I am 45 years old and have four children between 5 and 21 years of age. In January 1998 I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.
In everyday parlance, cancer equates to death, but a death we dismiss as a minimal risk in life – something that happens to other people.
After attempting to overcome the initial horror, I found myself falling on to the path well travelled by the multitude suffering from this disease, the path that leads straight to the GP’s door.
My doctor was pleasant enough, but quickly refereed me to a cancer ‘specialist’ who was anything but. From here on in the ‘recommended’ path seemed to be leading towards rather than away from death.
I sometimes wonder why I found it so hard to accept this path, or if it’s the same for all, but others force themselves to accept it as the inevitable final act in a cruel world. Perhaps it was simply fate - had I found it easier to accept, and had the doctors, oncologists and surgeons been just that little bit more kind and convincing, I suppose I would not be writing this article today.
The first opinion was horrendous, the second no better, and as the words of the most respected specialists Harley Street had to offer tolled painfully in my head, I felt myself becoming more and more desperate – to believe they could help, to believe they could make me survive.
For a time their advice was my gospel, it proffered an answer to my prayers. But looking back, I feel my vulnerability was taken advantage of.
They advised radical surgery, proposed oncologists who could administer chemotherapy and suggested radiation therapy and stem cell transplants, which had yet to pass any trials, but were nevertheless the ‘best decision’. The whole time they reinforced their advice with the constant assurance that if they were my father, brother or indeed any family member, they would strongly recommend this course of action. And so they led me, like a lamb, to the slaughter.
Operations came and went. I stifled my pain and tried to shut it out. I ignored my body’s descent from attractive femininity to a mutilated piece of meat – consoling myself with their promises that they ‘think they got it all this time’.
But I was in perpetual agony, and every hope was violently dashed.
Why, if they got it all, was I having more surgery ‘Whoops, sorry: seven out of ten lymph nodes were infected. Not such good news after all – you may actually only have a 30 per cent chance of survival.’
I felt as if life was slipping away in a casino where Lady Luck was certainly not on my side.
But then fate threw a series of coincidences into my life within the space of just a couple of weeks. Friends from different parts of the world genuinely interested in my well-being suggested I look into alternative medicine.
At first I was the typical Western sceptic. And when I mentioned it to my doctors it was met with such scorn, derision and lack of regard for my opinion that I was actually scared to bring it up again in their presence. But a mixture of curiosity and dampened hope drove me to do some reading and researching of my own.
I did not want to die.
I did not want to have a tube in my chest. I did not want to have chemicals poured into my body which were so powerful that even the nurses could not touch them because of the risk they’d get burnt – I wanted to find a new way.
If I was going to die, I wanted to feel I had tried everything – besides, vitamin supplements and massage could not do me any more harm than the treatments I had endured thus far.
Mexico was the destination, the new hope. I arrived looking absolutely disgusting – half the woman I used to be. I underwent a course of natural therapy, using fruit-based remedies - I understand that the Ecologist will be featuring some of these alternative cancer treatments in an issue later this year.
I was sceptical, but I had nothing to lose by trying.
But amazingly, just a few weeks later, I felt re-energised and alive once more, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. As my hair grew back I felt myself returning to my old self, a woman with hope.
But it didn’t end there. It upset me that I had had to go all the way to Mexico to get my treatments. Why weren’t they more accessible and popularised? I started asking questions and the answers were frighteningly stranger than fiction.
The doctors who treated cancer patients with these methods were put in prison, discredited, invariably harassed, swamped with tax problems and had even had their wives and families taken from their homes – horror upon horror. But why? What could this all be about?
Money, money, money.
The pieces began to fall into place. Pharmaceutical companies: healers of the sick, or first and foremost blue chip corporations with an eye on their profits? You decide. But bear in mind the sort of money we are talking about here – billions, upon billions, upon billions. Not to mention the sort of political influence their money could potentially buy.
Am I right to be so cynical about their goals? Science has proven that there are probably only three cancers that benefit from the full onslaught of orthodox medicine. And yet they keep giving it to us as the panacea for all cancers.
You’d have thought they’d have gotten the message by now wouldn’t you? That maybe they should try and consider integrating some other approaches to the problem – after all, isn’t that what a good scientist is supposed to do – consider all the alternatives?
But then, we too are to blame – why don’t we question it? We all have minds of our own, yet we have all been irresistibly attracted to their siren song. They give you their treatment then invariably proclaim there is nothing more they can do.
They can send rockets round the world and even fly to bloody Mars, and yet they can’t get a bunch of scientists together to crack cancer – sorry, I don’t buy it. Why do so many of us from King Hussein to Linda McCartney accept their ‘truth’? Why don’t more of us follow the alternative route?
What convinces even the wealthiest and most famous amongst us to spend all their money on orthodox medicine? Maybe it’s the letters after their names and certificates they hang on their walls – the ‘I’ve been to medical school, I know what I am talking about’ countenance.
And if you, the patient, ask them about alternative treatments they look at you as if you are raving mad. And whilst you are at your most vulnerable, this intimidation works.
But we’re forgetting that all these doctors are just people. And though they are undoubtedly intelligent people, they are not infallible. Moreover they are only practising what they have been taught, so if their lecturers at medical school thought alternative medicine was a load of rubbish, you can bet that rubbed off on them too.
But attitudes can, and historically do, change – look at how far 21st century medicine has come since the Middle Ages. Just because something is believed to be correct now, does not mean it is, was or will always be so. Man used to drill holes in the heads of those who complained of headaches to let the ‘evil spirits out’. Undoubtedly those who questioned such practices at the time were silenced and derided. Have we really come that far?
Yet maybe we can do something. Look at The Insider, a recent docu-movie about the tobacco industry, read the recent scandals regarding the safety of the Sellafield nuclear plant… the truth is steadily coming out about industries around the world, so can an exposé of cancer treatments be that far behind?
Why after these repeated betrayals of the populace by corporate interests do we ignore the possibility that the same could be true about cancer?
We questioned GM foods, and look at how the British government has had to take note. We can elicit a similar response over cancer.
I’m not irresponsible and I know that there are many people who do wish to pursue the Orthodox treatments – and I do not propose the total abandonment of such methods. I just want you to think about it and about the choices you actually have.
Why are they so restricted? You can get insurance for thousands of pounds to treat your cancer via orthodox means, but try and get insurance to have some natural treatments, such as intravenous vitamins, and it’s totally unavailable.
Not only that, but many of the vitamins we desperately need to build our immune systems up are not even available on the market.
The establishment, the government and the medical profession are desperate to classify them as medicines, and issue press releases on the tabloids’ front pages saying that if you take too many of the vitamins that are available, you could damage your kidneys, heart etc.
But I suppose exposing us to radiation and toxic chemicals does wonders for your body!
They tell us there aren’t any trials on natural medicine in the control of cancer – omitting that it’s because they are either prevented from going ahead in the first place or because they are discredited amidst a flurry of pathetic excuses and scepticism.
Do you think all the various chemotherapy treatments currently employed have all passed clinical trials? And as for those that have, I’d like to know what kind of a clinical trial passes treatments with such huge side effects. Do you believe that vitamins are the treatments we should beware of here?
Things have got to change soon because we’re losing the war on cancer, and we’re being deprived of the alternative weapons that could help turn the tide.
Tina Cooke set up the Cancer Alternative Information Bureau (CAIB) to help and advise those who are interested in discovering more about alternative choices available to cancer sufferers.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2000