Crazy Cancer Cures: Curry!

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. Today we’re going to talk about eating curry, or, more specifically, eating curry made with turmeric.

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of Indian food. I’m a white girl who grew up eating white people food, like potato salad and corned beef hash and other things with potatoes and fat in them (mmmmmm potato skins), and we all know I was a horrifically picky eater as a kid. It took me a looooooong time to develop a taste for anything remotely adventurous, and I still haven’t been able to wrap my brain around the incredibly complex flavors of Indian cuisine. I’m trying, because The Hubs loves Indian food, but he’ll tell you it’s still not my fave. He usually gets it when I’m out of town or out with friends.

So, I suppose some may take my dismissal of turmeric as a cure for cancer as proof of my food biases, but let me nip that in the bud: I hereby order you all to eat as much curry as you want. Right now. Go on, I’ll wait here until you’re done.

Back? Good. Now let’s talk about how that meal, though delicious, didn’t prevent you from getting cancer and didn’t cure your cancer if you already have it.

If you google turmeric and cancer, you’ll find a ton of articles claiming turmeric will cure or prevent cancer. Most of them come from natural foods websites, and are based on our old friend, the tiny bit of lab science that doesn’t have a relationship to actual dietary oncology. Cancer Research UK has a good rundown of the evidence, but let me sum up. 

If you put turmeric into cancer cells in a Petri dish, hey look, it slows the cancer’s growth! You know what else does that? Urine. Gonna drink some pee to try to prevent or treat your cancer? I thought not. There was also a mouse study 8 years ago that showed a slow in spread of cancer cells for mice given turmeric. Know how many mouse things work great on mice but not on humans? A fuckton. 

Here’s where the science gets in the way of the health food trend: what the science seems to have shown in human trials is that when you eat turmeric, hardly any of it makes it to your blood stream. So, if your cancer is limited to your gastric tract, then maybe the turmeric is being delivered to your cancer–although we have no studies showing that eating a lot of it will cure you. But to have enough turmeric reach your blood stream to have any hope of it attacking cancer cells anywhere else in your body, I mean, you’d have to just be injecting it like heroin or something. Now, scientists ARE currently experimenting with finding a way to deliver turmeric to your tumor. But “eating a lot of curry” is not one of those ways.

Compounding this turmeric “cure” craziness is that if you want to buy supplements with high levels of turmeric to bypass the scientists and their pesky science in hopes of curing your own cancer, you may run across supplements that contain all kinds of seriously harmful shit in them, because the supplement industry isn’t regulated. And now I quote from Cancer Research UK:

“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a warning about the turmeric based food supplement Fortodol (also sold as Miradin). Fortodol has been found to contain the strong anti inflammatory drug nimesulide. Nimesulide can cause serious damage to the liver and is not licensed as a medicine in the UK. The Food Standards Agency in the USA states that taking products that contain unknown amounts of nimesulide could be very harmful. Fortodol and Miradin are sold in the UK and on the internet as food supplements. The FSA advises anyone taking these products to stop doing so immediately, and contact their doctor if they have any signs of liver disease. The signs include jaundice, dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, stomach or abdominal pain, or loss of appetite.”

Look, I get it: we all want a simple solution to our cancer problems, and we figure taking a few supplements can’t hurt. Except when they cause goddamn liver disease. If I wanted to get liver disease, I’d have started drinking a shitload more whiskey, thatnkyouverymuch.

You may also have heard a testimonial or two about how someone cured their cancer with turmeric. I’ve yet to read one that wasn’t on a wackadoodle health food site selling those liver-killing supplements, or that didn’t say “I added turmeric to my chemo regimen and my cancer was cured, yay turmeric!” So, the chemo had nothing to do with it, it was just turmeric? Riiiiigggghhhhhttt.

Is turmeric bad for you? Hell no! If that’s a flavor you like, then by all means, eat it to your heart’s content. Just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t cure your cancer.

Crazy Cancer Cures: The Power of Positive Thinking

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. Today we’re going to talk about the power of positive thinking. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “Just stay positive, you can beat this!” Uh, no, I can’t. Metastatic breast cancer has no cure. Unless one is discovered, and quickly, I’ll die of my disease. I will not beat it. And no amount of positive thinking about it will change the biology of my tumor. 

Here’s where people get confused: there can be lifestyle benefits to having a positive attitude. Like, if you’re positive, you tend to have less depression, and that’s a positive thing for your lifestyle. Will that mean your cancer won’t kill you? No. It just means you’ll be less depressed while you wait for death.

In addition, there is actually research showing that all the “keep fighting” battle metaphors have a negative impact of the emotional state of cancer patients. So actually, telling people to stay strong and positive can make things worse.

