Abstract: Cancer begins and ends with people. Doctors treat diseases, but they also treat people. In oncology, even prolonging a patient’s life for three months to a year is considered an achievement. Achieving a cure is like striking a jackpot! As doctors, we try our best to cure those who can be cured, to control the disease for those whose lives can be extended, and to comfort those for whom little can be done.
Chris K. H. Teo
CA Care, 5 Lebuhraya Gelugor, 11600 Penang, Malaysia.
Physicians of the Utmost Fame,
Were called at once, but when the came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
“There is no Cure for this disease.”
~ Hilaire Belloc
Cancer begins and ends with people. In the midst of scientific abstraction, it is sometimes possible to forget this one basic fact … Doctors treat diseases, but they also treat people, and this precondition of their professional existence sometimes pulls them in two directions at once.
~ June Goodfield.
Dr. Seymour Brenner, radiologist, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
- The frustration of cancer is that we really don’t know what we are doing … it is a frustrating thing to go to school for thirty years, to work for twenty, thirty years and at the age of sixty not know what you’re doing! After thirty years of practising radiology Dr. Seymour Brenner concluded: We’re making very little progress … Billions of dollars and countless work hours have been expended to achieve something and nothing has been achieved.
Dr. Bernie Siegel, neurosurgeon and teacher at Yale University. From Cancer and Consciousness by Barry Bryant. pg. 31.
- Too many doctors are depressed because they only see their failures – all you know is that everyone has cancer, everybody dies. And it just wears you out.
Dr. Ang Peng Tiam, medical director of the Parkway Cancer Centre is a Singapore President’s and a leading senior consultant medical oncologist. He is also vice-chairman of the medical sub-committee of the Breast Cancer Foundation.
This oncology expert said …
- Oncology is not like other medical specialties where doing well is the norm.
- In oncology, even prolonging a patient’s life for three months to a year is considered an achievement.
- Achieving a cure is like striking a jackpot!
- Not all cancers can be cured.
As doctors, we try our best to cure those who can be cured, to control the disease for those whose lives can be extended, and to comfort those for whom little can be done.
Source: http://www.pgh.com.sg/news-291106-ST-healthfocus-chemotherapy.jspThe Straits Times, Mind Your Body Supplement, Pg. 22, 29 November 2006.
To the doctors above, I salute you for being honest and truthful. Thank you for your most esteemed opinions.
Points to Ponder
1. Cancer patients wish to know: Is there a cure for cancer? Patients know this – is it a cure that you want, when you go and see your doctors? Or are you just happy with being able to live only 3 to 12 months longer?
2. Finding a cancer cure appears like going to a casino – trying to strike a jackpot. Where then is the so-called science in medicine? What is the difference between seeing a medium who pulls out a stick / card and predicts your luck?
3. If cure is like striking a jackpot – who is more likely to strike a jackpot? Your oncologists (and his hefty fees) or you, the patient?
4. Before you gamble your life away or your life’s saving away – ask! “Can you cure my cancer?” Know what you are going into before you commit yourself to any invasive procedures.
Truth and Myth
The late President John Kennedy once said:
- The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.
Dr. Donald Epstein wrote in his book: Healing Myths Healing Magic.
- In mainstream medicine, the more expensive or risky the procedure, the more valuable it becomes. A diagnostic that is expensive and even dangerous often rates more “status points” than a free evaluation that is safe and easily performed. If a procedure or treatment is free, readily available and appears effortless to apply, it must not be valuable, because this is not the way of the intellect.
Terms referring to the diagnosis and treatment of disease are generally in Greek or Latin, which adds an air of exclusivity and makes them difficult to understand. The names given to medications are even more esoteric. Drugs like azidothymidine and zalcitabine are almost impossible to pronounce! A simple herb or other natural remedy that is inexpensive and readily available could not possibly be of value, while a new synthesized drug must possess magical healing powers … being exclusive, expensive, complicated and rare.
The educated mind likes to play the game of believing that such a product is supreme and respects any service or medical procedure that fits into the same model. We revere specialists who know more and more about a smaller and smaller body of knowledge, believing that they must have a better way to solve our problem. Professionals who adhere to this model tend to be elitist, exclusionist and generally inaccessible to their patients.
