I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Cure for Cancer

Veronica Gray, Simon Gray, Me, Andy Herrmann, Jessica Herrmann, James Herrman, and the top of Maggie's head (in stroller).
June 13 Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure in Raleigh.
Saturday I took part in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. I did the 5k fun run (though I walked it) with Laura's kids, her brother Andy, and her sister-in-law Jessica.
I've never used my blog to solicit money, except, of course, to encourage people to buy my books. I figure the world is full of good causes, and people will naturally support the things that matter most to them, whether it's Boy Scouts, the local library, NPR, March of Dimes, or whatever. People don't need me to tell them how to be charitable.
On the other hand, I have no problem advocating for other things I feel strongly about. I don't mind making the case for atheism and libertarianism. So, here's my brief pitch for why I think that it's worth sending some of your charitable dollars to organizations actively engaged in the search for a cure for cancer: Unlike certain problems, cancer actually has a solution. Poverty, for instance, has proven time and again to be able to sustain itself as a problem no matter how much money is thrown at it. Similarly, if you give money to Girl Scouts or NPR, more power to you, these are terrific organisations. But, fifty years from now, these organizations are still going to be asking for money. I'm not convinced that will be the case with cancer charities.
Cancer isn't a philosophical problem that can be debated for centuries without ever arriving at a conclusion. It's a defect in the normal function of the cells of the human body. There are specific, identifiable steps that the cells must go through in order for cancer to grow. Fifty years ago, we didn't have the tools we need to track each of these steps. Today, we have instruments available to model the cells in tremendous detail, to the point that we can generate computer models of individual protein strands within the cell. We are in the early stages of a revolution in our understanding of the human body. The information contained in any cell was too complex to fully model only a few years ago. Now, we can carry around terrabytes of data on devices small enough to slip into a pocket. We finally have the tools to truly understand everything that is going on inside a cell.
I don't want anyone to think that I'm underestimating the difficulties that still lie ahead. For one thing, "cancer" isn't one disorder. Even specific types of cancer like breast cancer turn out to be composed of lots of different sub-types, growing in responses to different triggers, following different paths of progression. Cancer isn't a single problem to be solved, but hundreds, if not thousands, of interrelated and overlapping problems.
Still, it is fundamentally a physical problem, and the physical world may be complex, but it's not infinitely complex. Our bodies can be understood, and they can be manipulated. There is a cure out there in our future, and once we cure one type of cancer, the others will follow, and one day we will fear cancer no more than we fear smallpox or polio.
All that stands between us and a cure now is time. There are unknown number of man-hours of study and research between us and a cure. But, the old adage tells us that time is money, and the reverse is also true: Money is time. The more money that's made available for research, the more people will be employed in the research, and the faster those man-hours will accumulate.
So, if you are someone who likes putting your charitable dollars toward problems that have solutions, consider making a contribution to a program searching for a cure for cancer.


Loren Eaton said...

Cancer research is a wonderful thing. I don't know what would have happened to my dad without the oral chemo agent he took.

Drakonis said...

Chemo Therapy will kill you. Ozone Therapy was disapproved by the FDA due to it's low price and availability.


James Maxey said...

Loren, I hope your Dad's okay. There are a lot of very smart people working right now to cure him.

Drakonis, I hate to argue, but... no, wait, I'm confusing me with someone else. I love to argue! And I love conspiracy theories! And you're nuts! These paranoid theories about stuff the FDA supresses requires us to believe in the collusion of thousands of researchers around the world. If ozone therapy cured cancer and the US didn't want it approved, what's to stop people in France from using it? Iran? China? Canada? Perhaps one could argue that the US profit driven system would ignore a therapy without economic rewards for drug companies, but Canada pays for the health care of all of its citizens, as does Great Britian, and dozens of other fairly nice places to live. They would have an economic incentive to embrace the most cost effective solution possible.

The beauty of science is that it doesn't have to be bound by our political borders. For instance, the Bush administration place a lot of limits on stem cell research that used public money. But these restrictions didn't extend to Europe or South Korea, and research has rolled forward there and elsewhere. If ozone truly cured cancer, every scientist in the world would know that by now.

The idea that there are cheap, easy, and effective cures already known and kept hidden by the government requires you to believe that all the PHD students out there mapping genes and designing therapies are all part of the same grand and evil conspiracy.

Also, this is one area where the profit motive makes no sense. Scientists and the government give people free advice on how to live healthier for less money all the time. Eat less. Excersize more. Don't smoke. Don't drink and drive. They spend millions each year promoting these messages, and what industry (other than TV) is profitting from them?