Lots of things make cancer treatment less shitty. Exercise, anti-nausea medications, a healthy diet, pain medications, a hug from a friend. These are all awesome things. But none of these things CURE cancer. Supportive care isn’t a cure. It just makes cancer less shitty–which is a good thing, but not a cure.

Crazy Cancer Cures: Black Salve

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. I’m gonna warn you not to google this one unless you want to see pictures of people with holes burned through their faces. No, I’m not kidding.

In the olden days when modern medicine meant leeches, people would sometimes use salves on skin conditions called “black salves,” so called because they left a big black scabs on your skin. What made those big black scabs? Well, black salves are made of stuff that will burn your skin, like zinc chloride and bloodroot. So, the idea behind using them to cure your cancer is, you rub it where your cancer is–usually skin cancer, but also other cancers including breast cancer lumps that you can feel–and BAM, the black salve will suck the cancer right out of you. Hooray!

I should note at this point that it’s illegal to market black salves as a cancer cure in the US. Because, no, they don’t suck the cancer out of your body. They just burn the fuck out of your skin. Which is really fucking painful. One “testimonial” from someone who claimed black salve sucked out her breast cancer said she wouldn’t recommend you try it at home unless you have morphine on hand. I’d also like to point out that bloodroot is strongly associated with oral premalignant lesions. 

Like, do people not realize the red flags here? Are people actually just that stupid that they’d put something on their skin that hurts so badly that you need morphine and think “Hooray, I’m cured”? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. And for those of you in skin cancer land, why on earth would you choose this over having your skin cancer cut out? 

Please, I beg of you: do not try this shit on your cancer. And if you do, please, I beg of you, don’t send me a photo of the giant hole it burnt in your skin, because I’ve already been traumatized enough.

Crazy Cancer Cures: Drinking Breast Milk

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. Today’s is one that made my oncologist look like he was going to throw up when I told him about it, and that’s saying a lot because he’s a doctor, so he’s seen a lot of nasty shit in his career. Are you ready? Here we go…

Drink breast milk. Yep. Let that sink in for a minute.

Now, with both of my kids, I made a CRAPLOAD of breast milk. I mean, I could have easily fed twins with the amount of milk I was making. So, I had a lot of excess milk that we gave away to friends who were struggling to produce enough milk, or who had adopted a baby and wanted to feed it breast milk. But when I was producing milk for The Girl, The Hubs did some research into selling breast milk. Turns out it goes for a couple bucks an ounce on the internet if you’re giving it to someone with an actual baby, or if you don’t care what the buyer does with the milk, it can go for as much as $10 an ounce. I figured I was making about 350 ounces a week, of which The Girl needed about 250, leaving me 100 ounces a week to sell. That’s a shitload of money…but I just couldn’t get past the creepy factor of selling my bodily fluids to some weirdo with a milk fetish. Because EEEEWWWWWW.

I’ve read a lot of articles about people claiming that drinking breast milk either cured their cancer or put them into remission. Problem is, all of them were also getting chemo and other treatments. So, the idea that chemo, which science has shown to actually work on cancer, isn’t the thing that’s working, that it’s breast milk instead, is a pretty dubious proposition. Don’t get me wrong–there are lot of good things about breast milk, and there’s some recent studies showing that breast fed kids are less likely to get childhood cancers. But, my mom breast fed me, and I had a TON of breast milk in my boobs, and here I am with breast cancer. Anecdotal evidence cuts both ways, folks.

Then there’s the cost, which no insurance is going to cover. Even if you’re only paying $5 an ounce for it, and you drink what seems to be the most common “dose” of 8 ounces a day, that’s $40 a day, or $1200 a month. Unless you have a lactating family member who’s willing to donate that much milk to you, this is going to be an expensive proposition. Which is one of the main problems with a lot of these unproven therapies. You have to pay for them out of pocket, and for someone living off of SSDI because they can’t work anymore due to their cancer, the costs are simply out of reach. 

And then there’s the problem of germs. People on chemo and some other cancer treatments have depressed immune systems. Breast milk bought on the Internet is pretty much completely unregulated, so basically you have no idea how it’s been stored or whether the donor has some creepy infection or not. You can hope that it’s “not” but check out this paper and see how much of the breast milk bought online has bacteria in it. Let’s just say the odds are not in your favor.

Do I hope breast milk will someday be found to be a miracle cure for my cancer? Sure, I’m all about miracle cures. I’m also hoping to win the lottery and buy a bungalow in Tahiti, but I’m not holding my breath. 

Got a Crazy Cancer Cure idea you’d like me to write about? Leave it in a comment!

Crazy Cancer Cures: Clay

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. Today’s Crazy Cancer Cure: clay. Apparently clay is excellent at detoxifying your body. I mean, that’s why people take mud baths at spas, right? Well, it turns out if you just detoxify yourself enough, your cancer will go away! Isn’t that great?

