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Bad Science

May 15, 2011

I’m a terrible scientist — I’m tempted to fudge my lab results to be what they should be, if my lab technique weren’t so terrible. And my lab results are not what they should be because I do things like sneeze in my sample, and record it in my lab book.

But at least I’m not a bad scientist.

What’s the difference?

Respect for the scientific method, for one thing.

Disengaging from paranoid conspiracies is another. I’m not even going to link to them, but if you google “There’s a cure for cancer but they don’t want you to know about it” you will get plenty of reading — and people really believe this stuff. I’m not unsympathetic, but I think there is a degree of hubris in thinking that you know more than the best doctors who have spend decades researching cancer, just because you read a book or an article on the internet.

A day does not go by when someone does not send me something based on something they read, in a book, or on the internet, and of course we all know that if you read something on the internet, it must be true. A lot of people are going to read this statement and feel like I’ve punched them in the gut, but please don’t. I take all of your suggestions, except the ones that I get a mammogram, in the spirit in which they are given, and that is with love.

I also talk all of the suggestions I get over with my doctors, and since my doctors are the best doctors in the world, I feel confident that they know more about a particular theory than someone who has read it on the internet, or read a book about cancer.

After listening to the suggestions of the peanut gallery, and talking it over with my doctors, here is what I do. I eat a lot of curry with turmeric and with cayenne pepper. I eat a lot of mushrooms. I eat yogurt and kefir, and whole grains, and I don’t eat saturated fat. I eat all kinds of vegetables, especially tomatoes, and I’m fussy about the meat I eat. I don’t eat a lot of sugar, and I recently gave up coffee. Those are all good things for everyone to do, whether or not they have cancer.

Once in a while I’ll shell out for a glass of wheat grass juice, but I did that before I got cancer. That’s good for the employees of that mall juice stand,  because it keeps them employed.

I take calcium and vitamin D, because my doctors told me too. I do not take massive amounts of vitamin C or A because of the studies that show a higher incidence of cancer recurrence in patients who did that, and I don’t take multivitamins because they make me feel nauseated.

I do yoga and I meditate and I walk and I would do tai chi or qigong if there were a local cheap class that met during the day, and if I could  keep from giggling.

I don’t buy into any theory at all that falls under the category of paranoid.

I read the literature, and I maintain this blog, and I have a couple of links on this topic below: Quackwatch and Science Based Medicine, if you want to read more about good science versus bad.

I don’t spend my life worrying about “what if my cancer comes back.”

I do spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to strangers and friends what the harm is in promoting and repeating questionable cures for cancer.

It’s this.

When cancer patients spend their time and money chasing a miracle cure, they’re not spending their time and money getting better. Cancer is tremendously expensive, and people have repeatedly shown that they are ready to spend their last dollar and go  into massive debt chasing a miracle cure. Then the patient dies anyway, and the family is thrown into poverty. That’s harmful.

People believe that <whatever> will cure them, and they don’t take the time to do the things they ought to, like heal relationships, and say goodbye properly. I have a friend who died of cancer, and she believed right up until just before the end that she would be cured because her astrologist told her she would be cured, and during the last days, she was consumed with grief and regret at not having done what she would have done had she known she was dying. That’s harmful.

People don’t want to go through the “inconvenience” of conventional cancer treatment — they don’t want to loose their hair, or their breasts, or their nose, or their legs, and so they trust to false promises, and they die when they might have lived. That’s harmful.

And all the time, the people who promote these false cancer cures get rich on the fears of others. That’s not only harmful; it’s a crime, and when the evidence is strong enough, they go to jail for fraud.

I’m not saying that so-called “alternative” treatments do not have some merit. At the very least, there is the placebo effect. And a lot of it, such as good nutrition, yoga, massage, and meditation is good for everyone whether they have cancer or not.

I’m talking about the industry that falls under the category of disparaging the treatments for cancer that are widely accepted by the medical profession, vilifying the professional itself, and presenting their own “miracle cures” as a viable option. Faugh.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I know from bad.

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