of sites promoting unscientific food-based cures vastly outnumber the sites that actually look at the real truth of what foods can and cannot do, and more importantly, are directly critical of each of these various diets or lifestyles, that can be partly attributed to the fact that the reasoned and thoughtful sites that go into factual evidence and rely on proper scientific thought tend to also be original content, while the sites promoting the potentially dangerous lifestyle-based cures mostly just copy one another.

An article in the Huffington Post recently asked the very important question of why a person would fake cancer online. The answer, apparently, is fame — and book sales, speaking engagements, perhaps even a television show. (I’ll admit, that’s all stuff I want, too, but I won’t lie or defraud anyone to get it.) That article focuses on Belle Gibson, who purportedly made a lot of money off her big lie of curing a brain cancer that she never actually had. Do not buy her book, The Whole Pantry. But even without actually lying, many of this new breed of wellness warrior spreads damaging information and often appears to see what they want to see, even when they are clearly wrong. People like Jess Ainscough, who spend years following useless regimens like Gerson Therapy and blogging about how great they feel, delude themselves into thinking that this alternative and “natural” therapy is working, only to die because they never get treated. And yet, Jess Ainscough had (and probably retains) a huge following of believers who want to make themselves better by doing what she did (not the last part, of course).

Part of the problem with the wellness warrior culture is not just the self-delusion involved with selling it, but rather the fact that it is surprisingly lucrative. Just like Belle Gibson and Jess Ainscough before her, Candice-Marie Fox continues to build her dubious brand in spite of criticism that is being largely ignored. As long as the money is promising, the truth will likely be kept at bay as long as possible.


 

And now there is more… follow up with Part Two: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem.

If this post resonates with you, please consider supporting me by subscribing to my feed on Patreon, or a one-time donation through PayPal. Follow me on TwitterFacebook, Tumbler and many other fancy social sites or apps. Please share my posts to groups you are involved with on Reddit or Google+ or anywhere else that you feel it will help or enlighten or inspire another reader.

Thank you!

41 thoughts on “The Myth of the Wellness Warrior

  1. disagree with you 100%….chemo and radiation would never be an alternative in my life…to burn and poison your body for healing is quackery….

    1. I appreciate that you have strong opinions about chemotherapy and radiation, and perhaps you know somebody who had a bad experience with those treatments, but they are far from quackery. In truth, they are very effective and proven treatments that sometimes cure and usually offer the best hope for an extended, good quality of life. There are times, of course, when either chemo or radiation might be the wrong choice for a patient.

      What you might not realize is that loads of “natural” things are just as toxic or even more toxic than chemotherapy drugs. What makes chemo so special is that, while it is toxic, it is administered in a controlled fashion that essentially targets the cancer while minimizing harm to the rest of the body. Some people barely have any side effects. Others have big side effects. I fall somewhere in the middle. But at the end of the day, for most patients, chemo does its job. And this is where the post above matters, because none of these alternative treatments discussed will do anything to cure cancer, much less even prolong a good quality life. Because I am doing chemotherapy, I have a very reasonable chance of seeing my daughter grow up. Yes, it means that every three weeks I am going to have a couple days where I don’t feel my best, and it means that for a long time I won’t have my full levels of energy, but it also means that I won’t be dead and missing all the joy I experience every single day (infusion weeks included). Had I chosen otherwise, there is about a zero to 1 percent chance that I would be writing anything, because statistically I should be dead right about now.

      Happily, those statistics are changing dramatically with new chemotherapies and even better with new targeted genetic therapies and immunotherapies. Radiation, too, is much more targeted these days and many tumors are treated with radiation that is less invasive and less harmful even than surgery. Quite simply, what is possible today is like the science fiction of not that many years ago.

      I hope that you are never in a situation where you need to consider either radiation or chemotherapy, but if you are, then I hope you are willing to look at those options with an open mind because, frankly, what you think they are is quite likely not what they really are.

        1. Thank you, Rob. I hope those who would benefit are able to find this page. There is so much misinformation and fear out there, sometimes it is hard to see past all the clutter.

        1. Anabela,

          Thank you for your comment. I appreciate knowing how my readers feel, though it is admittedly more useful if they offer some reasonable explanation for their feelings. I can assure you, however, that my writing is not in any way paid by the pharmaceutical industry. I operate this site with the specific intention of helping to educate fellow patients, caregivers and their friends and loved ones, as well as to dispel fears that many encounter with regard to this very daunting condition. If you bothered to read more of this blog, you would probably have figured that out on your own, but the ease and rapidity with which you discount this particular posting does imply that a) you are guided by confirmation bias and therefore are unable to look at the actual information presented or b) you did not actually read the entire posting. The information I present is factually correct and I offer links to verify what I write. I also make a point of being civil and respectful, though I will admit there are times when stronger, more blunt language is warranted. Your comment, with its snide insinuation, suggests to me that you either have not taken the time to learn about biological science or you have a vested interest in keeping people ignorant about the dangers posed by people such as those I profiled above. Either way, I do hope that you are able to put your preconceptions aside and make smart decisions for yourself (without any knee-jerk reactions) if the need arises in the future. May you and those you love stay in good health.

