My Malignant Melanoma

Seanty's experiences with Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. Part of Email us direct at

Thursday, 14 October 2010



Personally, I like action. I'd far rather be struggling with the indifference of the NHS, or even having treatment, however unpleasant, than being in the limbo of waiting for results.

This is one of the things that drives the use of alternative medicine-quack diets and so on give you the ability to think you are treating yourself between treatments. It's seductive-even I sometimes find myself considering cutting out the dietary components which quack diet books recommend, taking vitamins and so on. This is even though I know that the balance of evidence is that some of these recommendations can actually promote the growth of cancer.

The indifference of the medical professionals to your emotional reactions is another factor. I wouldn't fancy their job, telling five people a day that they are screwed. It's got to harden you, and fair play to them-you don't get to be a professor of medicine on the basis of your extraordinary niceness. Neither is empathy desirable in a surgeon, whose job it is to slice people up every day. Once there were relatively untrained nurses who did the hand-holding and arse-wiping, but now it's becoming an all graduate profession, most nurses think of themselves as a sort of doctor, too busy for the menial and emotional work. No-one offered me a wash in the week I was laid up in hospital after my lymph clearance, and the only nurses who seemed to care at all were the foreign ones, most notably Filipinas.

So I understand why the experience of cancer treatment leads people to look for comfort and a feeling of control wherever it is available. There are some exceptional people who are willing to provide this without strings, but there are many who offer help to promote some agenda. Essentially all of these agendas are religious in nature-abandon rationality, and we will help you to feel better. This is in my opinion why so often once a person is sucked in to a "cancer-fighting diet", they start to proselytise for it.

What makes this tricky is the sliding scale. Research suggests that cancer patients should follow the standard dietary recommendations, unless instructed otherwise by their multi-disciplinary team. But every internet post I have ever seen which talks about "healthy eating" is actually talking about something else. The thin end of the wedge is the Bristol Diet, which modifies the research based dietary advice based on ill-founded vegetarian propaganda. Then we have the Plant Diet, based on vegan propaganda- starting to get a bit dangerous now. We can go all the way up to diets which can prove fatal, like Gerson.

Each stage prepares the patient for the next. Even at the earliest stages of the journey, the initiate is exposed in passing to paranoid conspiracy theories which prepare them for the next leap of illogic. So when I take a hard line with people who are just starting out, who are doing things as well as effective treatment, rather than instead of, understand that if we don't stop them before they get on that slope, they will become immune to reason. When I take a harder line still with people who are already turning down conventional treatment, it is because I know that people at that stage will recruit others to their folly without the very strongest discouragement, as reliably as if they had been converted to the Moonies rather than the Gersonites.

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