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. Some 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.