          1. I’m approving this anonymously spiteful comment by “Daddio” because I think it illustrates a point that fear and ignorance breed hate, which is easiest to dispense when one’s identity is hidden. No thought is required, no evaluation; just supporting one’s own confirmation bias and making a quickly dashed-off, insensitive comment. I find it hard to take this too personally (even though it is another comment that appears to wish me ill for the simple fact that I have attempted to reveal the danger of following the advice of con-artists) because there is nothing about the comment that indicates the person posting it will have any further thought on the subject. It is typical of Internet Trolls that they hide their identity because they know what they have to say is not valid, will not hold up to scrutiny and, if they did reveal themselves, they might feel obligated to be at least remotely polite or risk letting the world see their inner ugliness.

            Not everyone who disagrees with me is like that, of course. Many of my own friends hold opinions that I cannot agree with, and that is fine. I love a good conversation and a good debate, and that requires differing perspectives. However, one thing I have noticed is that it is very common for people who are in the throws of the “alternative medicine religion” to anonymously attack anyone who threatens to expose that industry for what it is. I’m not damning all those who believe in more natural healing, either; I support a well-rounded and functioning system of care. But I don’t support liars and charlatans and that is why I try to educate on this subject. There is far too much misinformation out there and it is my hope that I can do something positive that will really help people.

            For those of you who actually read these comments, I want you to know that I value input and thoughtful comments very much.

  2. I am currently beating cancer naturally. You are a mindless negative idiot. I’m trying to figure out what you have to gain by being such an ignorant asshole. When you get cancer enjoy your chemo. It’s wonderful.

    1. Alan,

      I am very happy to hear that you are having success treating your cancer. When you say that you are “beating cancer naturally,” do you mean that you have already gone through medical treatment with an oncologist, and now are managing your cancer through healthy lifestyle choices, or do you mean that you have completely forgone a medical approach and instead you are self-treating through diet and exercise? Of course, if you are taking any form of pills or injections, you are no longer treating your cancer “naturally,” because something has been modified in the process, even if the product source is a “natural” one. Either way, if your process is working and you can verify that it is working through measurable CT scans or similar means, I would be very anxious to hear about it. Also, I hope that you are still consulting with an oncologist who can ensure that you are actually reducing the cancer and not merely masking the effects of progression.

      I do appreciate your critique, though I would like to point out that the claims I criticized in my posting above were all demonstrably false. I’m not sure how that makes me ignorant, nor how it implies something negative about my character. I do get the feeling, however, that you did not take the time to fully read this posting, and certainly you did not take the time to read through the other posts in this blog, for if you had there is a good chance you would have had the answer with regard to what I have to gain by writing it. You would have noted, if you had taken a few brief minutes to rationally assess the issue, that I already have cancer and I have been on chemotherapy for over a year. My particular cancer, Stage 4 metastatic adenocarcinoma, is one of the most common “killers” in the cancer world and, untreated, I would probably have been dead months ago. Had I made a fear-based decision to avoid or even post-pone chemotherapy, it would have allowed the cancer to progress to the point of no return. Instead, I was fortunate enough to receive the diagnosis before the cancer had completely taken over my lungs, bones and lymph system, and through the use of chemotherapy I have been able to dramatically reduce the presence of cancer cells as well as to increase my overall health.

      I don’t believe that I would be in the position I am today if I had maintained a negative attitude, as you suggest. Indeed, if you read through my blog you will find a number of postings that focus on the importance of a positive attitude when undergoing treatment. An odd byproduct of my own cancer experience is that I am happier today than I was before my diagnosis. While I won’t agree with you that chemo is wonderful (yes, I recognized your sarcasm), I will suggest that it is not nearly as bad as many people — especially those selling “alternative” treatments — will have you believe. Certainly, it sucks, but the payoff is totally worthwhile.

      I genuinely hope that things continue to work out for you. Please make sensible choices and remember that, as patients, we still have some responsibility to those we care about and who care for us — don’t follow the path of Jess Ainscough, eschewing tests that would have shown her cancer to be progressing because of her blind belief in a debunked therapy. And please try not to react in anger when something challenges your preconceptions — that sort of behavior will never help you find true healing.

  3. Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer? If so, when, and please provide your cancer and course of treatment, and whether you’re still treating or have concluded. I’d like to hear your success story.

    1. Yes, Marisa. I am living with Stage 4 lung cancer, for which I received my diagnosis in November of 2014. You can read about it here:
      http://justbadforyou.com/blog/negativity-positively-best-interest/

      I have only been able to use chemotherapy at this point. It had spread too far for radiation to be an option and surgery would not affect the metastases at all, and so the risk was not worth it. I have been on chemo (Alimta now, previously Alimta and Carboplatin), quite happily, for over a year. If the cancer progresses again, there are several new immunotherapy options available — but I am hoping to wait until there are even more choices on the market that are still getting their approvals.