Society today is paying a heavy price in disease and death for the monopoly granted the medical profession in the 1920’s.
~ Harris L Coulter, Ph.D.
Examples of Some Sad Cases: Can These Wrongs Be Put Right?
Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee (in The Emperor of all maladies) wrote:
Cancer cells grow faster, adapt better. They are more perfect versions of ourselves. The stories of my patients consumed me, and the decisions that I made haunted me. “What is worthwhile continuing yet another round of chemotherapy on a sixty-six-year-old pharmacist with lung cancer who had failed all other drugs?
Over the years it is sad indeed to learn that some cancer patients were not treated well or with respect. It is also not “right” if doctors scold you when you ask them questions.
Episode 1: SJMC ordered to release patient’s medical records – NST 10 Sept. 2005.
S. Yegappan, 65-year-old had been misdiagnosed with “oat cell lung cancer” and had undergone 3 cycles of chemotherapy. He applied to have his medical reports, X-rays, pathology slides and biopsies back from the hospital. The hospital refused his request. In this case the High Court judge ordered that SJMC release his medical records.
Episode 2: After chemotherapy the platelets counts went up – the oncologist said it was good!
Jenny (not real name), 53 years old, was diagnosed with left breast cancer in January 2006. A mastectomy was done followed by chemotherapy. After her first chemotherapy on 22 February 2006, Jenny felt weak with a heavy head. She vomited for three days. Jenny was supposed to have 8 cycles of chemotherapy but after her fourth chemotherapy, she decided to stop chemotherapy totally. This was because of the severe side effects.
On 29 November 2006, we interviewed Jenny. Below is the transcript of our conversation.
Question: Okay, when you did your second, third and fourth chemo, did the doctor know you were on the herbs?
Jenny: No. I hinted about taking herbs during my consultation. They said: “No, no, no. Don’t take herbs.” But I took it quietly without their knowledge. After the fourth chemo and it was time for the fifth chemo, I called and informed them that I intended to stop the treatment. I told them that I am a Christian and I believe in God’s healing. I heard from God to stop the chemo. And I said I wanted to go for herbs. Initially the oncologist said, “Okay, it’s your choice. Do whatever you want. If you have any problems you can come back here.” I accepted that.
Platelet Count Went Up
Jenny: Every few weeks I had my blood test done before this. Every blood test, the blood platelets kept going up. My friend told me through their experience the blood platelets usually go “down” not “up”. If it is “up” it is no good. Also the red blood cells must go up, white blood cells must go up but the blood platelets must come down. When I saw my blood platelets went up, I asked the oncologist. He told me, “No, it is okay. All must go up. Then your body is responding to the chemo.” So, I was very happy and continued with my second, third and fourth chemo. The platelets went up higher and higher until it exceeded the range. So, for the third and fourth chemo, the platelets already exceeded the range. I asked the oncologist: “The platelet had already exceeded the range! Is it dangerous?” The doctor replied, “No, it’s good! It must go up”.
One month after I stopped the chemotherapy, I went back to him again for a checkup. That was the time when they did a blood test and found that the platelets count was dropping. The red blood cells and the white blood cells were up, but the platelets came down. Seeing this I panicked because they said the platelet count must go up. Initially, when I entered the room, the oncologist said: “You are doing very well. You are okay.” But as we went through the readings of the blood and came to the part on platelets count, from 600+ it dropped to 300, I asked him, “How? Why it dropped so much? Last time you said 600+ is good. Now, it has dropped to 300+. What is wrong with this? Is it okay?” Then he said, “Well, you go for herbs. That is why it is like this. You go for organic food, you believe in God’s healing – that is why it is like that! What organic food you are talking about. What is organic food?” I was very confused. I felt like crying. I had no one to consult.
I went to have another test done at the Wellness Lab. Yes, the platelets dropped to half the amount! I enquired from the technician about this drop in platelet count. He told me it was good for me. Eh? I was dumbfounded. There were two opposing views and I didn’t know whom to believe. Then I waited until you came and spoke to you. Then, you clarified that it was good that the platelet count went down.
Q: Your impression was that you were doing badly after the blood test showed a drop in the platelet reading?
