Radiation and chemotherapy are dangerous placebos. And placebos sometimes work
~ Dr. Julian Whitaker
Lina (not real name) is a 36-year old female. She was diagnosed with CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) in August 2008. The doctor at the Singapore General Hospital prescribed an oral chemo – Glevec (Imatinib) – for her condition. This medication cost S$3,500 per month. Initially Gleevec was good for her but after 6 months she suffered a relapse. The consumption of Gleveec was stopped.
The doctor suggested Lina undergoes a bone marrow transplantation. This procedure would cost approximately S$50,000 to S$100,000. Lina declined. She said: I would rather die than undergoing this procedure and go bald. In view of this, the doctor prescribed Lina another oral drug, Dasatinib (or Sprycel) at 140 mg /day. This medication costs S$6,000 per month. After taking this drug for the past few weeks, Lina suffered pains in her bones – the pains seemed to move around the whole body.
Desperate in wanting to find a cure for her illness, Lina went to seek the help of a medium who lives in private house somewhere in Singapore. The medium told Lina that her problem is a result of evil spirits. He (the medium) would be able to chant and pray to get rid of these evil sprits, but this comes with a price tag of S$3,800. The medium told Lina that after one chanting, she will be cured. Lina wanted to try this treatment but her husband objected.
The lessons we can learn from Lina are these:
1. Desperate people will do desperate things to find a cure that rarely exist.
2. Desperate people are vulnerable.
3. There are enough vultures around ever ready to pounce of such desperate people. They come as Black Crows or Men-in-their-white-coats.
Therefore it is up to us to be on the watch out and empower ourselves to look out for such people. There are still people who want us to believe that diseases are due to evil spirits or even as God’s punishment for our sins. As such chanting, prayers and ritual cleansing can do the job perfectly well.
My reading tells me that some diseases can indeed be due to the mind and has no organic origin. In such cases, practices that unblock the mind and restore our positive emotion may help. However, if the disease is of organic origin, i.e., due defects of basic biochemical processes or tumours, it is indeed hard to believe that only chanting, prayers, ritual cleansing or drinking of blessed plain water can cure the problem.
However, desperate people are vulnerable!
The main concern of such spiritual treatment is how it affects the patient. In this case, the worst that can happen is that Lina would be poorer by S$3,800 if her leukemia is not cured. There is no other harm.
Lina had already spent S$3,500 per month for 6 months (total S$ 21,000 for the so called scientific medicine, Gleevec) and she ended up with nothing as well. If we look at it from this viewpoint, the taking of the so called scientifically proven drug is no better than paying the medium. In fact the medium asked for much less money. We can’t blame Lina if she chooses to believe in the medium. She has put her full trust in her doctor and medicine had failed her. So what is the difference then – medium or doctor?
Now, Lina is on another drug that costs S$6,000 per month and she ended up with unexplained pains that moved around her body. What is going on?
I thought the medium ought to be a bit more clever – why offer just a chanting service? In addition to chanting, dish out some coloured sugar pills for her to swallow each day. Tell her the pills are going to cure her, besides the sms he (the medium) is sending to the devils.
Look at it this way, is the result that Lina had thus far, not about equivalent to what she had obtained by paying the hospital – S$3,500 or S$6,000 per month? And I am also sure that those coloured sugar pills (if the medium where to dish out) will not cause pains.
What is Gleevec or Amatinib
Gleevec, also known amatinib, is a new drug that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of white blood cells, and for the treatment of a rare form of stomach cancer called gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST).
One study had shown that in 9 of the 20 patients who were treated for five months or longer, no leukemia cells could be found, which showed that the drug was eliminating the source of the cancer.
Another research paper said: imatinib has had a marked impact on outcomes in patients with CML. It remains a valuable treatment for all stages of the disease.
The truth is: As far as Lina is concerned Gleevec has failed her. Why? Perhaps she is the unlucky one or perhaps the devils are still around?
What is Sprycel or Dasanib?
After Gleevec had failed, the doctor suggested Syprycel. This drug is used to treat those with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and who are no longer benefiting from Gleevec. This means Lina has moved from taking the ineffective imatinib to another drug named dasanib. Do you see the similarity in their names? All belong to the nib family (this requires another article to explain its implications which many people are not aware of!). According to the website the long term benefits and toxicities of dasanib are currently still being studied (take note of this statement!)
Besides the high price tag, dasanib comes with a long list of side effects:
1) Can cause low red blood cell counts (anemia), low white blood cell counts (neutropenia), and low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia).
2) Can cause bleeding. The most serious is bleeding in the brain leading to death, and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract. Less severe events included bleeding from the nose, the gums, bruising of the skin, and excessive menstrual bleeding.
3) Can cause fluid to accumulate in the legs and around the eyes. In more severe cases, fluid may accumulate in the lining of the lungs, the sac around your heart, or abdominal cavity.
4) Other side effects are diarrhea, skin rash, headache, fatigue, nausea, muscle and bone pain, fatigue, fever, cough, poor appetite, dizziness, moth sore, constipation, chest pain, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, chills, weight gain, etc.
My last point
After knowing the possible side effects of the new S$6,000-month-drug, I developed cold feet. My feet get even colder when I recall what happened to KW, a 25-year electrical engineer. He was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent medical treatment, including bone marrow transplantation. He died within 10 months. (Read Story 3: War Against Leukemia: The Story of Our Eldest Son).
Perhaps Lina should just opt to have the medium chase away the devils instead? At least, she would suffer no harm. If the medium could keep the devils away for 10 months, then the treatment is a real bargain.
Either way, no one seems to be right and sure, at this point in time. The medium is selling hope but he does it in a crude way. Not many would believe his stunt and most regard it as a con job. Doctors too are selling hope and they do it in a scientific way. The entire world tends to believe them. In the end, it is all about perception! Either way the result may just end up the same?
Note: By writing this case, I am not implying that you go to the medium for treatment. Going to the medium probably has similar effect as wait and see or do nothing is better than doing something aggressive and deadly. In this case Lina came to us for herbs.