  4. Because this post continues to be among my most popular, I went back and looked at some web sites related to the characters I discussed here. I found a particularly sad story about Jess Ainscough and her mother that I think is worth reading: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/10/17/sharyn-ainscough-dies-tragically-because-she-followed-the-example-of-her-daughter-the-wellness-warrior/

    Well before Jessica died as a result of Gerson therapy (or, because of using Gerson therapy instead of surgery in spite of the fact that Gerson therapy only made her sicker), her mother ALSO died of breast cancer because she followed her daughter’s example for about 2 1/2 years instead of treating her cancer in a proper medical fashion.

    NEITHER Jess, nor her mother lived any longer than would be expected without treatment. Breast cancer left untreated has an average expectancy of 2 1/2 years, almost exactly what her mother got after subjecting herself to the horrors of Gerson therapy (and truly, the way Jess described it on her blog sounds much, much worse than anything I experienced on chemotherapy). The sarcoma Jess had would have had the potential for surviving between 5 and 10 years untreated, because it was particularly slow growing. Needless to say, she did not make it anywhere near to that 10 year mark. And she only got as far as she did because she had a radical chemo treatment at the beginning which almost eradicated the cancer. Once she was on the Gerson therapy, however, every “flare up” was attributed to “healing” — which is one of the more horrible things I have read recently, since the reality was that she was suffering needless complications caused by the growing cancer and a blocked lymphatic system.

    Had I come across that article on Sharyn Ainscough while researching her daughter, I dare say that my post here would have been much harsher than it already is. People who push these alternative treatments as viable cures are causing direct harm to innocent patients. It is tragic that so many people follow their advice, thinking that they are doing something healthy for themselves and avoiding the “terror” of modern medicine, when in fact medical treatments offer a safer and more effective, proven form of treatment.

    1. sir, upon reading all comments, how can you say that her mother lived only 2 years. What assurance does one have or you can give them that they will live longer…I have seen people die within 1 month of chemo and radiation, and have gone through nothing but misery with these treatments….I have informed my family that IF ever I should be diagnosed with any type of cancer, there will NOT be any chemo or radiation for me…..I have lived with Diabetes for 7 years, only 2 months with medication…and I took control of it, not it controlling me… .just watching what I eat and how much…I have educated myself on what we have on earth that God left for us naturally….and what vegetable is good for what, and what herb is good for what….what vitamins, minerals, that our bodies need and lacking and what gets rid of inflammation, and all the toxins, we have been give from vaccines and flu shots…I was also suffering from thyroid and I have educated myself what I need for my immune system….the doctors are very pleased with my numbers and want to know what I have been taking….keep on doing what I am doing, they say….so please don’t say that medical treatments offer safer and more effective, because they caused all the side effects and destroyed other organs… I will not be dependent on any drug to control anything…..and I will not allow any poison in my body…I think we have enough of that already…

      1. You must have type 2 Diabetes, which can be controlled through diet. That’s awesome that you have been able to get off medication! However type 1 diabetics cannot survive without insulin as their pancreas does not produce insulin. (I have family members that are type 1 diabetics.) Luckily great strides are being made and the artificial pancreas may soon be a reality!

      2. Ms De La Rosa, I am glad to hear that you are living well with diabetes, but you clearly do not understand the nature of cancer (or rather, the natures of cancers) and how they are best treated.

        As for your questions/comments, let me try to address them as simply as possible. I mention that the mother lived for “only” two years because that was the fact of her death — and it is what would have been expected for deliberately not treating the cancer while treatment would probably have extended her life, based on the stage of her disease, for many, many years and she would probably have died of something unrelated. Certainly, people can die within a month of treatment when they have not begun treatment until it is too late to do anything except hope for a few extra months or that one-in-a-million “miracle” we occasionally see. But if you don’t get diagnosed until the spread is virtually unstoppable, there is no intellectually honest way to compare that to a stage one or two diagnosis. Your anecdote is based on experience with patients having a very advanced cancer, not an early diagnosis, and it is utterly flabbergasting to me that people still cannot automatically note the difference. If you have stage four lung cancer and you are coughing up blood and in massive pain when you finally get diagnosed, you have no where near the chance of survival that even a similar stage four patient has where no symptoms are yet noticeable.

        But I must say, for your own sake, if you ever do get a diagnosis of cancer, please, please do not think you can eat it away by researching the best cancer diet or taking herbs. No tea, no tincture, no special meal that you make at home will cure cancer. You cannot cure cancer with food or herbs, period, ever. You can help your body through diet, certainly; you can support your immune system and your natural healing abilities, but because cancer is a natural process gone wild, because cancer is not foreign to your own body, you will need help killing it.

        And, yes, medical treatments offer safer and more effective ways of treating cancer than anything else out there. Why is that? Because the “other stuff” out there does not work. If it did, it would be called medicine.