This one has been hard to research for me, not because there aren’t plenty of websites touting clay as a Crazy Cancer Cure, but because they’re so incredibly poorly written that they hurt my brain. An example:

“To cure cancer, tumors, ulcers of the stomach or intestines, to get rid of wounds and trophic ulcers, the affected area should be set not less than 4-5 clay widgets a day. In addition, it should be every hour to drink clay water to kill it in the body all diseased cells, microbes and bacteria.”

I mean, look, maybe I’m going to come off like some over-educated snob or whatever, but if you’re getting your medical advice from some website that can’t even put together a coherent sentence, instead of listening to an actual doctor, I mean, what the fuck? What in the actual fuck?

Then there’s the hippie-dippie explanation of clay’s seemingly magical properties, like this one: “Clay cannot be reproduced in a lab. Clay is the product of earth birthing itself in a new form.” Riiiiiigggghhhhhttttt. Also, did you know Jesus healed people with clay? And it’s what they put in the nuclear reactors after Chernobyl blew up?  

You know what’s interesting? Not one remotely legitimate medical website came up in my search on clay and cancer. Not anything written by an oncologist, a PhD, or a naturopathic doctor. Which brings me to an important point, which I will write in all caps because yes I am shouting at you clay-believing people:


Is the website where you’re getting your info from written by someone who has studied cancer? A scientist or a doctor of some sort? Or, is the website entitled “Starship Earth: The Big Picture”? Because, if it’s the latter, please, for all that is holy, do not share this ridiculous Crazy Cancer Cure with your loved ones who are actually dealing with cancer. Unless, like, you really want to drive them away, or you both have a very strong sense of irony. 

Crazy Cancer Cures: The No-Sugar Diet

Recently, a friend of mine messaged me about a comment she saw on a final blog post by a young mom who was dying of metastatic breast cancer. The woman had days, possibly a few weeks to live, as her liver had shut down. The comment on the very heart felt goodbye post that my friend messaged me about suggested that the woman should try drinking carrot juice, because the commenter had read that juice cures cancer. Strike that, the comment didn’t suggest it, the comment urged that the woman try it, because her kids needed her. 

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. Did you just try to lay a guilt trip on a dying woman to convince her to drink carrot juice when she has end-stage cancer and her liver stopped working? Did that actually just happen? Please tell me that didn’t just happen. Please? For fuck’s sake, that actually just happened.

Both my friend’s brain and mine snapped, obviously, and then I realized it really was time to start writing a series here on the blog about about Crazy Cancer Cures. I’ve been getting emails and messages about Triple C’s since I was first diagnosed.  I’ve probably sent my oncologist a dozen emails since then with the most, shall we say, interesting of these alleged cures, and never has he said “there is a study supporting that as a viable cancer treatment.” 

And yet this shit persists on the Internet. Why? Well, people with cancer, especially terminal cancer, are desperate for a cure. Desperate people will believe all kinds of horseshit. I mean, when the best options you have are going to make you feel like shit and only extend your life a bit, but can’t cure you? Yeah, it’s easy to start believing in things that clearly can’t be true. And it turns out that desperate people will also spend a crapload of money on something if they believe it will keep them alive.

Because the best way to combat bad speech is with more speech, I’ll be addressing some of the many Crazy Cancer Cures I’ve read since my diagnosis, explaining what they say they’d do, and what science actually says they’ll do. We begin with the no-sugar diet.

The theory behind this Crazy Cancer Cure is that cancer feeds on sugar, so if you don’t eat any sugar, it can’t grow. That’s it, that’s the whole theory, it’s pretty straight-forward. There’s like books and stuff out there selling this cure and saying they’ve cured their cancer by cutting out sugar from their diets; however, you’ll note that none of them are written by oncologists.

Now, it’s true that cancer cells feed on sugar. You know what else feeds on sugar? Every other cell in your body. All of them. Cells run on sugar, it’s their energy source. Even if you don’t eat any sugar, your body will take other foods you eat and convert the carbohydrates in them into sugar. Because that’s what your cells need to function. Don’t believe me? OK, then perhaps listen to the nice folks from Cancer Research UK. 

Is it healthy to eat a lot of sugar? Of course not, are you stupid? Sugar contributes to all kinds of health problems, like diabetes. And who the hell wants to get diabetes? No, I’m just saying that a no-sugar diet won’t cure your cancer. It just won’t. Because even if you don’t eat sugar, your body will just make it, even from the healthy foods you eat. Like those carrots that that asshole commenter said that a dying woman should juice because it’ll cure her cancer. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK.

If you have a Crazy Cancer Cure you think I should write about, drop a note in the comments, would you?