Cancer should be a word, not a sentence

M died yesterday. Another victim of the dreaded crab. Another unsuspecting victim of the medical system that feeds on the patient's trust and panders false hope. M was not even forty, a mother of 4 children the youngest being just 2. I have known M for almost a decade. A feisty woman with a quick temper that could flare at any moment, M was a survivor, a survivor at any cost. When pwhy was just in its infancy and I still naive, she came to me asking for a job. Upon hearing that she had finished school, I suggested she join the team as a primary teacher.

Two years ago, when she was at the end of her fourth pregnancy - in her case she had 3 sons and wanted a girl - she told me about a suspicious lump in her breast. At that time I was not as knowledgeable as I am now, but still I gave her some advise on nutrition and also asked her to meet my Tibetan doctor which she did. But how can a stem of innocuous pills given after a mere checking of the pulse compete with scanners and toxic potions administered in nuclear war like environment. And though I had entreated her to continue taking her pills even if she opted for conventional therapies, I guess the pills must be still lying in the corner of her home.

I know that M and her husband must have been every angry with my adverse reactions to conventional medicine and my pleas to stop eating meat - M belongs to a community where pork is a must - and eat seasonal vegetables and fruit. Meat in their community is a sign of abundance and wealth, and her I was asking them to take it off their table. I know they never did.

A few days after our 'chat', M informed me that they had found a cancer hospital - private of course - that was offering a 100 000 package deal that she was convinced would cure her. I tried again to tell about the way cancer operates and that cure in conventional terms is just five years + one day, but the look on her face made me stop my spiel. She had been seduced and fallen hook, line and sinker for the treatment on offer. She was operated upon and given radio and chemo therapy and suffered all the terrible side effects it entailed, but also lymphedema of one arm which resulted in one of her arms being swollen and practically non functional.

I presume that hospitals do not counsel patients sufficiently and in spite of her swollen arm M though she was cured. I guess the follow up protocol was not followed and the cancer spread rapidly and by the time they realised that she was ill again it was too late.

I felt so sad and helpless and angry when I heard about her death. With the knowledge I have today, I feel confident that had she listened to me, she would have not relapsed so early, but then a person who tells you to eat certain things and give up others becomes non-grata forever.

In the case of people like M, who have no medical insurance and little money, alternative therapies should be an option. Yet they are not. Often such persons feel that we are denying them something we have benefitted from for ages and that they have toiled for and just accessed. Though it makes me sad, I can well understand where they come from. Imagine being told by one form the other side of the divide that you should not opt for swanky machines and expensive drugs but become vegan, chew some cannabis seeds or eat a few apricot seeds. It is humiliating and infuriating I agree. So you watch someone you know die because you could not beat the system whilst retaining the dignity of the other.

This is the power of modern medicine, the stranglehold of the big pharma companies, the result of the millions in marketing a treatment that does not always work, or certainly does not work on its own. I truly wish NGOs dealing with cancer would also propagate the truth about alternative options to the weaker communities. It would make all the difference between life and death.

Cancer is a word, not a sentence!

May M rest in peace and may her children be safe.