September 10, 2008

Mad Lib For Quacks

SU2Q. Part of Standing Up to Cancer is Standing Up To Quacks too. You know the kind. Carrots cured my cancer, you should try it too. These types of stories are harmless when kept to themselves, but when shared with the general cancer community, I consider them a public health hazard.

On September 5, ABC.com began an on-going blog series by a woman who called herself Joyce, who was sharing the blow-by-blow of how she denounced chemotherapy and headed to a quack in Scottsdale, AZ for treatment instead. I’d give you a link to her laughable blog, in all its vagueness and holy-rollering, but I cannot. I, along with a slew of other readers, posted a thoughtful response and ABC has eliminated any trace of its existence from the Internet.

Next time you run across some cancer quackery that makes your blood boil, feel free to copy and send my letter below, switching out the particulars ala Mad Lib style to make it your own.

Dear Joyce,

I am thrilled for you that your treatments are progressing so well. I am, however, startled that a national, authoritative news source such as ABC would venture into alternative cancer treatment with an anecdotal story series that provides no research, no mention of evidence based alternative therapies, and a poor, oversimplified understanding of the relationship between traditional and alternative medicine.

I am a proponent of first person storytelling (and in fact have written a book based on first person narratives of young adult cancer patients), but your story is a Pandora’s box. The goal of first person storytelling should be to educate the reader. Instead, this tissue paper thin journal entry only serves to confuse patients who may be searching for vetted, substantial alternative medicine information.

I shudder to think that this series may convince patients to follow in the footsteps of your writing by making quick, uninformed, gut level decisions about their cancer care, urging patients to forgo treatments that have greatly contributed to boosting cancer survival rates over the past 30 years. When you have cancer, education is not just power; it is what keeps you alive. I know, I have been living with cancer for 8 years and receive outstanding care from both traditional and complimentary care doctors.

Sincerely,

Kairol Rosenthal

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