Stop Looking for the Magic Bullet
I’ve seen a few posts lately touting vegan diets or a certain food or drink, with the words “prevents cancer”. I know everyone wants “hope”, and wants to do something proactive to prevent this disaster from happening (again). Here comes the cancer curmudgeon to put a pin in the hope balloon, to piss on the hope parade.
The appropriate phrase is “lowers risk of developing cancer”. If some food or drink actually “prevented” cancer, we’d all be ingesting it, because only a moron would want to have cancer—and I mean that, if you’ve ever said, “I wish I had cancer to meet (random celebrity), to be thinner”, you’re a moron.
Magazines, internet articles, etc. flash the words “prevents cancer” to take advantage of our desperation to do nearly anything to not go through it (again), and people buy their product, go to their site. I’ve nearly gone crazy in the past two years seeing those words thrown around on countless magazines as I wait in the check-out line at the grocery store. If anyone actually knew the numerous causes of cancer, there would be cures (there can be no one cure, the disease is far too complex, even in breast cancer alone, never mind all of the cancers). I know of too many stories where the runner, the vegan, or the nutrition freak, got cancer. Hey I’ve eaten a shitload of oatmeal, still got cancer. I don’t smoke, still got cancer. I could go on all day. One of the people who guided me as I went through treatment was the healthiest guy I know: runner, strict nutritional diet, hell, my friend, his wife, is a nutritionist! Guess what—he got lymphoma AND non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the same time. There are too many anecdotes like this. Sometimes bad things like cancer happen to people who are most unlikely to get it. If cancer had a motto, it would be “shit happens.”
This brings me to my larger point—phrases like “prevents cancer” feeds right into that “blame the cancer patient” line of thinking. Too many times those without cancer ask dumbass questions like “did you smoke”, “did you exercise regularly”, or “were you overweight”. The biggest risks for getting breast cancer are being a woman and aging—well, I don’t wanna be a boy and when anyone finds the antidote to aging, please tell me. One preventative method suggested on breast cancer websites is giving birth and breast feeding. I never had kids because I’d be a terrible mother. (And the having kids thing would not apply to me anyway, because I was EP negative, my cancer had nothing to do with estrogen, see what I mean about it being a complex disease?) So I deserve to get breast cancer, to possibly die because I made the RIGHT decision for me? Fuck no. Do smokers or former smokers deserve lung cancer, to die? If you think “yes”, then you are an asshole.
I’ve fallen victim to this line of thinking too, yep, I’m a giant hypocrite and I admit it. I cut up tomatoes real fine in the salads I eat constantly now, even though I prefer lightly cooked veggies, and I hate tomatoes, but I eat this because of the alleged cancer fighting properties. I only buy make-up and beauty products with lower amounts of carcinogens and rarely use nail polish, which I really miss. For the first time in at least 20 years, my hair is its natural color, because of the carcinogens in artificial hair color. Hey, here’s a wacky idea: how about corporations stop putting this shit in products? How about NOT putting cancer causing chemicals into animals we eat, and making the meat affordable to all?
There is nothing wrong with taking actions like eating better to improve health, yes, even to lower risk of cancer. I respect those who’ve made the commitment to do so. I respect those who only post positive things in relation to cancer, who embrace the pink and/or Komen culture. It just is not my way of looking at the world, and I hope that this does not tarnish how you read this rant. I’ve said it before and I repeat: I am grateful for all the drugs and care (some the direct result of pink dollars) that have made me NED (no evidence of disease). But being grateful does not mean I should stop asking for more, for better, in the search for treatment and prevention of ALL cancer. I hope I never lose the will to ask this.
In the fight against cancer (if we must use this terminology, oh how I hate this language of cancer, like those “who lose the battle to cancer” just were bad fighters, or losers), science needs to develop better weapons, corporations need to stop poisoning products for profit. Those are the bigger, more effective ways to fight cancer, instead of putting the onus on the individual. Don’t hand me a damn peashooter, I want a fucking nuclear missile.