And now for something completely different…
Well, not really. It’s a little different, but regular readers will soon recognize it as a variation on the same old theme. One topic I’ve been writing about since the very beginning of this blog is the alternative medicine cancer cure testimonial, or, more specifically, the breast cancer cure testimonial. Indeed, one of the very first (perhaps the very first) of my “classic” Orac-length deconstructions was about this very topic. It’s a topic that’s come up again and again, even quite recently. To make a long story short, many breast cancer cure testimonials involve either lesions that are not cancer, lesions where it’s unclear whether the cancer has changed, or, most commonly, stories in which the cancer has been removed surgically and the woman refuses adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy, such as Suzanne Somers’ or Hollie Quinn’s breast cancer cure testimonial. In these latter forms of breast cancer cure testimonials, it was the surgery that cured the cancer, but naturally the woo-prone, having refused the adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation that decrease the chance of the cancer coming back, decide that it was the woo du jour that they chose that actually saved them.
Another topic—or should I say character?—that has popped up frequently is one Robert O. Young. As you might recall, he is the seller of what he likes to call the “pH Miracle Living” diet/cure/lifestyle/whatever. Basically, he sells the idea that acid is the cause of all disease and alkalinization is the cure. The utter ridiculousness of the concept becomes obvious when Young claims that cancers are all liquids, and this liquid is the “toxic acidic waste product of metabolism or energy consumption”; that viruses are all molecular acids; and that sepsis is not caused by bacterial infection. Yes, Young’s quackery is truly awesome to behold from the point of view of a skeptic who just can’t believe that anyone could believe or promote something as completely unmoored from reality as Young’s pH woo. On the other hand, one can only weep at women like Kim Tinkham, who paid the ultimate price for trusting Young.
He’s at it again, this time promoting “lung cancer reversal without surgery” from a woman named Inger Hartelius:
Summer 2011 I went to the doctor for a health check. I’d been feeling tired and had lost a lot of weight. I ended up having an x-ray, to see if there was anything wrong.
They found a spot on my left lung and I was sent for a Biopsy. On the 21.st of July 2011 they told me the tumor was cancer and there were traces in the lymphatic system around the area.
I do not smoke and I am known as the person in the family who is very conscious about eating healthy food – so nobody could explain why I’d got lung cancer.
The doctor who’d informed me about the results said I should have radiation and chemo.
After my family and I had received the diagnosis about the spot in my lung we began searching for ways to help cure me without radiation and chemo.
I bet you can see where this is going. Ms. Hartelius’ children gave her a book by Andreas Moritz entitled Cancer Is Not An Illness. Regular readers might recall Andreas Moritz. He’s a guy who, in a typical case of thuggery by quacks, threatened to sue a college student who wrote a blog criticizing his quackery. He’s also a kindred spirit to Robert Young in that he apparently believes that cancer is not a disease, but rather a manifestation of…well, it’s not exactly clear. With Robert Young, cancer is “cells spoiled by acid” and the tumor is a reaction of the body to that. To Moritz, cancer is some sort of “survival mechanism,” a reaction to “negative emotions” that are the “real” source of the cancer. If you want to get an idea of just how dumb Moritz is, I’ll quote a bit from one of his articles:
Cancer cells are not part of a malicious disease process. When cancer cells spread (metastasize) throughout the body, it is not their purpose or goal to disrupt the body’s vitals functions, infect healthy cells and obliterate their host (the body). Self-destruction is not the theme of any cell unless, of course, it is old and worn-out and ready to be turned-over and replaced. Cancer cells, like all other cells, know that if the body dies, they will die as well. Just because some people assume that cancer cells are there to destroy the body does not mean cancer cells have such a purpose or ability.
Unfortunately, Ms. Hartelius bought into this load of fetid dingos’ kidneys. I can imagine what she must have been going through. She had just been given a life-changing, life-threatening diagnosis. She’s facing chemotherapy and radiation. Quackery of the sort practiced by Robert O. Young is seductive, particularly in that it promises the possibility of “taking control” and of curing her disease without the unpleasantness and potential complications of standard medical treatment, particularly when she declares, “I knew when the diagnosis was given to me that I’d never go into a traditional treatment. I would rather die from the cancer.”
She might get that opportunity.
So what happened? First, Ms. Hartelius tried to find a doctor in Europe who was “trained” by Dr. Young. The very thought that any physician would actually be clueless enough to want to subordinate himself to Young and “train” in his methods is profoundly embarrassing to me, but apparently there are such utterly useless physicians out there. Be that as it may, Ms. Hartelius apparently had difficulty finding such a doctor and instead decided to fly out to see Young. She was so impressed that she characterized Young’s “clinic” as “Paradise instead of a hospital” and reported leaving the pH Miracle Center “believing in and trusting the program,” no doubt because Young is, in my opinion, a consummate con man.
Ultimately, Hartelius was referred to doctor in Denmark who was apparently so useless and clueless that she was “trained” by Robert O. Young named Dr. Pernille Knudtzon, who thinks that “changing the paradigm” in medicine should include quackery like Robert O. Young. She’s also undergoing a veritable cornucopia of dubious treatments, including lymph massage and and that quackeries of quackeries (reflexology) and talking with a psychologist and coach nearly every week to keep her mind focused on the “positive choice” she has taken. The problem, of course, is that her choice to forget about science-based therapy is not exactly a “positive” choice.
So what is the result of all this? According to Ms. Hartelius, it’s that:
My health is now much better than it was before, I sleep at night, my weight is stable, my lung capacity has grown – I feel so much more alive – which is hard to explain. I have no signs that I’m sick with cancer and now I know I am not going to die of this cancer.
Wow! This sure sounds convincing, doesn’t it? Well, not really. Did you notice something about this testimonial? I did. Read it again and see if you notice it too. Notice how Ms. Hartelius doesn’t say anything objective about her tumor. She didn’t say that it has shrunk or disappeared. In fact, she didn’t say anything about it at all. She just said that she “feels more alive” and that she “knows” that she isn’t going to die of this cancer. How she knows this, I have no idea, but apparently she “knows.”
What this tells me one of two things. One possibility is that the biopsy was the kind that removes the whole tumor, such as a thoracoscopic biopsy, and surgery is what has put Ms. Hartelius in remission. I have no idea if that’s true, but another, perhaps more likely, possibility is that she underwent a core needle biopsy and the tumor is still there but she isn’t mentioning that. Yes, that’s probably the most likely explanation, basically the same explanation that Kim Tinkham gave, namely that the tumor is still there but she “knows” that it won’t harm her. Unfortunately, lung cancer generally doesn’t work that way, and I fear that Ms. Hartelius is only fooling herself.
After having paid attention to cancer quackery for more than a decade now, there’s one thing I still can’t figure out, and that’s how people like Robert O. Young get away with it. Think about it. Young splits his time between living in Alpine, Utah and Rancho del Sol, an avocado and grapefruit ranch in Valley Center, California. There, he uses the quackery that is live blood analysis and his alkaline diet as a treatment for cancer, leading unwary patients like Kim Tinkham to their deaths with impunity.
After all these years, I still just don’t get it.