Comment: With regards to the platelet count, when the oncologist said: It is good. It must go up! The body is responding to the Chemo, he was both deadly wrong and also right. He was deadly wrong because a rise in platelet count or thrombocythemia, may cause clotting in blood vessels and abnormal bleeding. Abnormal clotting of the blood is a more common complication than abnormal bleeding. A blood clot can occur in either an artery or less frequently, in a vein. This complication can be very serious if the clot blocks blood flow to an organ, such as the brain (causing a stroke) or heart (causing a heart attack). The oncologist was absolutely right when he said abnormal elevation of platelets was the body’s response to chemotherapy except that it is NOT for good, it could be deadly!
Episode 3: Immediate surgery, three days cured
B 413, was a 66-year old male. In 1999, he suffered problems of flatulence in his stomach. A checkup with his doctor indicated colon cancer. He was referred to a private hospital where the surgeon told him that he needed an operation urgently and within three days he would be cured.
He was suspicious of this comment and decided to seek a second opinion at a government hospital. There he was told that his cancer had spread to his liver and there would be no cure. He was then referred to the government liver hospital for further opinion. He was given a similar prognosis – no operation, no cure and no medicine. Not satisfied, he saw a surgeon in another private hospital. He was again told: Don’t waste your money. No need to do any operation.
Episode 3: No chemotherapy, only wash the liver. Died after 5 washings
B 560 was a 32-year old male. A CT scan indicated cancer of the sigmoid colon with numerous metastases in his liver. He was asked to undergo a surgery and then chemotherapy. He was told by his doctor that his chances would be 40:60. He declined chemotherapy. He decided to go to Singapore in search for a better cure. There in Singapore, the oncologist said this to him: Since you do not want to do chemotherapy, it’s alright. I would only use some chemicals to wash your liver. He agreed. So in July 2002, the oncologist in Singapore started this washing-the-liver procedure on him. The procedure was repeated five times. On 1 October 2002, it was the end of the washing. While at home, he felt giddy and was unable to eat. He slipped into a comma and was rushed to a private hospital in Penang. Emergency procedures were provided and he survived. He was hospitalised for about a week. His condition was not good. He could not sit up, the veins in his back were blue-black in colour, his back ached and he was put on morphine. His stomach was bloated and both his legs swelled. He could only breathe through his mouth. He died soon afterwards.
Episode 4: Resect your liver and live for ten more years
Suria (not read name) was a 38-year old male from Indonesia. While in Penang he had a medical checkup and a mass was found in his liver. Small nodular lesions were seen in the right lung, possibly representing metastatic lesions. On his return to Indonesia, he started searching for a cure for his cancer. He went to see a doctor in a Jakarta hospital who then referred him to a specialist in Singapore for further treatment. According to his doctor (in Jakarta) he would be able to live ten years longer if he were to undergo a surgery. So Suria went to Singapore and had a part of his liver resected on 5 May 2001. Before the operation, the surgeon told Suria that he had a 98% chance. Unfortunately, this assurance was indeed misleading. A follow up scan done barely three months after the surgery showed recurrence in his liver. In short the surgery was a failure, in as far as curing his cancer.
When asked about the earlier 98% guarantee, Suria was told that it was supposed to mean he would not die due to the operation. It was never meant to cure his cancer. The doctor washed off his hands from this case and referred Suria to an oncologist for chemotherapy.
Episode 5: Operate or else cancer will spread: a case of a futile open-and-close surgery
Junita was a 68 years old female form Indonesia. A MRI of the abdomen on 7 January 2005 indicated a 8 x 10 cm diameter mass in her liver. There was also liver cirrhosis. The family was told that surgery had to be done immediately otherwise the cancer would spread. On admission to the hospital the family was asked to put a RM 35,000 security deposit. The surgery was carried out but aborted later due to extensive metastasis. This was an open-and-close case. In all, the family paid a bill of RM 11,000. Her blood test showed CA 19.9 = 12,347, AST = 78 and GGT = 494. In spite of this, the surgeon in his medical report wrote: Liver function test was normal.
They Suffered More Than They Ever Bargained For
“Money gone … never mind, if can cure” … that is often what most cancer patients told us. But what happen if all money is gone, yet cancer patients do not find the cure? It is indeed sad to see such things happen.