One of those emails dropped into my inbox a few days ago. It had been several months since the last one – swearing that megadoses of vitamin C would cure my cancer.
Before that, other TGB readers had declared to me that biomagnetism (whatever that is), bee venom and the ever-popular extract of apricot pits would cure my cancer.
And in case I was suspicious, they each said they know the particular cure they were touting works because their (mother, father, cousin, best friend, pick one) – has been free of cancer for five or six or 20 or whatever number of years.
In recent years, new cancer treatments have come along some of which, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drug treatment, cryoablation among others, show promise. But no one is curing cancer wholesale yet.
After confirming pancreatic cancer, the doctor explained that the only treatment was surgery, the Whipple procedure, followed by chemotherapy. Without it, he said, I would be dead within a few months.
It is a terrible, intrusive surgery that would last 12 hours or more, the doctor said, but that I was a good candidate for it: the cancer was contained in one end of my pancreas; I was, especially for my age, in excellent physical shape, and had no other medical issues.
I took a night to sleep on it before making a decision.
It's hard to think in that situation - having been told you have a kind of cancer that kills about 90 percent of people who are diagnosed with it - and it doesn't fool around like some slow-growing cancers people can live with for many years.
Pancreatic cancer was not a mystery to me. My father had died of it 35 years previously so I had a fair bit of familiarity with it – none of it good.
The will to live, I discovered over that night, is extraordinarily strong. And so the next day, I told the surgeon I would “do the Whipple,” as it were, and it was scheduled for three weeks hence.
After I wrote about the diagnosis and upcoming surgery, I received an email from a reader recommending a certain alternative treatment. He or she (I don't recall which) was insistent that this worked, that he/she knew people whose cancer had been cured and etc.
Of course, I dismissed the email as ramblings of an idiot. If there were a cure for cancer, we would all know about it. It is one of life's mysteries – at least to me - why so many people don't get that. But the email did force me to think carefully about how I wanted to deal with my cancer.
For being such a momentous decision – literally life and death – I was surprised at how easy it was.
I was being treated at a medical center than includes five hospitals, a medical school, a research center and much more. A whole lot of people working in the oncology department there had seen a whole lot more cancer than I ever would.
So it wasn't a leap to decide that I would follow the doctors' instructions. Carefully. And I have done that. Now, nearly two-and-a-half years since diagnosis I'm still here and in relatively good daily health – neither of which I expected by this date. So I believe it has been a good decision.
It's not that I entertained for a moment such bogus “cures” as are sold on professional-looking websites that nevertheless occupy some of the darker corners of the internet.
Plus, I doubt that either private insurance or Medicare pays for this kind of treatment so it would be out of the question for me anyway. I'm too poor.
But the bigger issue than me is how many people diagnosed with a terrible disease are desperate enough to try such so-called cures. The websites never say “out loud” that they cure cancer but like those cancer center commercials on television, all are designed to activate our “miracle” gene.
I'm pretty sure if miracles were happening from any of these regimens, they would be sure to tell us.