THE CANCER APOLOGISTS
Who are they, the cancer apologists? Just abut every medical doctor you and I know or have heard of. Every cancer research facility you know or have heard of. In what way are they apologists for the disease known as cancer?
In the way of ommision. Because our medical doctors and research people don't express any undue alarm and indignation over the horrific rise of the rates for all kinds of cancer, especially in the young. Because they don't pretend to try to address the causes of cancer, except to blame it on individual life style, and they even find the epidemic of cancer in children and young people totally unremarkable, even though the children haven't lived long enough to develop dangerous life styles.
I heard a doctor who specializes in cancer on CBC yesterday talking about his new book: Cancer is a Word and Not a Sentence. Cute title, huh? The author, Dr. Robert Buckman, tells us there is no reason to panic with a diagnosis of cancer, that there are many kinds of cancer, some worse than others, to be sure, but his message seems to be that cancer is really no big deal as most cancers are manageable, especially breast cancer. And Dr. Buckman didn't even touch on, much less discuss the issues of how women might manage sickness and grief over losing their breasts, the pain and struggle of the operations themselves, while at the same time many try to juggle jobs, or school, or husband and children, or for some, all of the above? And then the constant worry the cancer may recur anyway after terrible, debilitating operations in some other part of the body? To have to live forever with this dreadful, constant worry of recurrence? To live daily with the knowledge that way too many middle agreed people, both men and women, are dying young from different cancers? Friends and relatives? On a regular basis?
Having lost two adult children to cancer I am not objective. I have no reason to be objective. Something is dreadfully wrong with our state of medicine and research that first, refuses to even admit there is a cancer epidemic, and secondly refuses to look at the polluting effects of the chemicalization of industry as a cause that could be sickening people of all ages. The doctors and researchers are entirely innocent of any notion that something should be done about pollution but when pressed, most will admit that it lowers the human immune system. However, most refuse to comment on products like the herbicide Round Up used by the logging companies in the province by the tons after clearcutting our public forests. Or speak out about any of the other products that have compounds that mimic estrogen and stay in the body and are passed along to children such as plastics, household cleaners, and a thousand other household and building products that have not been tested for important chemicals that damage human bodies and shorten lifespan.
One of my daughters died seven years ago from breast cancer. She was twenty-seven when she was diagnosed. When she first told me I said, "Oh, no, dear, that isn't possible. You're way too young to have breast cancer!"
She died not quite three years later. From breast cancer. Afterward, a friend brought to my attention the other young women in our vicinity who were either struggling with or who had died from breast cancer. My daughter certainly wasn't an anomaly. And after my eldest son died from a brain tumor in California two years ago I heard a national news report as I was packing to return to Canada. It was a health report.
The news report said that cancer was now the leading cause of non-accidental death among American young people between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four. And as a consequence, there would be the most massive study of the health of US children ever undertaken by the government, tracking kids from birth upwards. I am in total opposition to just about everything the Bush government thinks, does, plans to do, but I wish our own government, doctors, and research people were as concerned about cancer in young people as at least some medical people in the States seem to be. Instead, what we have are the doctors like Robert Buckman who has no apparent desire to try to find causes and lots of desire to publish books minimizing the pain and heartbreak of the cancer epidemic and the Canadian Medical Association seem more concerned with the happy prospects of more privatized health facitiies for their pocketbooks.