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.
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.
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