America is currently waging two wars that have a lot in common with each other. Both are open-ended and consume enormous amounts of national treasure. Both rely on an aggressive approach and high technology to win the day. Both are fought against a cunning, stealthy enemy who seems to stay one step ahead of our best efforts. One is the war on terror. The other is the war on cancer.
Of the two, the war on cancer is the Granddaddy. In spite of the fresh evidence of the futility of such enterprises provided by the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon made his declaration against cancer in the 1970’s. At the time it was thought that America’s genius for technology and innovation would rapidly win the day. That was well over 40 years ago. Untold billions have been spent trying to penetrate the mysteries of cancer with very little to show for it. The major “weapons” in the war – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – have all been refined somewhat, but are still all harrowing experiences that often produce little in the way of positive long-term results. The newer focus on cancer “receptors” has shown some promise, but many of the touted “targeted” drugs have awful side effects, are absurdly expensive, and extend life by only weeks or months.
I’m pondering all of this after having read Kelly Turner’s book on cancer survivors entitled Radical Remission. Dr. Turner is the first scientist I’m aware of that actually bothered to study the people who survive cancer after the medical establishment has told them to get their affairs in order. Not only are these people not typically studied, they’re often dismissed as flukes, or people who really never had cancer after all. The medical and research establishments seem determined to keep going with their current programs and holding fast to their old paradigms.
Although the cases of so-called “spontaneous remission” (relabeled radical remission by Dr. Turner) reported in the book all varied, the common theme was that they learned to relate to their cases of cancer in ways other than dread. For most of us, cancer and terrorists are regarded in the same way. We look to authorities to eliminate them for us. They’re like the bogeymen in nightmares that we can’t kill or escape, hard as we try. Just as the war on terror produces an endless stream of new recruits for the terrorists, the current methods of treatment for cancer have done little to stem the tide. In both cases we view the failure as a need to do the same old things in a more efficient, smarter and more targeted way. Maybe we’d be wise to follow the examples of real success, and start all over again.
Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers to what causes cancer, and I don’t believe there’s a standard way to treat it that will work every time. All patients benefit from changing their diets, beginning to exercise, taking herbs and supplements, etc. My own experience jibes with the findings of Dr. Turner. The patients who are truly cured of cancer are changed by the diagnosis. They don’t submit blindly to treatments and submissively follow orders. They take on the disease, treat it as a teacher, and find their own way. They use doctors of all stripes as consultants rather than follow them like gurus. Each transforms herself in her own way into a person who no longer has cancer. Fear is cancer’s best friend, wisdom its enemy.