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Sometimes, RL intervenes. Sometimes, we need to ask the big questions.
Would You Kick a Dying Man?
Would you rob a grieving widow of her life savings?
Hopefully at this point you're thinking, 'Of course I wouldn't. Nobody would.' Unfortunately, this is not the case. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in May 2011, and had secondaries in his spine, hip and brain. The prognosis according to the doctors was not good (the 5 year survival rate is less than 1%). He died in January 2012, and I was pleased he had lived so long. Others were pleased. too. This was a prime marketing opportunity. . .
The first of these people is a nurse who is the proprietor of a private consultancy offering advice to cancer patients. My dad went to see the nurse, and she told him the good news: if he followed her advice he could be tumour-free in 3 to 4 years. She charged £150 for a telephone consulation, £160 for a personal consultation, and offered to manage treatments for a further fee.
My Dad was advised to change his diet, think positively, and consider some intensive treatments. I'm going to look at each of those in turn.
The first level of support is to have a good diet and to support this with supplements such as Vitamin D and Mannatech Plus. This sounds fairly reasonable and harmless – however, the diet protocol advanced for cancer patients is severe and punishing. Christies (the cancer hospital in Manchester) said 'there was no scientific evidence to support a change in diet'. Patients must be vegan, avoid wheat, sugar and alcohol. They should drink 5 glasses of raw juice and eat two jars of sprouts a day. The supplements were many and each had a different regime (with food, without food crushed on the back of a spoon). My dad was taking steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain which made him crave some of the foods that he was banned from having. His mouth became sore and it was difficult to eat some of the prescribed foods. This and the complexity of the regime of supplements meant he spent months worrying that he was getting it wrong and was therefore killing himself.
It also meant we couldn't plan treats and family meals, ways to show him we cared as we approached his last Christmas.
I nearly titled this section 'how I killed my dad with my mind'. Patients require a little positive thinking to get through the treatments and indignities suffered – however, the level of positive thinking required was a clear denial of the truth. Imagine for one moment that you are in debt (probably not that hard). There are a number of possible responses:
- This is terible, I'm thousands of pounds in debt. There is nothing I can do.
- This will be alright. i owe £2000 if I pay £80 per month I will be debt free in 2 years. If I cut out coffee and stop buying CDS I can do it.
- Of course I have an overdraft, everyone owes money. If I think like a rich person I will become rich. I will book a holiday.
The middle response is obviously the most constructive; it allows people to take the necessary actions. The positive thinking my dad was told he needed was more akin to the third. My dad had to believe he would get better, otherwise he would die, we all had to believe. If we thought those negative thoughts, then what we were most scared of would happen. This meant that my family never had any of 'those' discussions. My mum never got to say goodbye, we didn't talk about money, about the funeral, about the end of his life. When he died, it was like a car crash had occurred. My mum still partly blames me for what happened as I was unable to believe that he was recovering.
This harmed him on a number of occasions. For example, one evening he seemed to be becoming unwell, my mother insisted he was always a bit down in the evening, that things were getting better and better, couldn't I see? She was still insisting it was fine as the ambulance arrived and rushed him unconscious into hospital.
Poor decisions were made, my dad took a redundancy deal which only worked out as a good bet if he lived, my brother didn't visit as often as he should, and my aunt postponed her wedding until my dad was better.
This final level of support is the area where most attention tends to be focused in the media. It includes things like hydrogen peroxide, intravenous vitamin C and things that happen at certain clinics that nobody seems to know about. Treatments tend to be expensive and sometimes dangerous.
My dad was taking some of the more noxious supplements at home and treatments were suggested such as oxygen therapy, heat therapy, acupuncture, and intravenous vitamin C. There is a clinic in Brighton which can offer all these treatments and more in exchange for large piles of cash. Vitamin C is the one that caused me the most anguish – it is dangerous to deliver IV treatments outside of a hospital setting, and therefore few places offer it. There is a retired GP in Tamworth who will do it in his sitting room for £3,000 a treatment. My dad went to see him, but was told he couldn't have the treatment because chemotherapy had collapsed his veins.
The package of treatment as a whole caused harm, as it was expensive using up my parents limited life savings, took my dad away from home using up his energy and resources and caused emotional damage.
My parents were reassured by the cancer consultant, as she was previously an oncology nurse and had a positive write up from a website offering advice to cancer patients (run by an an independent charity of which she is a patron).
Editor's note: This Researcher has asked to remain anonymous.