Monday, February 5, 2018

The 'C' Word

Nobody wants to think about it, talk about it, and certainly not hear it in a conversation with their doctors in regards to the results of a recent health assessment. I don't believe there is another word that strikes more fear into us than 'CANCER'! Yet everyday in every city in every part of the world people are diagnosed with one form or another of this devastating disease. With all the research, technology, focus, and money that has been poured into finding a cure, why do millions in this day and age still receive the tragic news that translates into a death sentence more often than not?

Seriously, I want to know the answer.  Our primary physicians, oncologists, and cancer specialists who work in the trenches day after day, watching their patients suffer excruciating pain, trying their very best with the treatments available to them, must also witness the wailing and heartbreak of the family who has just lost a mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son to this monstrous avenger. I can't begin to imagine the degree of failure and guilt these doctors on the front line must endure time after time.

So again I ask why?  I know there have been great strides in finding cures for certain types of cancer, and if found at the onset, many can be relegated into remission for longer periods than ever before. I think these situations are indeed cause for celebration for those who have 'won the battle' at least temporarily.

But with cancer being around for decades, one would expect there to be much more in the way of curative progress than is currently available.  Testing should be more sophisticated by now, treatment more humane and effective, and results. definitely more positive.

My mind keeps returning to a day in the Sixties while sitting in a teachers' faculty dining room discussing the sad news that one of our own was diagnosed with cancer. Just weeks before, she appeared healthy and robust, but was now hospitalized with little chance of recovery. One of my fellow educators told of a letter she received from her sister. a nurse, who was working in a German hospital. According to what her sister had to say, there did exist a cure for cancer, but probably would never be utilized on the general public. The sinister  hypothesis she gave for why the cure would only be relegated to the 'chosen few' was monetary in nature.  Treating cancer patients had become a million dollar industry then. a billion dollar market today, and there was no way the medical establishment and pharmacutical companies were about to forego their profits in lieu of the peoples' return to health.

At the time, I thought the nurse's conclusions to be ludicrous, and didn't believe what she had to say for one moment. Surely the drugs being developed and the CEOs of the companies bringing them to fruition to provide hope and possible cures for cancer patients had the highest of intentions. Furthermore, I had no reservations about the medical profession's sincere efforts to wipe out this horrible disease before the end of the 21st century.

Sadly my Pollyanna attitude back then was just that, a pie in the sky belief that altruism would trump monetary gains every time, especially when people's lives were at stake. I'm a lot older now with cynicism replacing idealism at a rapid rate these days, and according to the odds-makers, a possible candidate for cancer myself at this stage of my life. Though I don't fear death, if I had the choice, I would definitely chose something other than the prolonged, agonizing suffering of cancer. Hey, having my parachute fail to open while skydiving, be eaten by a shark while swimming the ocean blue, or being trampled by an elephant while on safari, in my opinion, are far better ways of dying than being treated with chemo and knowing that after all the misery I would endure, and believing that I could have escaped the terrible pain if only those who could have prevented it would have!