Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fruit Flies - A Rant.

I’ve had some nifty scams come my way. Some claiming to cure breast cancer, others claiming to diagnose cancer without any physical interventions: no breast self examination (BSE), no technology nor lab tests involved.

I’ve been handed baggies filled with greenery of some sort, dried herbs and small twigs. Each one was "natural" and guaranteed to cure cancer. Interestingly, each cure came with a dollar fee attached to it.

Once I was invited to speak to a group of women with one of our respected oncologists from the BC Cancer Agency. We were talking about knowing your body and the importance of early detection. The audience was intent as I told my story – they appeared young, had no family cancer, were in shape, etc.

The oncologist talked about treatments including radiation. Then I asked for questions. Instantly one hand shot up from the back row.

"Madam, why did you choose such an invasive diagnostic method?" (By the way, I see red flashing lights when  someone calls me "madam.") I replied that my cancer was discovered only by mammography and that I didn't consider it invasive. He then shouted, "Madam, are you aware that radiation burns holes in fruit fly wings?"

I was gobsmacked. What the heck did fruit flies have to do with this? I turned to the doctor. She jumped up and went over the purpose of mammography and its use of radiation. It didn't matter. The man had done his job only too well. No woman in that room would ever have a mammogram without burning fruit fly wings in her mind.

So who was he? Once the audience stampeded out of the room he informed me that thermography in bras was the way to find breast tumours and that, coincidentally, he sold the bras and the system, and would I support him? Bah!

I've also heard insidious, damaging misinformation that goes something like this. "It's all a conspiracy. There is a cure for cancer but the cancer industry and its minions are only interested in making money. It's not in their interest to have people cured. They're all in it. Sick and dying people mean dollars in their pockets. It's a scam."

People who genuinely believe this are charging collusion. For this to be true means that: family doctors,   mammography techs, radiologists, surgeons, nurses, oncologists, counsellors, lab techs, Canadian researchers, international researchers, medical journals, the international media, politicians, medical scientific panels and more are all in cahoots to deceive and lead people facing cancer to their avoidable deaths. Hogwash!

I think of one of our most esteemed researchers whose sister faced breast cancer as he worked on chemo rejection, trying to find out how to make chemo effective. I think of my own doctor who looked sick telling me that I had cancer. I think of the tears I have witnessed from doctors and medical staff who have treated a patient, valiantly, but lost that patient to the disease. I think of one woman in particular who said she would rather die than take any useless "poisonous" treatments from the medical "pirates." Sadly she did.

But mostly and happily, I think of the hundreds of people I have met who have been treated successfully and gone on with their lives post cancer.

We want cures for breast cancer, and all cancers, and we wish we had it yesterday and for everyone. We want unequivocally certified preventative measures for this disease. Until that happens the best way to save lives and bodies is to apply the knowledge we have now, while pushing science forward to find those preventions, treatments and cures. It's not magic. It will require bloody-minded determination by all of us - on all fronts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Confession time. I binge.

Binge watching that is.

Breaking Bad has me by the throat, and until I plough through to the bitter end I have no intention of stopping.

Image credit: AMC Networks

I know it's violent and a grisly spectacle of down and dirty evil. The characters are as nasty as they come. They cook meth, kill, lie, steal, cheat, and do it all in high gear. It's fascinating!

BB is one hell of a fast story, set in Albuquerque and the arid desert area of New Mexico. Walt,the devoted father of a teenage son, with a pregnant wife, teaches chemistry in a local high school. His life wasn't particularly interesting until he was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer. The story hook - he couldn't pay for any treatments and his finances were in the red.

Over two years we gawk as Walt turns to crime, expertly cooking methamphetamine and selling it through one of his students. The plot is furiously fast, gripping, and shakes morality. It's the polar opposite of Downton Abbey.

Then my brain clicked in...BB could never take place in Canada. Here, once Walt was diagnosed, he would be in front of a doctor deciding on treatments. He wouldn't need to turn to crime as a financial plan, unless it took his fancy to try evil as a life style. No need to cook meth. No need to kill for money. No TV crime drama. What a bore.

PS. I love Downton Abbey too.