In contrast to our research and the good advice we’ve received from so many of my friends, we’ve also had some quite frankly terrible advice when it comes to living with cancer. There are people out there who think cancer can be cured with a quick 5 minute search online or a quick trip to the supermarket!
To my astonishment, a friend said at one point that they were surprised that I chose to go down the chemo route implying, I guess, that there were better, more effective options available. Unfortunately, once you have cancer it seems that everyone has an opinion on how you should be living your life or an agenda for pushing their own product, healing system or ‘miracle cure’.
Some of these ‘miracle cures’ have included:
- Pureed asparagus
- Frozen Lemons (all of it apparently needs to be consumed – seeds and skin too)
- Keto diet (which is very low carb and high fat)
- Apricot seeds because of the Vitamin A17 it contains – not taking into account the seed’s cyanide content
- Cannabis in all its varieties
- Turmeric Supplements
- Vitamin C drips
- Positive (magical) Thinking
- Drinking Your Own Urine!
It was after this last recommendation that Justine posted on Facebook saying that we didn’t want this kind of thoughtless, unscientific, unproven and therefore quite dangerous advice. We both posted an excellent article about why this kind of unsolicited advice is unwelcome and if people continued to be inconsiderate, they would be blocked.
You might think our reaction is harsh, after all people are only doing this because they want to help and to see me get better, but actually this kind of ‘help’ hurts. What you’re really doing when you offer this kind of ‘miracle cure’ advice is telling the cancer sufferer that they aren’t doing enough, that they really could cure themselves if they tried and that if it was you in their position you’d manage the condition better.
It also presumes that when faced with a palliative (terminal) diagnosis, the patient would neglect to do all the research they could and find out as much as they could about the condition and how to cope. Many people are paranoid about multinational pharmaceutical companies and believe that there is already a cure that these companies are withholding. These same people believe that many ‘new age’ beliefs and practices are sufficient and traditional scientific based treatments are unnecessary.
When you’re given an advanced cancer diagnosis, receiving palliative and not curative treatment, the recommendation of these kinds of miracle cures as an alternative to traditional medicine is particularly painful.
They offer a false hope that you can eliminate cancer and cheat death at a time when you should perhaps be attempting to come to terms with your own mortality. They also imply (normally quoting pseudoscience) that you should be having these new age treatments instead of or as an alternative to chemotherapy and other traditional treatment methods.
What these experiences have indicated to me is that cancer is something that everyone fears. Studies indicate that fifty percent of the population will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lives. As someone with advanced metastatic cancer, I realise that for some people I have become a living manifestation of their worst fears. When they look at me, they are literally starting death in the face.
As a society, we tend to ignore death preferring to push our mortality into the shadows and uncharted parts of our psyche. This kind of advice and tendency towards needing to find a quick fix is symptomatic of our inability as a culture and as individuals, to address our mortality. It’s also perhaps born of a need to try to find a happy ending where there isn’t one to be found. Sometimes life is unfair and shitty things happen to good people and it’s difficult when there are no clear answers when faced with this reality.