Althouse | category: cancer



a blog by Ann Althouse

"[Kirk] Hammett, who is Buddhist, will talk at length about consciousness, God, enlightenment, resonance, Nirvana."

"He believes that the work he does with Metallica is an extension of some sublime and omnipotent creative force. 'I put myself in this space where I take in all the creativity around me and I channel it to create more,' he said. His hope is that Metallica facilitates a healing sort of fellowship. 'We are so nondenominational,' he said, laughing. 'Come to the Church of Metallica. You’ll become a member and rejoice! You don’t have to direct anything at us. You can direct it at the experience that you’re having.'"

Writes Amanda Petrusich, in "The Enduring Metal Genius of Metallica/On the road with the band in its forty-first year" (The New Yorker).

Metallica’s music is rooted in feelings of marginalization, and the band, despite its achievements, has found a way to maintain that point of view for more than forty years. It makes sense that people are drawn to Metallica’s music, because they’re ill at ease in a culture that relentlessly valorizes things (money, love, straight teeth) that are very easy to be born without....

[James Hetfield's] parents were devout Christian Scientists, and had met in church, where Virgil helped lead a weekly service. But Hetfield never connected with the religion.... Hetfield recalled being embarrassed when he wasn’t allowed to attend health class, or receive a physical to play football. “I still carry shame about that,” he said. “How different we were to people.”

When Hetfield was thirteen, his father left. “I went off to church camp, and I came back and he was gone,” he recalled. Two years later, his mother developed cancer, but refused medical treatment on religious grounds. “We watched her wither to nothing,” he said. “She had religion around her, inside her. She had practitioners coming over. But the cancer was stronger.”...

“I thought she cared more about religion than she did her kids,” he said. “It wasn’t talked about, either—if you’re talking about it, you’re giving it power, and you want to take power away from it. So admitting that you’re sick, that’s a no-no. We just saw it happening.”...

Much, much more at the link. I just cherry-picked some things about religion.

"How is it possible that a disease characterized by coughing, emaciation, relentless diarrhea, fever, and the expectoration of phlegm and blood became not only a sign of beauty, but also a fashionable disease?"

Asks Carolyn Day in "Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease," reviewed by Allison Meier in "How Tuberculosis Symptoms Became Ideals of Beauty in the 19th Century/In Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease, Carolyn A. Day investigates how the fatal symptoms of tuberculosis became entwined with feminine ideals in the late 18th and early 19th centuries" (Hypoallergenic).

It helped that the wasting away of tuberculosis sufferers aligned with existing ideas of attractiveness. The thinness, the ghostly pallor that brought out the veins, the rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and red lips (really signs of a constant low-grade fever), were both the ideals of beauty for a proper lady, and the appearance of a consumptive on their deathbed. If you didn’t have the disease, you could use makeup to get the pale skin and crimson lips, and wear a dress that slumped your posture....

The perception of a medical problem as beautiful is not an isolated quirk of the Victorian age. We do it today. Look around.

I'll just quote an old post of mine, from 2004, my first year of blogging:

[O]n that subject of [John] Kerry's getting overtanned for debate purposes: Kerry, like Gore before him, seems to think it's good to be tan for a debate, a belief can be traced to Kennedy's appearance in the 1960 debate. But we know now that Kennedy's tan appearance was in fact a symptom of his Addison's Disease.

The subject of disease perceived as health is an interesting one. Here are three other examples:

1. I remember reading an essay some years ago written by a woman who had been suffering from cancer, who heard many people tell her how great she looked. They were only seeing that she had lost a lot of weight....

2. There is a terrific essay by Oliver Sacks in "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" (one of my favorite books), about a 90-year-old woman with syphillis, which she called Cupid's Disease, who enjoyed the lively, tipsy way it made her feel and did not want to be cured: "I know it's an illness but it's made me feel well."

3. In the Tennessee Williams play "The Glass Menagerie," the character Amanda makes having malaria sound fun: "I had malaria fever all that Spring ... just enough to make me restless and giddy."

"This was a personal problem and not for public consumption. With the exception of Ivanka, Avi, Cassidy and Mulvaney, I didn’t tell anyone at the White House — including the president."

Writes Jared Kushner, quoted in "Kushner Says He Was Treated for Thyroid Cancer While in White House/In a memoir to be published next month, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law wrote that he wanted the diagnosis and treatment kept quiet" (NYT).
“The day before the surgery, Trump called me into the Oval Office and motioned for his team to close the door. ‘Are you nervous about the surgery?’ he asked,” Mr. Kushner wrote. 
“How do you know about it?” Mr. Kushner responded. 
“I’m the president,” Mr. Trump replied, according to Mr. Kushner. “I know everything. I understand that you want to keep these things quiet. I like to keep things like this to myself as well. You’ll be just fine. Don’t worry about anything with work. We have everything covered here.”

I’m the president... I know everything. 

"I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer."

Said Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, quoted in "A Cancer Trial’s Unexpected Result: Remission in Every Patient/The study was small, and experts say it needs to be replicated. But for 18 people with rectal cancer, the outcome led to 'happy tears'" (NYT).

