the cure

I think grad school has ruined my idealism.

Before I started grad school I used to believe in things that couldn’t necessarily be proven definitively in academic journals and with studies. Now, in my classes and in my papers, we are only supposed to care about what the academic journals and studies say–they are absolute fact. They are supposed to inform what is true and what is not true. In many cases, the journals just prove what I already know to be true and not true. In other cases, they are inconclusive. In all cases, they are absolutely brain-numbing to read.

I’m finding that cancer is a lot more academic than I thought. Maybe because I get treated at a “teaching hospital” where my doctors are also professors and researchers who believe in journals as much as my urban planning professors do. When I used to see doctors before I was really “sick,” they never had to cite journal articles to get me to believe what they were saying. But now, whenever I ask my oncologist a question, I know he will qualify it with, “The studies say this…” Medical marijuana? The studies, apparently, don’t prove that it’s effective. Diet and cancer? Again, the studies are inconclusive. But I don’t mind being vegetarian and trying to limit my dairy intake–so I do. Maybe he just cites studies because he knows i’m temporarily an academic, too. But, I think it’s just his job to know what the studies say. And medical studies, like urban planning and health economics studies, sound equally inconclusive and equally brain-numbing.

I believe my doctors when they say there is no cure for pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. I trust them. I am certain if there were a cure, they would tell me about it. I don’t do much searching of the Internet for information about cancer–only if i’m looking up a specific treatment option–because my parents do enough of that for all of us and because it usually scares me to read about the probability of living 5 or 10 years past diagnosis. So, I never encountered until this week so many different “cures” for cancer.

I am as up for alternative cures as the next 26-year-old who’s into vegan food and natural things. I never really liked taking medication. I drank cranberry juice to ward off UTIs. Took probiotics for yeast infections. Tried cardamom and ginger for heartburn. Used apple cider vinegar for dandruff. ┬áSome of these more natural remedies work so well that I doubt doctors who don’t mention them or believe in the power of things other than straight medication. That’s just stuffy, isn’t it? Why believe solely in journal articles when 1,000 people on the Internet–including myself–have tried these things and they work? Well, maybe because journal articles and studies are what the academic world says to believe. And maybe the Internet isn’t always a good reference.

Cancer is a different beast entirely. It’s no UTI or yeast infection or heartburn–it’s serious business. You don’t mess around with cancer. Ever since I got diagnosed, I–the previous medication hater–take all (well, most) of the medications prescribed to me. Which isn’t really that many anymore. But I know what each of them is called and the dosage and what they’re supposed to do.

And I don’t look up alternative cures on the Internet because it’s not easy to tell if you’re curing the cancer with your alternative cure. My cancer is invisible. And because I would rather trust my doctors who have studied medicine for many, many years over things I read on the Internet. And, the chemo is working. So I don’t have any basis to argue and insist that I swallow watermelon seeds to cure my cancer instead of what i’m doing–which is working. I don’t know that watermelon seeds have ever been cited as a cure for cancer–I just made that up.

I appreciate and almost admire that people believe in their cancer cures so completely that they take the time to send them to me. Maybe grad school has made me too academic and skeptical. I don’t necessarily need a journal article to tell me if something works, even though grad school tells me I should, but I need something more than a random website. I need many random websites. I need some evidence. I need consensus. I need my doctor to tell me it could be true. I need to believe–but I just don’t believe.

I am not interested in searching for a cure, I am interested in finding a way to live with this disease, which I am doing through this blog. Maybe a cure for pancreatic NETs will be found in my lifetime–i’m not dismissing that possibility. There is a lot of money going to cancer research and there are a lot of smart people working on cures. Some cancers already have likely cures.

There are also plenty of blogs out there devoted to alternative therapies that people currently believe cure cancer–I admire their resolve. My blog is not one of them.

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8 Responses to the cure

  1. itsmeagain says:

    I hope you buy a book called “politics in healing” and look at the work of “meta researchers” – in truth study is limited and often identifies correlation not causation. I sincerely hope you choose a two pronged approach but I accept I should keep my opinions to myself but I would ask this question. Where would the medical profession be if we cured such things? Always ask the question of where self-interest is operating within most people – understand that and how external sources of beliefs come to us and yet differ from fact.