        I appreciate that you want to keep your body free of toxins. But even natural foods are often toxic, many herbs are toxic, and that includes those which are recommended for medicinal purposes by herbalists, naturopaths and the like. Things like mistletoe, for example, which is an oft-used cancer therapy, is often poisonous when eaten. Even many herbal teas found in grocery stores can be highly toxic in large amounts. Chemotherapy is given under extremely controlled circumstances to mitigate toxicity. The goal is to kill the cancer while keeping the patient as healthy as possible. But it is a very particular process that is often nasty to endure — the end result, however, is usually an extension of life and often an end of the cancer with a lifetime ahead that would not have otherwise been an option.

        And this is not even addressing the latest immunotherapies that often have little or no toxic effect on the patient. More and more, your fears about being poisoned as a means of cancer treatment make zero sense. The advances in cancer science over the past two decades are astounding.

        I am glad your health is good and I hope it stays that way, but you should not automatically disregard true science and reject legitimate treatment options just because you have seen treatment fail in extremely late-stage cases where treatment is going to be too-little, too-late to begin with. (There is no other explanation for patients dying within a month of beginning treatment, if they actually died from cancer.) Unlike type 2 diabetes, cancer can neither be controlled by or cured by diet. Nor can most diseases, whether viral, bacterial or genetic. The assumption that diet cures is one too many people make, foolishly dying as a result.

  5. There is so little actual timeline data in this case. Papillary carcinoma of the thyroid is very common and in fact as in prostate cancer in men it can be frequently found in autopsies of people that died of other causes. It may be quite indolent or it may grow rapidly and not all papillary carcinomas will ever grow or spread.

    I have seen numerous cases where a person with a suspicious thyroid nodule had a partial thyroidectomy. It might not have even been related to the nodule for which the procedure was done. In most of these cases no treatment is needed for an incidental finding of a low grade carcinoma that was entirely removed. I have been involved in the care of a couple of these patients myself and advised no therapy.

    And as you suggest incidental findings in body scans often lead to more tests of little value but more radiation exposure.

  6. It’s totally shocking to me how many people are out there pedalling extreme diets as cancer cures, but when you read up on their story only to find out they had formal medical treatment as well!!! Even Jess Ainscoughs fiance has said she was having radiotherapy at the end of her life!!
    When I got diagnosed a well meaning relative sent me a link to some god awful women call Eliane Godley who boast on her website that she was given a year to live because of Hodgkin lymphoma, that’s the equivalent of a diabetic turning round and saying that they were given a week to live when diagnosed, but you don’t see many diabetics describing there illness in this exaggerated way to get people to look at there blog.
    If I had read that when I was first diagnosed I would have been scared, but now that I know Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the best cancers to have (if you have to have one 😂) and the most curable so for her to write that is misleading and she claims she doesn’t believe in chemo but had to have it because it was stage 4 and then list all these other things she did, which she gives most of the credit to for her recovery. It’s like she’s taking the credit for all the scientist and doctors that put together her cure! How she can sleep at night I don’t know

    1. I also do not understand how some of these people can sleep at night, but I suppose it is a testament to the power of fear — especially when combined with a lack of education and critical thinking skills — that some can convince themselves these things are true (even when they should know better based on the evidence before them).

      Glad you are doing well!

  7. When I asked the purveyors of hormone/radiation what their success rate was in “curing” cancer, they said 33.3%; when I asked where they what they would be “radiating” they said the area where the prostate “used to be”. I said isn’t that like dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima… hoping to hit something and they said yes. I asked why they would aim there, and they said “it’s most likely” where the cancer is. When I asked what the side effects of Lupron hormone therapy were, they said “hot flashes, brain fog, fatigue, depression, brittle bones, incontinance rashes, etc”. So I said the conclusion is that they would basically radiate an area of my body with no idea what they were shooting at to hit a cancer that they had no idea if it existed and also give me hormone deprivation therapy that would really mess up my entire body, to attempt to kill a “suspected cancer” that they had no idea if it was still inside my body, and, by the way, if it is still there, the odds that we will fail are 66.6%! If you call this a viable solution, you must be part of the problem. I’ll be broke because no insurance will cover 100% of the cost, big Pharma will generate huge profits from a drug that fails 66.6% of the time, my quality of life plummets, and I will most likely die! America, what a country#

    1. Lorenzo, I’m sorry to hear that you have had a confusing and potentially frightening experience with regard to getting clear information on why your treatment was recommended. This sounds like a failure of communication, and it is the sort that gives the medical establishment a bad name. Sadly, not all doctors, regardless of their skill medically, are gifted with a good bedside manner, nor are they all particularly eloquent, much less skilled at the art of gracefully and compassionately explaining difficult details.

      If you stick with your treatment and it is successful, I have no doubt that you will be grateful in the end. Please don’t be put off by the statistics you were quoted. In reality, 33% is a pretty high rate of success for curing something when there is a next to zero chance of surviving without treatment — and even if you are not “cured” by the process, you may well have many long and healthy well-managed years ahead of you that, without treatment, you simply would not have. Also, when left untreated, a cancer can become quite painful and the resulting bodily failure would be a horrible ordeal. Radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy — all of these things actually work to improve quality of life over the alternative of not being treated. Not every patient responds the same way, not everyone is equally successful, but weathering the storm is better for most of us than just jumping ship at the first sign of rain.

