The World’s Most Well Fought Battle Against Colon Cancer

I give this article the title – the World’s most well fought battle… Why? This is because the man involved in this battle against colon cancer, Tony Snow, used to walk along the corridor of power in the most powerful political office on earth. For many of us in Malaysia, what happened in the United States of America is always the greatest and the best. What America says we agree or have to agree and what America does we follow or eventually have to follow. I would imagine that the most powerful man on earth would be able to do something great to help his beloved staff and fellowman who was in great distress. I believe that Snow would have gotten the best – the best advice, the best doctor, the best drugs and the best hospital – for him to fight his war against cancer. So, to me, this battle against cancer would probably be the most well fought battle ever waged in America– the world’s most powerful nation.

Also in almost all countries in the world and most of the time, those with wealth and/or political power are All-Powerful – they can get anything they want or they can get away with anything they do. Oop – except of course, as this story will show; they cannot (always) win the war against cancer.  The lesson we can learn from this story is: No one on earth should take cancer for granted.

The facts:

  1. Tony Snow was the press secretary of President George Bush – the current (2008) president of the United States of America.
  2. He was married and had three school-going children. His mother also had colon cancer and died when Snow was 17.
  3. Snow was first diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2005.
  4. After surgery he underwent six months of chemotherapy.
  5. He was said to be cancer-free after the medical treatments. He was appointed President Bush’s press secretary in May 2006.
  6. In late March 2007, Snow’s cancer reappeared in his abdomen and also his liver.
  7. He underwent a surgery in April 2007 followed by more chemotherapy.
  8. Slightly more than a year later, Snow died at the Georgetown University Hospital – on a Saturday morning in July 2008. He was 53 years old.

The following are quotations from the press about his battle against metastatic colon cancer:

The Associated Press. 27 March 2007.

He had recently reached the two-year mark of being free of cancer. The White House deputy press secretary said: He told me that he beat this thing before and he intends to beat it again.

Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical College said: This is a very treatable condition. Anyone who looks at this as a death sentence is wrong.

USA Today 27 March 2007: Robert Mayer, former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology… suggests surgeons won’t be able to cure it with surgery but may be able to control it with chemotherapy. When cancer returns in multiple organs, the goal is not cure, but maybe control for a good long time, which can be measured now in years as opposed to months.

Daniel Laheru, a colorectal cancer specialist and assistant professor at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said patients a decade ago with widely spread tumors survived an average of 12 months. Now, new chemotherapies have doubled that to about 24 months.

The Cheerful Oncologist. 28 March 2007 wrote:  Chemotherapy plus targeted therapy, however, does have a chance to prolong the lives of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The average survival of patients who receive no anti-cancer therapy … 4 to 6 months, while those with treatment 20 to 21 months and hopefully more. This is an example of why medical oncologists give treatments designed to kill, disable and humiliate cancer cells.

The Washington Post – 28 March 2007. reported:  Snow, who beat cancer two years ago, suffered from colitis for 28 years and in February 2005 he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Snow said: seventeen days after the diagnosis, we go in and take the whole colon out and throw it in a garbage bag. After the treatments, Snow got a clean bill of health from a doctor and he went on to take the job at the White House.

Snow called Bush about 7 a.m. to tell him about the recurrence. Bush later told the press: He is not going to let this whip him and he’s upbeat. The blood test and other scans turned up negative for cancer. Anyway, Snow decided to have the growth removed to be followed by chemotherapy.

People 14 May 2007. In an article: Fight of His Life, Sandra Westfall wrote:

6:30 a.m.: National Security briefing;  10 a.m.;  Press briefing;  Noon: chemotherapy, hospital;  3:30 p.m.: Pick up kids from school

That was the typical every-other-Friday schedule for the President’s press secretary Tony Snow.  The cocktail of drugs he’s taking to keep his cancer in check includes one he took when first treated for stage III colon cancer. Snow said: I’d be exhausted for two or three daysThe pace of innovation is breathtaking.  Anyone who can survive a few years has automatic hope.

The Associated Press. 30 April 2007.  Tony Snow was back on the job Monday, five weeks after doctors discovered a recurrence of his cancer. He said he would soon undergo chemotherapy just to make sure we’ve got the thing knocked out.

Slate 4 September 2007.  Snow said: I finished chemo two weeks ago todayWe did CAT scans and MRIs in the last week and it indicates that the chemo did exactly what we hoped it would do, which is hold serve. The tumors that we’ve been tracking have not grown. … We’ll be doing what’s called a maintenance dose of chemotherapy just to keep whacking this thing. He also noted that he’d be having scans every three months, just to stay on top of everything.

Snow conceded: I’ve been lucky I work at the White House. Snow noted that oncologists and patients have made heroic strides in turning cancer into a chronic disease rather than a fatal disease.

The Washington Post. 12 July 2008. After the relapse, Snow said he would undergo an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy followed by further treatment, and hope to throw it into remission and transform it into a chronic disease. If cancer is merely a nuisance, for a long period of time, that’s fine with me. He had lost considerable weight and his thinning hair had turned white during several months of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

Comments:

I am writing this article with a sense of deep respect for the deceased and also for the living. I do not want to add more grief or hurt to anyone. I respect what the patient and his family had done and would not wish to give my opinion about this case except to say that everyone had tried their best to help Snow but the inevitable had happened – the battle was lost.

Even if the battle was lost, it would be a great tragedy if we in Malaysia or those in the developing countries do not take this opportunity to learn something from this episode.

If you have not read my book: Understanding Cancer War & Cure, you can download it for free by clicking this link. We at CA Care manage cancer in a much different way than what is currently practised in the advanced countries of the Western world.

Allow me to pose some questions regarding the media propaganda and spin with respect to this case. You can use your own commonsense to answer these questions.

1. This is a very treatable condition. Anyone who looks at this as a death sentence is wrong.

What does the reality of this story tell us? Slight more than a year after the second battle, Snow died – dead wrong or dead right?

2. What do you think is the real cause of his death?

3. The recurrent tumour in the abdomen has been taken out. Only some cancer could have been left in his liver. Could this kill Snow? Or was it the treatments used to treat the cancer that killed him?

4. This is a treatable disease. What do you think of such a statement? Surely, any disease is treatable but can it ever be cured? Treatable does not mean curable at all.

5. Cancer patients should take note of this medical claim: Patients a decade ago with widely spread tumors survived an average of 12 months. Now, new chemotherapies have doubled that to about 24 months. Is survival for two years with new chemotherapies is enough or sufficient for cancer patients? Most patients who undergo chemotherapy have the misconception that the treatment is going to cure them.

6. CAT scans and MRIs … indicates that the chemo did exactly what we hoped it would do … The tumors that we’ve been tracking have not grown. If that is the good news and result, why was the battle lost? Is the temporary shrinkage or stoppage of tumour growth just a meaningless, false security?

7.  Oncologists and patients have made heroic strides in turning cancer into a chronic disease rather than a fatal disease. How true is still statement? Death, after a year of chemotherapy is not fatal?

8. Snow got a clean bill of health from a doctor and his first surgery and chemotherapy. What is the worth of such a statement? In one hospital, cancer patients are given a Certificate of Achievement after completion of their six cycles of chemotherapy. Is such certificate worthy of the paper it is printed on?

9. Snow had lost considerable weight and his thinning hair had turned white during several months of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. What is your say about this? Is this not what most cancer patients suffer before they eventually die?

10. Medical oncologists give treatments designed to kill, disable and humiliate cancer cells. Is that so? The reality is: who gets humiliated? The cancer cells got killed or the patient?

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