Rule #1: Doctors don’t know shit about cancer. You can take that to the bank. It is an absolute truth.
In the 1980’s, my dad’s voice started becoming raspy. Doctors diagnosed him with non-cancerous “nodes” on his larynx. It was the years of smoking, they said, adding that he’d better quit that. Periodically he would go in and have the nodes removed. The doctors always assured him they were benign. “Not a cancer cell in your body, Mr. Barbanes!” they told him time and again.
Right up until the day they removed his larynx. Because, you know, it was cancer after all.
After the operation, the doctors were again confident. “Not a cancer cell in your body, Mr. Barbanes,” they assured him.
And then soon he had his prostate removed. Bang, just like that. In for a checkup today…“Oops, gotta schedule you for surgery, like, um, tomorrow.” I learned about it after the fact, it was done so quickly.
Well that wasn’t the end of it, of course. The surgeons had their way with him, cutting off bits that no man should ever lose...bits *I* hope never to lose, please, dear God!
The oncologists kept him coming back and back and back for more torture. Test after test was done – always on an outpatient basis. Many of them were severely debilitating, bordering on barbaric. Dad’s cancer got worse and worse. It was hard to watch, and I’m sure it must have been harder for him to go through it. But dad never complained. He gritted his teeth and soldiered on. It’s what men of his generation did.
None of their tests or procedures did anything positive. After a while, I got the impression that the doctors really were merely experimenting on him just to see what “might” work in his case. It was then that I realized that doctors don’t know shit about cancer. They don’t know what causes it, don’t know how it spreads, and obviously don’t know how to cure it. Worse, they don’t even know how to treat it.
I’ll spare you the details. Eventually they gave him six months, max. They suggested a short-term terminal care facility. We took him home, arranged for hospice care. Their prediction was just about right.
I bring this up because of a fellow blogger named Debby. The link to her blog, Life’s Funny Like That is over on the right. She is a wonderful writer, very funny and warm. She has an upbeat way of conveying things in such an intimate way that it’s almost like reading an email from a friend. Even better, she updates often – more often than me for sure. Definitely a blog worth subscribing to. If you do nothing else, read this hilarious story about how she found the family cat dead in the street. Someone who can make a story like that funny is a very, very good writer indeed.
Well it turns out that Debby has cancer. It started when she discovered a lump in her breast. Things happened very quickly from that point on. She’s had surgery and will endure a regimen of chemo and radiation therapy. Oh what fun.
There are already certain similarities in Debby’s journey and my father’s. After her initial operation and a PET/CT scan, the doctors told Debby that she was cancer-free. She was confident enough to blog, “I had cancer!” Had, as in past-tense. Reading those words made me wince. Remember rule number one. Privately, I wondered why they were putting her through chemo and radiation therapy if indeed she had - past tense - cancer?
Well of course there’s now another lump in the other breast. The cancer is not beaten after all. The visits to the various doctors continue, as will the various treatments with more urgency now. The doctors confer and conflict and consult and advise and hedge and do all the bullshit that doctors do when they’re pretending they actually understand what’s happening inside a human body on a cellular level or deeper. What she is going through right now is awful to read about. To get the full story, you should start reading around the beginning of September and read “up.” It’s enough to make you want to scream.
Debby is a strong woman with an equally strong faith. I know that ultimately she'll be okay, whatever the prognosis. She knows the score: We're all going to die some day - we'd all just like to put that off as long as we can if possible. I wish her the best. Nobody needs this kind of stress and upset in their life and the lives of their family members. But I fear the worst. Because like I said - all together now...
Doctors don’t know shit about cancer.