      Best of luck.

  8. Hello. Interesting article. Would like to share something with you. A friend over 25 years ago was dx with CA. Was sent home and told to get her affairs in order. The CA was so advanced, they offered her no hope. She went home and researched. Changed her style of eating and outlook on life. Happy to say she is healthy today. She did not publicize what she did. But mainly she changed her eating style to include organic vegetables and fruit, and made sure she laughed every day!!

    1. Judy, I am very happy to hear that your friend has remained healthy. Without any information on the type of cancer, the actual staging and the treatments used, I cannot comment more deeply.

      There is a real benefit to eating healthy food and living a healthy lifestyle. And a positive, happy outlook will always benefit a patient in many ways (it is an ongoing theme in my blog). But neither diet nor attitude is a cure for cancer. Together, they certainly enhance any treatments and will increase the quality of life for a patient, but there are a lot of other blanks to fill in.

      I would love to hear more about your friend’s story — and possibly interview your friend as well, to get another perspective. But it is important to realize that cancer remains a very serious set of diseases that need to be approached with an oncologist.

      Thank you for sharing.

  9. Sounds like someone blogging for a pharmaceutical company.
    3rd lot of cancer for me in 10 years and after radiation and chemo each time It still comes back with a vengeance. ..didn’t quite kill it did it. The after effects I have to live with because of the damage chemo and radiation did to my body is unbearable at times. (Radiation damaged 40 percent of my bowel) . How dare someone tell me that I’m basically stupid for wanting to follow a natural, organic diet to try and help me this time around because the conventional method has failed me twice and made my daily life horrendous..

    1. Siouxi, thank you for your comments. First of all, I am sorry to hear that you have had a difficult time with your treatments and the repeated occurrence of cancer. That is always a concern that patients have, especially if the initial cancer had metastasized (as mine had) before the diagnosis. I have no idea what type of cancer you had or what stage you were diagnosed as, so I have very little to comment on. But I do want to assure you that I have never advocated for avoiding healthy lifestyle choices, nor have I ever advocated on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. I do, however, advocate for an understanding of science and a rational approach toward healthcare — even when we are in the midst of emotional times when it may be hard to listen to reason.

      You have been in this cycle for ten years — that is quite a long time. How long, do you think, it would have been if you had avoided chemotherapy and radiation and instead tried to eat your way to a cancer-free life? My guess is that you would have been dead a long time ago, but here you are, ten years later. The real question for you is, would you rather have lived two or five years and suffered the full effects of cancer spreading through your body, or deal with the quality of life issues that have been presented as side effects of your treatment? This is a real and honest concern that many patients have. And I invite you to discuss them with me, openly, on my podcast. I would be honored if you would be my guest for this discussion, and maybe your insights will help other patients face their own questions.

      I don’t think you are stupid for wanting to be healthy. I don’t think you are stupid for pursuing other options. But I do think you should examine what you mean by “failed” and what that means in terms of how conventional medicine may have helped you this far. It is also important to understand how treatments have changed over the past ten years, since your process began. I hope that you will read more on this blog and get back to me about my invitation.

      1. I’m from Brazil !!!! I wonder if you believe in God? What if faith helps in the treatment of diseases? Do you believe in miracles ? Kisses

        1. Joao,

          Thank you for your comment. Everyone approaches issues of faith in different ways. For some people, this is a very important issue that does affect their willingness to continue treatment and helps them through difficult times. There is no hard evidence that faith has any physical influence over cancer (or any disease), but if often has a strong mental influence in terms of the patient’s approach to treatment and overall success.

          The term “miracle” means a lot of different things to different people. For me, I see the recent advances in science as “miraculous” in many ways. The deep understanding that is now available to researchers is far more advanced than it was just ten years ago. The number of treatments that actually work has grown dramatically. Just the fact that we now know there is no single “cancer” as a disease and that it is really an umbrella term for hundreds of (often very different) diseases that need different treatments is miraculous in its own way.

          Sadly, I have seen cases where people put their faith in a religious idea instead of using these “miraculous” treatment options that have been created for us through decades of research, studying, and so much trial and error to make them as effective as they are now. So very many patients in the past willingly endured experimental treatments in the hope that some day we would have more cures available, and we are now seeing much of that promise actually unfold. I honor those patients and their dedicated doctors by putting my faith in that process and being a part of it. For me, every new day is a miracle that I have been blessed to receive because of that faith.

          You can look at this from whatever spiritual or religious position that feels right to you. But in my opinion, and this is based on years of research and personal experience, anyone who tries to sell you on a cure by faith alone is probably lying to you and should be approached with skepticism. Anyone who offers to cure you through prayer or metaphysical means is not going to help your body, though it may help your mind or spirit. But if you search for gifts that have been offered from whatever higher power you believe in, open your mind to accepting that the advances in science might just be what you are looking for. The old phrase, “the Lord works in mysterious ways” might just be an appropriate way of advancing the idea that humans should use the critical thinking skills that they have been born with to avoid charlatans and fanatics and con artists of all varieties, and instead focus on a reasoned and scientific approach to healthcare.

