Cancer and I: The Couple That Makes the Neighbors Cringe

If you were told less than half a year ago to buy a plot in the cemetery and get measured for a coffin—this by honored and decorated practitioners of mainstream American medicine—your perspective on a lot of things would change.  Having groped your way back among the living (thanks to a Mexican clinic unsanctioned by Their Holinesses at the FDA), you’d find that you didn’t care much about matters once deeply important to you.  “COVID-19: oh my God, there’s a .3 percent chance that I might die if infected!”  Nope… sorry.  Those odds don’t accelerate my heartbeat at all, except to make me angry with cowards who are terrified by them.  “Well, how about this: the nation is poised to elect a bunch of socialists who will so mangle the system that the republic can never recover!”  Okay, that’s disturbing… but it’s also a doom we have been collectively courting throughout my lifetime.  We don’t want to make our own mistakes any more: we want the avuncular hand of Government shielding us and guiding us through every corridor of our mortal existence.  We want to be treated as children… or as slaves whose only task is to vote for our Masters (for the brief time that we’re still allowed to vote).

I could get angry about that, yes… but why?  Why should I believe that human folly, so graphically illustrated on every page of history, has been banished from our own epoch?  Our species only learns, apparently, when water-boarded over and over in disaster.  We Americans will get the government we richly deserve next January.  The mainstream media made it all happen?  The universities made it all happen?  But who forced us to listen to the “news” or to submit our children to “higher education”?

Sometimes I think the only genuine Christians on earth live in China, where Xi Jinping’s ruthless tyranny suppresses, arrests, and tortures the faithful at accelerating rates.  Meanwhile, our priests and ministers urge us from the pulpit to support CCP-like social engineering projects and to scorn individualism as selfishness.  And we return every Sunday to hear more.

Maybe I was granted more time—how much more, nobody on earth knows—to peck out my contrarian telegrams as our society’s ship settles to the bottom.  Maybe that’s my part of the exchange that renewed my life in the flesh.  When massive food shortages make my eccentric diet impossible to sustain, or when rolling blackouts make my therapies impossible to continue, I suppose I’ll lapse into a steep decline.  Or maybe not.  Who knows?  Nobody here on earth.

My wife and I think a lot about where the “cancer road” may take us.  Most people, upon discovering that you’ve had cancer, assume that the scenario of your remaining life is something like the protagonist’s in that old Ben Gazzara series, Run for Your Life.  You have a year left, maybe two.  Oh, they’re all so sorry.  Poor baby… maybe you’ll get three.  I understand the reaction.  I was actually fortunate that the American “health care” system declined to give me any treatment at all.  My fellow patients at the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana had almost all suffered through a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemo.  The struggle of their weakened bodies to profit from more salutary, holistic therapies as mine did was uphill, and often heart-breaking.  In our medical system, cancer is “cured” in the same way as a death-row inmate is “freed” because a lawyer agrees to take on his appeal.  What a hope!

But for the rest of us cancer-revenants, with our hale-and-hearty physiques and our arsenal of vitamin supplements, how is the future any different?  Do we live until a car wreck claims us, or a heart attack?  Or do we still consider ourselves as having cancer, which will likely come roaring back within days if our bottles of pills stop coming?  Exactly what is cancer—what’s its modus operandi?  Is the mass of humanity free of it, while the unhappy minority must feel its shadow descending over their shoulders during every birthday and Christmas they enjoy from now on?  Is the burden of that shadow never to be removed in this life?

I could say (and I have said: I have a section of this tenor in Why I’m Not Dead) that we cancer survivors at least know which gate of the city is under attack.  The “healthy” around us could be harvested tomorrow by a stroke, by an overdose, by an undetected cancer.  (By COVID?  Very, very unlikely.  Could it be that we want to make a bubonic plague of SARS-2 because insulating ourselves from it gives us a sense of being shielded from all other assaults on our mortality?)  That ubiquity of exposure is true, insofar as it goes: the Reaper is stalking everyone.  But there remains something distinctly different about living in his shadow, day in and day out.  The blissful ignorance that renders the shadow undetectable to others does, after all, generate a kind of bliss.  We don’t enjoy that luxury.

And as far as I can tell, we’re not going to, we recovering cancer-holics.  The sobered-up wino dare not ever take a sip again; and most of our group, I think, are just as leery of ever eating sugar or red meat.  Half the contents of the grocery store now wear an invisible skull-and-crossbones as we run our eyes over the shelves.  We don’t even have intact memories in which to seek comfort… or, at least, I don’t.  When I recall the summers of pitching a baseball to my son in the back yard and try to sell myself on how happy times were then, my effort is immediately sabotaged by the thought, “But you had that hideous dark snake sliding around your entrails and didn’t even know it.”  I cannot make ignorance blissful even in retrospect: my ignorant yesteryears are now horrid to me.

