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A TGB READERS STORY: Not Your Father’s Old Geezer

Those Bogus Cancer Cures

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.

Yeah, right.

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.


It is the slime of the earth that offers false hope to the desperate.

Love your down-to-Earth no nonsense style. Glad to hear that you are doing reasonably well and thank you for bringing us along for your journey. We learn much from you.

I agree with Trudi, but I also think that those who read blogs and tout such cures are just trying to help. It is pitiful that some get taken in by them.

I agree with Trudi too; back in 2001 & again in 2004, lost both my parents to aggressive cancers. (They were young too, 61 & 63.) The desperation my family felt then... don't want to think about it now.

Ronni, given what you're up against I admire you greatly for your sane & logical outlook.

I think of Steve Jobs, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was discovered early, by accident. Surgery was recommended. He decided to treat it using alternative medicine. Obviously that didn’t work. He was an intelligent man, but made a poor decision. I am not sure why he didn’t believe the experts.

Ronni, I agree fully with your comments. When THE cure arrives, I'm sure there will be headlines and the pretenders will instantly disappear. The gullible and desperate will always try to utilize what is available. It's their money. Like you said, if not paid by insurance and Medicare (and TFL in my case) the "cure" must not be approved. As always, GOOD LUCK with your future health and may it last years yet!!! B

I guess some cancer patients who go after those weird cures do so as a way as a way to control their own treatment. Often people who have life-threatening illnesses begin to feel helpless as they are lead through test after test and procedure after procedure with little results.

Like Jean, I thought immediately of Steve Jobs. I'll never understand why a man of his intelligence and means would opt for alternative medicine when he could have been treated immediately by the best cancer specialists in the world. But as an MD's daughter, I have a very strong belief in traditional science-based medicine. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. Otherwise all the snake oil salesmen would be out of business.

Interesting comments so far. As for Jean's question about Steve Jobs and why he made the choice he did -- we are superstitious and suspicious people, and many of us doubt that traditional medicine is mostly in our best interests. And that may be mostly true. I have heard as many stories, in my life, from people who thought they have received useless or harmful treatment than those who think their lives have been saved by medical treatment, and on this blog we have had many discussions about overly aggressive pharmaceutical companies and physicians who have been wined and dined by them forever.

It's been decades since I first heard the claim that an overwhelming percentage of illnesses will go away on their own, with no treatment. Obviously there are those that do that and those that are unlikely to do it, with pancreatic cancer being one that appears unlikely to fix itself. So perhaps Steve Jobs was more of a doubting mind when it comes to traditional medicine, or more of a believing mind in alternatives. In any case, he took a calculated risk and it didn't work out for him, but we can't know if another choice would have resulted in a better outcome. The number of people all over the world who are living with cancer is staggering, as is the number of people of all ages who die of it daily, and also those who go on to live another day. It should be no surprise that many of those who have the resources will use those to extend their lives, but it should also be no surprise that some will live longer no matter which option they choose -- whether that's doing nothing, doing the most expensive or non-conventional thing or taking the most affordable conventional approach.

The key sentence here is "If there were a cure for cancer, we would all know about it." Think polio vaccine or small pox vaccine or penicillin. Didn't the world jump on those miracle cures quickly? They were backed by extensive research and testing.

I don't get to comment much anymore as I am the full-time caregiver for my sis with dementia ( story in itself of people's misconceptions). Having been through cancer treatment with family members and heard of so many of these false and sometimes fraudulent promises, I had to say something.

While some folks who offer these cures may think they are being helpful (they're not!), in my experience it is those who distrust medicine, doctors and most science who do so...like the climate change and vaccine deniers. Why do they believe that they know best?

Yes, a cure would be the headliner everywhere. The world would know. There seems to be no end to those people who would gladly rook desperate people out of what ever money they have. I have a relative who uses "non-traditional" medications instead what her doctor prescribes, and yet she still goes to see the doctor. What's worse is though she fills her prescriptions she often drops them within a week or two, except for blood thinners which she accepted she was in danger without them. Not surprising that her two other health conditions have not improved at all. Makes me worried and sad.

Living day by day. You made a brave decision and we are all blessed that it has worked well for you. Glad you are doing so well!

It continues to amaze me that so many people still discount science. There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind. However, when doctors, medical schools, newspapers, government agencies, medical journals, etc. do not speak of a cure for a type of cancer or other illness, it boggles my mind that the ailing person would take the advice of one with no medical knowledge, no credentials, no proof, etc. Most of us want to live, and I think that causes many to stop rational thought and go for the unproven treatment.

I am 71 and have had migraine disease all my life. Literally. I have learned to keep this information to myself, for I have met many non-medical persons who tell me they have THE cure or THE perfect treatment to stop a migraine. While these people mean well (in most cases), there is no cure for migraine. And some of their advised treatments are laughable/pointless/useless/worsening/dangerous and without scientific support. I also believe, that unless asked for, one should keep one's opinion and/or suggested cure to themselves.

You are so correct about these bogus cures.

I think some people can accept looming death and others cannot, so they find all kinds of ways to cope, many of which are downright unhealthy and dangerous and often scams.

I had a friend with breast cancer..had a lumpectomy and was told to take pills to block estrogen and perhaps radiation and chemo...I can’t remember. She didn’t do any of this and the cancer returned in 8 years.

She had already quit smoking and thought she was being healthy by beginning to eat a few vegetables. Then she found a nature doctor who worked out of his garage and he had her doing coffee enemas and all kind of ridiculous stuff.
She spent a small fortune and died about a year or so later.

If she’d listened to the doctor, she very well might be alive today...who knows.

Great writing and great analysis.

Agree one hundred percent, Ronni.

You did the right thing.

Keep on keeping on!

I totally agree with everything you said, Ronni. The saddest individual story that I know of these fake alternative treatments is a friend who was in her early 30s, the mother of three young (under 10 years old) children. She was determined person to "beat" the disease and see her children grow up. She went to Mexico and several other places in search of alternative treatments. None were successful, and she died quickly. Instead of staying in her comfortable home, surrounded by loving family, she was off on wild goose chases at considerable financial cost, all to no avail. A pox on the people who prey on the sick.

I feel qualified to speak about cancer treatment, since I spent all of 2018 and a couple of months this year in treatment for ovarian cancer.

People who embrace quack treatment theories and conspiracies about big pharma and the medical establishment keeping the ‘cure’ for cancer from us make me sick.

First, the umbrella term ‘cancer’ includes more than 100 unique diseases typified by uncontrolled cell growth. There is, and never will be, a single cure.

Second, imagine that claim is true. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people would have to be in on the conspiracy, and would never spill the beans. How likely is that?

I put my faith in medical science and research.

My cousin once told me she found a doctor who found the “cure” for Lyme’s disease. His claim was confirmed by a woman in the doctor’s waiting room who said that she had been cured. Coincidentally, the woman was also the doctor’s wife. H.L. Mencken said "You’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public".

Ronni, I fully concur with what you are doing healthwise and thank you for the wisdom you bring daily to us, your devoted readers.
I am in no way endorsing what Steve Jobs chose to do regarding his pancreatic cancer. Nevertheless, the thing I never hear acknowledged is that he still managed to live 8 years after diagnosis: Diagnosed October 2003. Died October 2011. Given what a brutal disease this is, how are we to know that Jobs would have done any better or lived longer if he had decided to choose a more traditional medical method of treatment?

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