          All the best.

  10. “In truth, they are very effective and proven treatments that sometimes cure and usually offer the best hope for an extended, good quality of life.”

    Sorry Jeffrey, but you are seriously deluded if you think this. Actually, it has been proven that you will live longer by doing nothing, rather than subjecting your body to chemo & radiation. But of course, the cancer industry will never admit that. I have had direct experience with cancer in my family several times, and the chemo & radiation only served to accelerate the deterioration of the body and cause immense pain & discomfort until they were finally relieved of it by death.

    You may be fooling some people with your misinformed defense of chemo & radiation but I am not one of them.

    Jeffrey…get your facts straight first, then you can distort them as you please!

    1. Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you have lost loved ones to cancer. Sadly that is something most of us will experience.

      I expect many comments like the ones you made. There is a lot of resistance based on old conceptions, and the misinformation that is out there. But I would like to make a few points.

      One I’m sure you are aware that there have been many advances in treatment over the last two decades. I don’t know when your experiences with cancer treatment happened, but those were treated today have a much higher success rate than those who were treated 20 or 30 years ago.

      I’m sure you took the time to read through the links that I provided that support my conclusions. And I’m sure you also took note that I myself am a cancer patient. I have stage 4 adenocarcinoma, from which I would have been dead a long time ago without the use of chemotherapy. As an ongoing patient, I have access to many other patients as well, and I can see firsthand the benefits of these treatments.

      While it is true that not everyone responds equally, it is also true that the more advanced stage patients have a much harder time, and often the best they can hope for are a few extra months. This is why early detection is so important. These treatments always work better in earlier stages.

      I hope you can reread and we approach this article with an open mind. Everything in it is supported by facts. You may not come to the same conclusion that I did, about a specific treatment here or there, but that does not change provable themes about which I write. If you would like to challenge them, which I am totally open to because I’m always willing to change my mind when presented with strong evidence, then please provide something other than an anecdotal story.

      Again I truly appreciate your comment. And I wish you well. And moreover, I hope you are never in a position where you need to have any of these treatments for yourself.

      All the best,

      Jeffrey

  11. Thanks for providing sensible comments about cancer and cancer treatments, and especially for demonstrating extraordinary civility to some of the rather rude comments here – I’m not sure i could do the same!
    Wish you the very best with your treatments.
    Stam

    1. And thank you! It is comments like this that make the effort worthwhile. I appreciate it and hope you have enjoyed a few of my other posts in the same vein. All the best.

  12. Hi Jeffrey,
    I’ve recently been diagnosed with a very fast growing papillary thyroid cancer. As my partner is a med student and has an education in naturalpathic medicine (she’s now a professor to naturalpathic students along with her studies) it’s interesting to see the two side by side.

    Before getting cancer myself I read extensively on the many approaches to cures for many problems. It’s hard to really be definitely about either side, because clearly people can have complete remissions of their cancers from non-traditional therapies. It’s also clear that the medical “establishment” often acts in a similar way as I feel your article is written, simply throwing out any facts that adhere to the current ideas about a disease and it’s treatment.

    I’m personally scared and confused, I don’t want to have a part of my body cut out and I certainly prefer to keep living. I can see clearly how attractive “miracle” cures could seem. And when you read books like that from the late David Servan-Schreibe, it’s clear that it sometimes takes someone at the very top of the establishment to open the door for alternative approaches.

    Let me give two examples from my personal experience. I was in a previous relationship with a woman who experienced a lot difficulty with varicose veins. I started to study the topic in depth. I spoke to around 10 different specialists and all of them said the same thing as you find in modern texts books. All of their treatments (i.e. their livelihoods) were focused around various methods to close the problematic veins. In the US there were far more options than in Europe.

    Then I stumbled on to a doctor in Italy which had developed a way to essentially reset the circulatory system in the lower body. His approach totally corrects this incurable problem. I spoke to five different doctors who provide the treatment and I flew to Italy to speak to him directly after emailing back and forth.

    He is a well respected doctor who has several patents to his name and several innovative approaches to surgeries regarding the circulation system. I asked him why he didn’t push to get his findings published. He said that unfortunately, each area of medicine has it’s own politics and in this area the doctors are just not interested in this kind of treatment. The requirements and way they wanted the results in order to publish in the relevant journals are just not worth it to him as they were in other areas of medicine.

    The second example is one I face right now. Through the diagnosis of my cancer the doctors have moved me through rapidly towards the full removal of my thyroid. They also recommend radioactive iodine after. Being studious I went to the medical library of my girlfriend and was happy to find a book called Thyroid Cancer, edited by Glenn D. Brausnstein. On page 137 it says, “more recent reviews of the literature suggest that RAI (Radioactive Iodine) treatment may not improve disease-free survival or mortality for low and moderate risk patients.” Yet, here, professors who have done their PhD on the subject and are currently researching it are recommending it to me. Why? I will ask them, but likely I will be scorned as bringing “Dr. Google” in the room. This book is in their own library, written by the top specialists in their field, but my guess is they’ll simply brush it aside and do as doctor’s have been doing in this case for 50 years, radiation therapy.

