Donating to Cancer research doesn’t lead to a cure, says survivor

A friend recently posted on Facebook encouraging one and all to donate to yet another in a slew of fundraisers, set up by the Canadian Cancer Society, and in which his son was participating. I graciously declined, citing my reasons for doing so, and the discourse that followed became a bit heated. I’ll admit, I didn’t realize at first that it was his son’s campaign, I just saw the Cancer Society logo and immediately my blood boiled. (I may be a cancer survivor but I have no time for the cancer society or the medical system, both of which I feel are extremely flawed). Don’t get me wrong, I admire his son for trying to make a difference and when I realized it was his son, I apologized, for using his thread to voice my opinion. My friend and his son, as well as everyone else, have been affected by this dreaded disease.

But our little tete a tete got me thinking because this is where my friend and I disagree, well where I disagree with most folks. He believes, like many others that the Cancer Societies are altruistic and that raising money will help in them in finding a cure, and that they and science are diligently looking for that cure, because as he put it, “I need to believe in something.” My experience with the Cancer Society and the medical system tells me otherwise.

I am not one of those conspiracy or ‘medical mafia’ types. And my opinion comes not only from me but is also based on facts. The fact that my oncologist told me that they would give me a regimen of drugs, -a cocktail as she put, trying to make it sound sexy or yummy I guess, it was neither- but she had no idea whether or not it would work. If it failed then they would administer another regimen of drugs until they eventually found one that might work. In my opinion, this is not science, but more like Russian roulette.

My opinion is also based on the facts of my urologist who told me that he had no idea whether removing my bladder immediately and altogether along with my prostate, seminal vesicles, and some surrounding lymph nodes, rather than just removing the tumor, would stop the spread of the disease. He informed me that there was not enough research into bladder cancer. Most of the money for male cancers went into prostate cancer, and of course the drugs for the side effects afterward.I’m talking erectile dysfunction and the drugs that are supposed to alleviate it, or perhaps elevate it, that is a billion dollar industry. Ironically research is now showing that prostate cancer is best left alone and monitored, rather than removing the prostate.

But this still leaves me with a perplexing question. Why are some people so adamant in defending and accepting when it comes to cancer and the system that supports it? Are the good people involved with the Cancer Society(s) trying to do a good job? Probably, they certainly are raising a lot of money. Are the researchers and the scientists looking for a cure? Again probably, but it is the way in which they are doing so, that bothers me. Looking for a drug, so that drug companies can make more money, in my opinion, is not the way to go.

I believe that we need to rethink our methods of treating cancer with chemo(chemical), radiation therapies and surgery; the old ‘slash, burn and poison’ method that usually results in more harm than good. It is about time we started looking at, the whole person and what they call alternative or complimentary therapies, which of course they do not support, or do very little research into.

This is not the first time that someone has been upset about my anti-cancer society stance nor do I believe will it be the last. I often wonder why people get so upset whenever someone, like me, criticizes the system. Is it because we need to believe? Is it because we want to believe; or is it because we don’t want to, or can’t imagine that sometimes the system is not always acting in our best interests.

We never seem to have much trouble speaking up or against other systems, for example, our political system and our often ill-equipped or inadequate leaders. Why then should the cancer system get a free ride? I for one believe that they should be scrutinized. I for one feel that trillions of dollars have been raised and we are no closer to finding a cure than we were twenty years ago. If this were any other institution questions would be raised and asked about where all the money is going. I believe it is time that we all started asking questions and demanding answers.

Andrew Glen holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from Western University (UWO). He is married with two sons and lives in London Ont. He is the author of Beating the Odds; a chronicle of his battle with and overcoming StageIV bladder cancer. War Dads, a fictional novel dealing with the unfortunate events surrounding PTSD and The Grotto and Other Stories a collection of short stories

About Phil Saunders (17 Articles)
I have been a professional writer since 1988 when I began my career as a music journalist. In 1998 I began working at CBC, after returning to work with a Master's in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. In 2000 I co-produced a feature film that was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival among other North American film festivals. In 2016 I published a book on the Toronto underground music scene called No Flash Please: Underground Music in Toronto 1987-1992. I am also a photographer and documentary filmmaker.

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