The inspiration for the rectal cancer study came from a clinical trial Dr. Diaz led in 2017 that Merck, the drugmaker, funded... [T]he cancers all shared a gene mutation that prevented cells from repairing damage to DNA.... Patients in that trial took a Merck checkpoint inhibitor, pembrolizumab, for up to two years.... That led Dr. Cercek and Dr. Diaz to ask: What would happen if the drug were used much earlier in the course of disease, before the cancer had a chance to spread?... 

Dr. Diaz began asking companies that made checkpoint inhibitors if they would sponsor a small trial. They turned him down, saying the trial was too risky. He and Dr. Cercek wanted to give the drug to patients who could be cured with standard treatments. What the researchers were proposing might end up allowing the cancers to grow beyond the point where they could be cured. 

“It is very hard to alter the standard of care,” Dr. Diaz said. “The whole standard-of-care machinery wants to do the surgery.” 

Finally, a small biotechnology firm, Tesaro, agreed to sponsor the study. Tesaro was bought by GlaxoSmithKline, and Dr. Diaz said he had to remind the larger company that they were doing the study — company executives had all but forgotten about the small trial....

"In recent years, a growing number of medical and public health groups have introduced public awareness campaigns warning people to drink with caution, noting that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of cancer, behind tobacco and obesity."

From "Should Your Cocktail Carry a Cancer Warning? As pandemic disruptions lead many of us to drink more, experts underscore the link between alcohol and disease" (NYT)(the article is featured on the front page of the NYT right now, but it was published in 2021).

There's not too much talk about alcohol causing cancer, but there's even less talk about obesity causing cancer. In fact, I don't believe I'd ever heard that obesity can cause cancer, and yet, apparently, it's the second leading preventable cause of cancer.

The article is about alcohol as a cause of cancer, so I had to look up what cancer is caused by obesity. Here's what the CDC has to say. It lists "13 Cancers... associated with overweight and obesity"

Meningioma (cancer in the tissue covering brain and spinal cord)
Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
Multiple myeloma (cancer of blood cells)
Breast (post-menopausal women)
Upper stomach
Colon and rectum

This is a huge deal, but we don't hear about it — presumably because it's strongly believed that telling people to lose weight only makes it worse.

Look at this CDC graphic (from 2016) — it's so governmental and tragic:


"Promoting breastfeeding" — that jumps out (in this time of the formula shortage). 

That chart is funny — the way so many activities are involved. The most direct approach to losing weight — eating less — is something you can do entirely alone and without moving at all. You can, but it's just so hard. And what's the point of telling people to eat less — a lot less. They know! Everyone knows. It's completely easy and completely hard.

AND: Don't get me started on that Corporate Memphis/Alegria/Big Tech art style. Blogged about 6 weeks ago, here.

"A governor, not governing during a crisis; and sunning his belly on vacation instead. @GovRonDeSantis is the Nero of Ted Cruzes."

Tweeted Joy Reid, quoted in "Ron DeSantis accompanied wife to cancer treatment while critics claimed he was 'missing'/DeSantis announced his wife's breast cancer diagnosis in October" (Fox News).

Let this be a lesson to everyone: You don't know what other people's troubles are, and maybe some of those troubles you don't know about aren't even a secret and could have been known by you.

This gets my "empathy" tag.

ADDED: Why don't links to Fox News work? Can anyone tell me the solution? If not, I will stop linking to Fox News.

ALSO: On the anti-empathy side, we need to remember that a politician might use his wife's illness — and specifically breast cancer — as a cover for behavior that really is unseemly. 

I don't know about Ron DeSantis, but I remember John Edwards. He used his suffering wife as a political prop and, behind the scenes, carried on an affair. 

"John Edwards' betrayed wife 'tore off bra,'" the BBC reported, as Edwards was on trial in 2012 for using campaign donations to hide his pregnant girlfriend:
Breast cancer sufferer Elizabeth Edwards... collapsed during the fight in an airport car park [in October 2007], a witness said.... [The witness] said Mrs Edwards had screamed: "You don't see me any more." Then she took off her shirt and bra, exposing herself to her husband in front of his staff, the court heard.

"He didn't have much of a reaction," [the witness] said. Mrs Edwards had gone through intense treatment for breast cancer before the incident took place.... [The witness] testified that as people rushed to cover Mrs Edwards and get her into a car, she heard Mr Edwards call his wife's doctor for help. After that he got on a waiting plane and made a scheduled appearance in South Carolina, she said.

Whatever happened in that trial?

On May 31, 2012, Edwards was found not guilty on Count 3, illegal use of campaign funding (contributions from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon), while mistrials were declared on all other counts against him. On June 13, 2012, the Justice Department announced that it dropped the charges and would not attempt to retry Edwards. Edwards returned to the practice of law....

"In recent years, a growing number of medical and public health groups have introduced public awareness campaigns warning people to drink with caution, noting that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of cancer, behind tobacco and obesity."Remember when Biden cured cancer?

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