    Cancer seems like a tricky beast with a lot of money being made preying on the fears it brings with it, but it’s not just “alternative” medicine that’s taking advantage and I don’t feel you give any space to that. Like somehow all those doctors and pharmaceuticals are different kind of humans than the quacks promoting pineapple. Thanks anyway for being willing to put your thoughts and feelings out there and I hope your health recovers fully.

    1. Heath, I wish you the very best luck with your treatments. Thank you for the thoughtful comments.

      I would like to address a few issues. You mention that “clearly people can have complete remissions of their cancers from non-traditional therapies. It’s also clear that the medical ‘establishment’ often acts in a similar way as I feel your article is written, simply throwing out any facts that adhere to the current ideas about a disease and it’s treatment.” It is important to point out that some people will always have unforseen remissions for many reasons, which may have nothing to do with their treatment at all. Spontaneous remission is more likely with some cancers than others, but it does happen. There is a big difference between remission that is caused by treatment and remission that just happens because of something inherent in the patient’s DNA. It is, however, exceedingly rare, and remission in general is more unlikely per capita with alternative treatments than it is with medical treatments — in fact, it is quite common for many cancers to go into remission (or even be cured) through medical treatments. As for the second part of the quote, I maintain that facts are facts regardless of which side of an argument they support. I’m not merely throwing out facts, nor am I writing to prove an agenda — what I am doing is trying to balance the scale for reason by addressing false narratives and showing why they are false in an effort to educate people and potentially save lives. In this era of “alternative facts,” which in many ways got its footing in the alternative medicine industry and via sources like Natural News or Mercola.com before bleeding over into politics, I feel that it is a moral imperative to point out where statements deviate from facts. If you read my entire blog, you’ll see where my views have evolved somewhat by looking at multiple sides of issues and I feel that it is essential to understand opposing positions in order to have any kind of reasoned understanding of an argument. To that end, I’ve taken great pains to look at the claims made by alternative providers, and entered into that process with the hope that I would find useful options for my own treatment. And I have found a few things that I consider viable complementary treatments — but the subjects I address in the Wellness Warrior series of posts are selected because of their well-documented and often quite obvious falsehoods. I don’t disagree with you that most modern medical writing supports the mainstream ideas about disease and cures, but there is good reason for that. Science is always evolving and, therefore, the mainstream medical views are always evolving too, as better and more complete information becomes available. The information presented by “the other side” is often outdated, or based on either made-up or misinterpreted understandings of the science. I’m always happy to consider valid points of view, but there is nothing in science that demands people keep their heads in a box or tow the party line — most of the great epiphanies in science seem to have happened when someone looked at a problem in a different way that went against the mainstream establishment. That does not make it alternative, but it might make it experimental. A good example of this is immunotherapy treatment. Another is hormone therapy. There are many things going on beyond chemo, radiation and surgery — though these three approaches have the best track record of any treatment across the board at this point. Immunotherapy is rapidly gaining, along with targeted gene therapy and who knows what else coming out of legitimate research right now.

      I want to be clear, too, that I don’t write off naturopathic practitioners automatically; I’ve had at least one interaction where I felt the naturopath was a clear voice of reason with regard to cancer treatment. Of course, his first statement regarding what naturopaths can offer was that patients must work with a certified oncologist and be willing to consider surgery, radiation or chemotherapy because those are proven medical approaches, and what a naturopath can offer is strictly to control symptoms or act in a complimentary manner to help the immune system and general physical recovery. It was an entirely sensible approach and he was very passionate about it, impressing me quite a bit with regard to his profession. I’ve also worked with an amazing chiropractor in the past, though she also was very clear that her profession was strictly about structural issues and had nothing to do with curing disease (and she never cracked bones, especially in the neck, which she warned was actually dangerous). These people had some real medical training and were dedicated to using the scientific method, something that is sadly lacking from most alternative practitioners. I commend your partner for taking both routes together.

      Your example of the varicose veins, while interesting, is quite a different beast than cancer treatment. I don’t understand why that doctor would not publish (it sounds like he danced around that — there are so many medical journals that would print a study on that sort of thing that his argument makes no sense unless he was trying to take credit for something he did not deserve, regardless of his patents — perhaps he could not support his own claims or the treatment only worked a small number of times, or maybe he was just lazy, but there are so many journals looking to fill their pages, many with lax submission rules, that he would not have had trouble getting published if a peer would verify the work). Still, there are many physical ailments for which non-medical cures will work, or, rather, non-drug and non-surgical cures, because even natural herbs are legitimate medicine when they actually do their job as a drug. Natural laxatives are an easy example — still medicine, but in natural form. Quite a few drugs are simply synthetic forms of natural compounds, designed to be easier to control for dose and delivery (like aspirin) so that it is less toxic and more effective.