    I wish you the very best and I wont post again. You dont need crap from me but please do read that book……….. I do know Steve Jobs regretted his alternative therapy but I’ve never found out what he actually did try. I respect your views and will from now on keep them to myself. I love facts, research and proof – I respect those things but do not overlook there limitations, bias, self-interest and all those things that make a mess of almost everything. Apologies.

  2. Clare Abbott says:

    It’s great to hear someone putting their faith in traditional Medicine and not the alternative stuff. Whatever else one does, it’s surely sensible to be treated by properly qualified doctors? The idea that they might not cure you to keep you paying for their attention is not worthy of a moment’s thought.

  3. I hope you write a book (I Am A Liver is a great title, but I like Watermelon Seeds for a book title as well). You are an excellent writer – I love reading your blog.

  4. Ellen A. says:

    I’d strongly recommend the book Anti-Cancer a New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. He’s an MD who battled two bouts of brain cancer himself. He embraces both the holistic and traditional western approach to healing. It is full of common sense and insights from someone who has been on both sides of the fence.

  5. jdpruitt says:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21673053?dopt=Citation

    You might want to look into the Slow Carb diet. One of the many reasons that I am no longer a vegan is how taxing the diet is on the neuroendocrine system (more specifically, how taxing it usually is for most people engaging in it.) Just looking at how fructose is metabolized makes one wonder how juicing could be touted as a ‘miracle cure.’

    Also, the genetic lineage survived through harsh European winters without access to an abundance of fruits and vegetables. It seems that the natural human state as far as blood sugar is concerned is in neoglucogenesis from animal protein sources. Not a conclusion I enjoy morally, but you can’t argue with evolution.

    One thing the studies do clearly show is that caloric restriction is linked to longevity. Those results could also be read as “lower blood glucose levels lead to longevity” which the above-referenced link suggests.

  6. I went through a couple of phases when it came to relating to the never-ending multitude of journals. As an undergrad, I disliked journals relative to other primary-source materials, but that may have just been a function of laziness. As a grad student, I came to appreciate them, and when my thesis landed me an offer to work for one, I became utterly engrossed in them. Then after living in the D.C. world, where thinktanks are legion and everyone goes around congratulating themselves on their articles, I began to feel that constantly generating paper wasn’t necessarily producing a real good for society. Sitting in Beltway traffic, I realized that if a civil engineer could cut my commute time by half an hour, they could give me back an hour each day to spend with my family, my interests, and all other things that define oneself. Then that, doing something of tangible value, became the important thing to do.

    However, speaking as someone who now works for -and has spent his whole life around- a Radiation Oncology practice, let me assuage you with this notion: your doctor spends time reading journal articles…constantly. In his downtime between patients, at home in his comfy chair or in bed, on the can…he is reading about new approaches being investigated for treatment of cancer. If there is an alternative method, even if it sounds wacky, he wants to know. So medical advice, at least from what I have observed, is not him selling a cancer care product to you, but rather the culmination of all possible methods. By the same token, that is also why you should never feel weird asking about an unorthodox treatment if it strikes your fancy; he probably already knows what you are talking about. Although chances are the reason HE hasn’t brought it up is because it’s not the best possible method for your treatment.

    Regardless of their field of concentration, your doctor will always go for the manner of treatment (or combination of treatments) that produce the best possible (and most reliable) results. Hopefully that helps. I didn’t want to come off like I’m dictating to you what I’m sure you already know or believe, but in case you were uncertain in light of the mound of studies and data out there, well…my 2 cents. I was going to use the cent sign there, but my keyboard only has dollar and euro symbols. Inflation I guess.

    ~D.

  7. Matt says:

    Well said, Lindsey. Back in 04 a brave woman that I love was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. We looked at alot of alternative treatments before she decided to go the traditional route. I’ll always remember what she said…”If I don’t try the traditional treatment I’ll always wonder if it would have worked?” She’s doing great! Stay the course, Lindsey Ann.

  8. asd asd says:

    there are actually several cures for cancer that are being suppressed, watch the documentary “burzynski” on youtube for one of them – antinoplasteons.

    others are: hemp oil absorbed into gums, gerson therapy, vitamin b12, bitter apricot seeds, intraveneous vitamin c, mistletoe, essiac, the rife machine and countless others.

    I don’t believe any of them will work on 100% of patients but they are better than surgery/radiation/chemo.

    I suggest you research into these. I hope you are cured soon :)

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