When it comes to cancer treatment, trust the professionals

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
July 4, 2017 - 10:45am

KAMLOOPS — This morning, as you read my column, I am at the Kelowna Cancer Clinic and blissfully unaware of everything, as my radiation oncologist launches her nuclear attack on my prostate cancer. Diagnosed last December, this is the final step in eradicating any trace of my cancer through an implant procedure called Brachytherapy.

I don’t mention this moment in search of sympathy, as quite honestly, if you’re going to have cancer and you’re a guy, this is the one to have. Caught early, the treatment is straightforward, involves radiation only and comes with a success rate better than 95 per cent. Suffering is pretty much limited to the indignities resulting from discovery, planning and treatment but you soon put that embarrassment aside and focus on the outcomes.

No, the reason I mention it is that I still see and hear people telling me and other cancer patients to abandon traditional and proven medical treatment in favour of the latest online remedies that guarantee “The Cure”

Many of these charlatans begin their pitch by touting a conspiracy theory by Big Pharma and the medical profession. In order to keep you in the system and profit from your cancer, the medical industry purposely schemes in a cold, heartless and greedy fashion to deny you a simple, quick, painless and easy cure. A cure that each snake oil salesperson says he or she has but must fight corporate America to get it to you.

The most despicable of these fraudsters encourage you to give up and stop taking Big Pharma fake medicines and treatment and instead rely solely on the secret herbal recipe they and only they can provide.

Look, cancer is an ugly, ugly disease. One that can have a profound and lasting impact on your life or even take that life away. It can give you a sense of hopelessness and despair like you’ve never before experienced and that despondency is fertile ground for those who would prey upon the weak.

Just a week or two ago, I saw someone post a cancer cure on Facebook that guaranteed a cure within two short weeks. The poster obviously believed the ridiculous claim and wanted to share the miracle with those diagnosed with “any kind of cancer." And like many of these posts, the conspiracy theory was there and you were encouraged to immediately stop traditional treatment protocols.

Thanks for caring but give your head a shake. Every doctor, nurse, technician and therapist I’ve met during this journey would do anything in the world for his or her patients and often do. If there was a secret cure, an elixir that would end the pain and suffering they see every day, they would be the first to tell and the first to give it to you... and it would be free! Their hearts bleed for you and they hate cancer as much and maybe even more than you do.

If I followed the advice of those whose interest in me goes no further than my wallet, I would die a very painful death. Pierre Trudeau died of prostate cancer because he waited. Apple founder Steve Jobs died of cancer because he believed in non-traditional cures. In the end, Mr. Jobs lamented his lack of wisdom and poor choices when it came to treatment options.

So when you share information on social media that is so obviously too good to be true, keep in mind that you may be killing someone. I know you want to help but use your head and think about those claims before rushing to post the latest medical conspiracy theory and secret cure.

I have prostate cancer and it is treatable. Both my father and my brother had it before me and survived. In fact my father lived into his 90s. Other members of my family have also been hit with cancer, some way more serious than mine, and all have lived to talk about it.

All of us took our disease very seriously, were actively engaged in the treatment plans, researched and discussed our options with our medical teams and family. We included healthy lifestyle choices in our personal plan and moved forward based on sound scientific and proven medical knowledge. Not all cancer stories end well but all involve battles using the best minds and the most dedicated fighters imaginable.

Personally, I went a step further by agreeing to be part of a UBC study where my results and those of others will be tested, compared and shared with other researchers in the hopes of improving outcomes for others.

In my family and over just two generations, treatment options for prostate cancer have experienced dramatic and improved changes. From surgical intervention requiring weeks of recovery for my father, to beam radiation for my brother, to a 90-minute outpatient procedure and 24 hours or less recovery time for me

Real research pays dividends each and every day and cannot end until all cancers are beaten into submission.

So while I’m enjoying my anesthetic-induced sleep in Kelowna this morning, dreaming of icepacks for the drive home this afternoon, please consider dealing with cancer in a responsible way that doesn’t cause harm to others. Don’t help snake oil salesmen make money off of the desperate and in the process, possibly kill people who don’t deserve to die this way.