As a medical worker (when I DO work) obviously I see a lot of people with a lot of health problems, not counting when I look in the mirror. Cancer is the Big C. I am not sure what the C stands for, perhaps it's what people scream when they get the diagnosis, but we'll move on.
As a WESTERN medical worker, a free-thinker (mild-mannered antichrist) and skeptic, I do not have a lot of time for alternative medicines. No time for most of the new-age ****-therapy things involving herbs, oils or rocks, nor for chiropractic, nor for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is killing endangered species faster than deforestation and global warming and moon-sized meteorites put together. There is so much blatant quackery, snake-oils and pseudo-science here, so many un-testable therapies offered, and so many contestable therapies proven wrong when contested. (Check Ben Goldacre's blog and tweets. Read Simon Sigh's books and his blog.) I groan, sometimes I kick back.
I receive each week (or is it month?) a medical newsletter from a service called DocCheckNews. Last week one of their articles caught my attention - it was about cancer denial and Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs. Evil exponent of that worst sort of capitalism that is anti-competition and wants to monopolize its product type. Great acceptor of other people's great designs. Great acceptor of praise that should have been given to those others. Rich dude.
Alternative medical treatment FAIL.
Patients in state of shock
Things began for the Apple guru not that badly: Jobs' cancer was discovered more or less accidentally, but still in its early stages. As the CEO of Apple was being examined because of kidney stones, medical staff found indicators of a neuroendocrine tumor. Their good news: "This is one of those slow-growing pancreatic cancers that can actually be cured." Jobs nevertheless decided against surgery and chemo. Instead, he tried to treat the disease with diet, turned to spiritual healers and tested macrobiotic approaches. Nine months later, the tumor had spread considerably. "How could such a clever man then be merely so stupid", many journalists are now asking.
But the refusal of truth didn't end there: For months, the Apple-Star stated in several interviews that he had been healed – and gave other patients apparent hope. The people believed it – wanted to believe it, until Jobs' condition was no longer able to go by unnoticed. A charismatic marketing star on the one hand, unable to speak publicly about his illness on the other: such was the conclusion of the press. Then there was no turning back: A liver transplant – necessary due to numerous metastases – was considered the last chance. Steve Jobs stood at the top of the waiting list at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, such was the extent of his disease. In the medium term his surgeons were successful, yet he died on 5 October 2011.
The soul suffers, and the therapy suffers alongside in sympathy
Steve Jobs story, in general terms, is not an unusual one: after cancer diagnoses have been given, medical staff report existentiality-based fears – patients lose the ground under their feet, feel fear, helplessness, despair and rage. Others in turn suppress acknowledgement of their illness completely. The doctors have surely been wrong, data samples or data were switched: common lies pulled out as self-defending cover. And some flee into the hands of supposed healers with promises of alternative therapy. The social environment also often reacts completely wrongly: "Self-blame" is the dominant tone of terse declarations about patients with lung cancer ("That comes from smoking too much") or liver cancer ("Should've drunk less"). Those affected benefit precious little from this, they sink ever further into a black hole.
Dipl.-Chem. Michael van den Heuvel
Point being: If Steve Jobs had taken the course of conventional Western medicine straight away, he would, for better or worse, still be alive today. And most probably cured, most likely very healthy.
Rich or poor, under stress we are vulnerable to quackery. Be on your guard, for the clouds of ignorance and, worse, denial are gathering.