That said, if you or someone you love had cancer and wanted to try ozone therapy, I say, go for it. People should be free to do as they wish with their bodies. And chemo can be really horrible on a body. It's not a free ride to a healthy life. I respect people who chose not to punish themselves with chemo and instead focus on making the most of their final days. But, don't smear the names and reputations of the researchers who have designed the chemo therapies we have and are hard at work designing new ones. These people are heroes... to accuse them of poisoning people for profit is truly mean-spirited.

James Maxey said...

Actually, I just went to wikipedia to read a bit more about ozone therapy and I see that one of my points is already supported: There are plenty of countries (as well as states in the US) where this is a legal and accepted therapy. Apparently it's big in Europe and a mainline treatment in Cuba. But, a little further googling shows that European union countries don't have better cancer survival rates than the US. In fact, the data I've found shows the US on top on five year cancer survival rates, though the difference isn't staggering: 63% for women in the US, 56% for women in Europe. For men, it's better, 66% in the US, 47% in Europe.

I can't find much data on Cuba. I found an article that said their cancer survival rate beat the US, but it didn't give any figures. Still, if ozone therapy is given freely in Cuba, and they had a success rate that was beating traditional chemotherapy by a wide margin, I can't help but think this data would be available. It seems like something a government would want to brag about. You'd think they might have mentioned it to Micheal Moore when he was down there filming "Sicko."

Loren Eaton said...

Ah, James, you made my day. You have no idea how many "alternative" therapies well-meaning folks have pitched to us over the past five years. My favorite was aloe. Drink aloe and it will cure your brain cancer! Goodness.

Chemo is unpleasant stuff. They discovered its effect when a bunch of people got exposed to mustard gas in World War 2. But it's supposed to be nasty. That's how it kills cancer!

Dad's doing pretty well, all things considered. Thanks.

cheryl said...

Excellent points James! With healthcare issues near the bottom of the list for the federal budget, cancer research relies on the funding from organizations such as the Susan G. Komen foundation (www.komen.org), the Jimmy V foundation, the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and many others. Without the grants provided by donations from the Race for the Cure, Relay for Life, or a golf or basketball tournament, many new treatments would not be discovered. Cancer is an ever evolving disease and while great leaps are being made in treatment and care, more research is a must.

James Maxey said...

One tricky thing in discussing "chemo" is that it's a big, broad word that's as difficult to pin down as "cancer." It's not a single drug. Some of it is really nasty, some of it has fairly manageable side effects.

Laura actually tried many alternative therapies concurrent with her chemo. We were driving to Greensboro each week so that an old man who spoke only Chinese could retune her chi. I assumed the actual medical benifits from this activity were pretty close to nil, but I never said a disparaging word, because even if it did nothing to kill cancer cells, it did have therapeutic benifits in increasing Laura's sense of hope and her feeling that she had some tiny measure of control over her destiny. She was grasping at straws, but it feels good to at least be grasping at something. We also went to Conyers, Georgia, to the holy well there where the Virgin Mary supposedly appears so she could get a couple of bottle of holy water that miraculously cured all manner of illness. I drove. I filled the bottles. I didn't believe, and neither did she, but... what was there to lose?

If she had wanted to try ozone therapy, I would have been there to hold her hand as they stuck the needle in. I really don't mean to disparage alternative therapies, since I think they have important psychological payoffs. On the other hand, I can't just stand by and let doctors who are adhering to accepted medical standards of treatment get smeared as part of some big conspiracy to hide safe and effective treatments from their patients.

I also don't want to make it seem like I'm unaware that the FDA is vulnerable to political influence. I don't regard pot as the miracle drug that it's most avid proponents say it is, but there's no question that it's illegal due to politics, not due to any scientific reasons.

Loren Eaton said...

Interesting stuff to talk over, James. Yes, all sides of the political spectrum can agree that the FDA is often swayed by things other than strict scientific evidence. And I also believe some alternative therapies have benefits -- a few because of legitimate palliative effects that aren't as of yet widely recognized and the rest due to placebo effect. The latter is often talked of disparagingly, but it shouldn't be. If only we understood it better, then we could harness it for all sorts of medicinal use. However, that's another post, I think.

Drakonis said...

Hello. I am the father of Drakonis. I was wondering why they asked me about the treatments, they told me. I sometimes do work in America, Canada has very isolated people who sometimes need attention.

The FDA is always a problem for me when I try to help people across the border. They com to me after hearing from relations. My equipment costs under 500$ and the instructions are simple. It makes Cancer a small problem like Influenza big for me. Other doctors hear from relations, and come to me so they can learn. I give them new tools and send them goodbye. When I hear from them, they tell me how they must hide from the government, because of the FDA. Coworkers turn from them and make trouble out of jealousy. It all works out in the end though.

Sorry for any bad grammar. My children are not helping me. They love your books!