      Your particular cancer is a very special issue. It is not common enough to get the kind of research funding necessary to have multiple effective options available, or to have enough people at one time for big trials. It is also one that generally must be addressed very quickly for effective treatment. I strongly suggest you move past the fear and into a proactive approach, committing to the work ahead with a clear goal of dealing effectively with this problem. If you have that book, take it to your doctors for discussion. Open and clear communication is necessary for a good patient / doctor relationship — and to ensure that you are going down the right path. While I generally agree that “Dr. Google” is a dangerous thing to place your faith in, since you are equally likely (or more likely) to get incomplete or even very poor information unless you stick to academic sites — and even then it may be a roll of the dice. But if you use it to find legitimate sources, use them; an informed patient is a true partner in treatment. In my experience, doctors like that, as long as you are both informed and rational and willing to continue to learn. You sound like you fit that description.

      I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice, but what I have read indicates that RAI is highly targeted and quite unlikely to have the side effects of typical radiotherapy. Also, I have known a number of people who had thyroid surgery and they all faired quite well. You do commit to a lifetime of medication, but it is essentially what your thyroid would have been producing, so it is possible to adjust well to it. Still, bring your questions to your doctors and expect reasonable answers.

      To address your final point, yes, cancer is a tricky beast and there is money being made hand over proverbial fist by preying on fear. While I would agree that there are unscrupulous practitioners in mainstream medicine and also that there are corporate interests putting profit over patients, the vast majority of those in mainstream cancer medicine are there because they truly care and truly want a cure. I’ve had the honor of talking to researchers and getting to know their mindset and find them among the most noble of human beings (and trust me, they are not raking in the money the way that they probably should). Still, there are always some bad eggs, people in good jobs who resort to greed or cheat for fame — and they are usually caught and fired, their medical licensed revoked, etc. I can’t say the same for the “alternative” side of the equation, however, where the vast majority are, in my opinion, either uninformed “true believers” who are passionate but misguided, or simply con-artists selling fear for their own greedy motivations. The true believers I can forgive and hope to reach and educate, because many are truly good people simply trying to do the best with the way that they understand the world (usually with a lot of magical thinking involved). The latter group, however, are horrible human beings who quite literally harm patients who follow their guidance or spend thousands of dollars on their useless products. These are the ones serving up pineapple or carrot juice as a cure even after having admitted to going through proper medical care and achieving the expected results. You never have a good reason to trust a quack, regardless of the quack’s motivation. At least medical doctors have a proven foundation upon which to work. Does that make them all ethical or reliable? Absolutely not. I’ve had experiences with medical doctors who performed completely unnecessary procedures in order to bill for them, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories over the years about incompetency and greed in the medical profession. We’ve seen how quickly Andrew Wakefield went from being a medical doctor to a fraud when he got paid to cook a misleading study on vaccines causing autism — and then he reinvented himself as a hero in the alternative world of vaccine denial where he now also branches out into false cancer narratives and is making quite a lot of money by continuing to sell fear no matter how many times his claims are proven to be lies or misleading. These issues are not at all apples to apples — and if you really read the information out there in conventional medicine, it is a story of optimism, not fear. Doctors will pressure patients to use proven treatments because they actually care about saving lives and now have so many “alternatives” to contend with that will not help at all, but will end up costing valuable time that could mean the difference between a patient’s current stage and a more advanced one. Of course, you have read the highly publicized examples I mentioned here.

      I am happy to discuss any particular issues you may have concerns with and give you my opinion as it may be relevant. While my health, or at least my cancer-related health, is unlikely to “recover” in the foreseeable future, I do expect that I will be able to manage it for a number of years and continue living a good quality of life. At some point down the line, perhaps, I’ll get to be in remission from a new drug of some sort (probably an immunotherapy), and I’ll be thrilled if that is the case. But you, I hope, will have a quick resolution to your cancer issues and find yourself cancer-free. Treat it quickly and with everything you can handle, and before you know it you will be on the other side. Your girlfriend will surely be able to aid you quite a lot in the recovery stage — but frankly, it isn’t as bad as many people would have you believe, and if you are healthy to begin with your recovery should be smooth, the nastiness forgotten before you know it.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. Oh, also, I should mention that the third post in this series does, in fact, go into an example of an actual MD who runs an unscrupulous cancer clinic and is an excellent example of a fear-mongering con-artist profiting off of his scared patients. This supports your point that some people from the world of mainstream medicine are just as bad — though he is an outlier, and his success is driven by his embrace of the “alternative” crowd. In fact, the only people who promote him are other hucksters in alternative medicine, often completely at odds with the claims they generally make about how bad chemo is. (This particular doctor uses an “alternative chemotherapy” drug — though he also uses regular chemotherapy and there is nothing about his alternative version that is necessarily less toxic, though it clearly doesn’t work as advertised. He just gets to keep all the profits rather than share them with Big Pharma, while also not helping his patients.)

You know you want to say something... now's your chance. Join the discussion here!