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Of Alternative Medicines, Misinformation And Fear
I had a terrible time with cancer. I underwent chemo and radiotherapy, but what if I had tried alternative medicine instead?
Well, I wouldn't have actually. I like the clarity science gives us based on empirical evidence. And I like the ability of the scientific community to change their thinking and future direction of study when theories are proved, disproved or new evidence comes to light.
I'm sure the same problem happens in any scientific field of study but what makes my blood boil is when people pass off completely incorrect medical information about a particular disease or treatment and it puts other people's lives in danger.
I follow someone on Facebook. They are into, let's say, the more metaphysical arts and have quite the following. Most of the time, I like what they have to say but just last week, they shared something and I got really angry about it.
They shared a blog post from a pseudo-science site in the US and in the first couple of paragraphs, it stated that"chemotherapy promotes cancer growth"then went on to propose a number of alternative therapies.
Wait, what? Chemotherapy, the treatment created to kill cancer actually promotes cancer growth instead? And where was the scientific evidence of this fact? There wasn't any ... It was just a short comment as part of a larger paragraph.
I commented on the share this person made about how they shouldn't be sharing obviously wrong information and all I got back was a torrent of self-righteous justification about the Illuminati, the New World Order and how we shouldn't trust anything anyone in the medical community says because it's all about profit for Big Pharma.
"All Doctors are liars and it's just about profit! Really?"
I consider myself a woman of science, and when I was told, by someone with over 25-years experience in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, that I was weeks away from death, that chemotherapy would stop the growth of the tumour in my head and that would give them enough time to come up with a plan for destroying the tumour with radiotherapy ... well, I undertook the treatment. Why wouldn't I?
Yes, it scared the absolute shit out of me. I'm going to die? Me? That quickly? And the way to save my life is by filling my body with toxic chemicals and shooting massive amounts of directed radiation at me? And that it may not work at all and even after all of that terrible treatment, I could still die? They gave me 50/50 odds because it was a late diagnosis.
And despite the absolutely brutal journey through treatment and recovery, I did survive, and here I am writing this blog post. But if I wasn't a person who follows science and listens to the expert opinion of an entire team of people who have saved countless lives over the years using the exact same treatment I received, well, maybe I wouldn't be here now.
I want to make it clear that I'm not against alternative therapies and treatments to reduce the risks of getting a major disease, but when you actually have that disease then you bloody well need to listen to your doctors and follow the treatment plan they give you.
Like the most awesome Tim Minchin said in his witty diatribe against the misinformed,"Do you know what they call alternative medicine that's been proven to work? It's called medicine!"
And I have to agree. If drinking hot lemon in the mornings had been proven to be a cure-all, then the NHS will start giving it to its patients with their breakfast. If an Alkaline diet has been proven to reduce the growth of cancer cells, then the NHS would be promoting it.
If Cannabis Oil kills cancer so effectively, then the NHS would start infusing it alongside a reduced dose of chemotherapy (although the scientific jury is out on CBD at the moment, so my opinion on that could well change).
Even my hero Steve Jobs regretted following the alternative medicines route and said that he should have listened to his specialists rather than drinking herbal tea and visiting spiritualists. They still maintain they could have saved his life if he'd undergone their treatment sooner.
The entire world wants a cure for cancer and there are many scientists working in the field. If any one of the many and varied alternative medicines proposed by people around the world is proven to work, through research, control groups, peer review and statistical studies, then don't you think that the cash-strapped NHS would prescribe it?
I'm not talking about the USA and Big Pharma, I'm talking about the National Health Service, right here in the United Kingdom where drugs are only prescribed if they're cheap enough and have good enough results.
This is an organisation that has shrinking budgets and teams of dedicated front-line staff who would love to be out of a job when a cure for cancer is discovered, many of them told me just that.
"A bag of super expensive chemicals or a lemon? The cost savings are obvious!"
I have no doubt that 'some' alternative therapies work for 'some' people 'some' of the time, but sharing anecdotal evidence from ordinary people not trained in scientific methodology is a dangerous thing; a very dangerous thing.
And for those people who have a massive following on social media? Well, you also have a responsibility to ensure you don't share information which is blatantly wrong and could put people's lives at risk.
By all means, live a spiritual life, eat only organic vegan food, exercise every single day, get a good night's sleep, don't drink, don't smoke ... and yes, drink your hot lemon in the mornings and your alkaline water throughout the day as a way to reduce the risks of contracting a possibly fatal disease.
But when it comes to the crunch, and you do contract a potentially fatal disease like cancer, remember ... it's science that will give you a greatly improved chance of survival, not alternative medicine, so listen to your medical team!
Love, light and logic ...
PS ... As my oncologist said, "cancer can happen to any of us at any time, regardless of our health, wealth or our lifestyle. All we can do is make choices that may mitigate its risks, but if you're going to get it, you're going to get it." Makes you think doesn't it?
PPS ... Remember, science moves with the times. Should an alternative therapy be scientifically proven to work then I'd be happy for the NHS to prescribe it and would take it myself on a regular basis.
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