Which, I might argue, makes me stronger than ever: mortality will never again be able to creep up on me.  That’s a great boon… but it can also be a great burden.  The childishly pious around me tell me to trust that God will keep me sound and whole, as if I might make a virtue of delirium—might shut my eyes, stop my ears, and sing hymns of praise at full volume.  “The night’s not there, there is no night: all is sweetness, joy, and light!”  Fa-la-la, fa-la-la!  And when I decline to chime in, they consign me to outer darkness.  Maybe cancer is God’s judgment on me for refusing to accept His gift of long life.  That God Incarnate promised us immense suffering as the likely recompense of virtue in this world is… is no longer the concluding instruction of the Beatitudes, I guess.

So you don’t seem to garner much comfort from the very quarter where you would have expected to receive it.  Comfort.  There are days, you know—many days—when I’ve thought that just seeing children playing in a park would chase the Shadow away.  They say that misery loves company… but it’s not true.  Or it’s only true of man in his most fallen moments.  The Shadow lifts one out of self-preoccupation, lifts one to prospects only accessible from the mountain’s peak… but our sick society has seen fit to drape those happy little valleys in mist.  If only I could have watched our local Single A baseball team play a few games this summer… but no.  But no.  But we had to exile every joyful social pastime from our midst because of THE PANDEMIC!  Because of the abject hysteria with which we greeted even mortality’s most wavering, transient vulture-shadow on the far horizon, we pounded all the joy out of life.  We pounded it sadistically, with the seventy-two knife wounds or cudgel blows that one reads of homicidal maniacs delivering to their victims.  Some of us did it.  I didn’t.  Maybe you didn’t… but a lot of us did.

Appallingly many cancer patients did.  I always want to say to them, “Don’t you think you already have death before you in a sufficiently palpable form without running panicked from doors that bang in the night?”  I don’t understand them.  I would have thought a round or two with cancer would give you the courage to measure your limitations as a secular being.

No children at play, and no ballgames: that’s been the hardest thing to bear.  Not knowledge of my own mortality, but knowledge of how little my fellow beings recognize the precious gifts within theirs.  I should have liked to see you all—you who don’t have cancer, or who don’t yet have it, or who don’t know that you have it—finding a spot in the sun, enjoying its golden touch, and blessing God for the day.  That would have done my heart great good.  Instead, I see you complaining—constantly complaining: the sun isn’t golden enough, its beam is too hot or too cold, the spot where it falls requires you to move too far.  You understand nothing, and you learn nothing.  The valleys I see are minute pockets of fools seeking refuge in caves. I’ll look for my little patch of sunlight today, as I do every day now.  It’s a lonely spot, but it’s directly from God, and I’ll take it.  I’m sorry that most of the rest of you won’t be there.

To Doctors: The Soul Isn’t Gagged and Bound in Its Bodily Prison

On Wednesday, September 9, my personal account of battling with prostate cancer through spring and summer of 2020 was released on Amazon.  As of Thursday, September 10, a promotion went active that offers the Kindle download free for five days (i.e., through Monday, September 14).  The book’s title is Why I’m Not Dead.  That’s how I feel about the contrast between mainstream medicine in the US and the alternative treatments I received in Mexico—death sentence vs. new chance at life—and the rest of the book strives to be similarly straightforward.

Inasmuch as the ebook is free for the moment, I see no reason to paste in excerpts here.  I’d rather discuss, very generally, what the book is and is not.  (My plan, by the way—if Amazon’s software throws up no roadblock—is to offer the ebook for free in a promotion at the beginning of every month for some while in the future.)

My text is NOT a “hit piece” on mainstream American medicine, if by that colorful phrase is meant an emotionally surcharged and manipulative indictment of the entire system.  It’s the testimony of one man.  It bears upon a single series of incidents relating to how that man was lost in the bureaucratic shuffle—then asked to content himself with a death sentence because some inflexible paradigm directed him to the Dying square after he landed on the Metastasis square.

Now, my “board game” analogy certainly implies that the system is flawed.  A thoughtful person cannot be handed a stone instead of a loaf of bread and fail to ask, “What’s up with this bakery?”  It could be that my falling through the cracks (as in not receiving the basic diagnostic test for two months, then being forced to await the results for another month) was just bad luck.  On the other hand, there’s no doubting that “the system” offers cancer patients a very limited menu of options: usually surgery, chemo, and radiation (which you can order a la carte or as a Blue Plate Special).  At the same time, it vindictively suppresses any attempt on the part of patients or doctors to draw innovative treatments—using diet, vitamin supplements, heat therapy, Rife technology, etc.—into the mainstream’s flow.

So the book, naturally, contains some reflections upon the medical establishment’s motives.  That establishment placed me under sentence of death.  Then, two months (and about $40,000) later, I returned from Mexico virtually cancer-free.  That’s not supposed to happen… yet it happens over and over again, for those who can afford to eat deep into their life savings (for Medicare supports no such alternatives, and the flight to Tijuana isn’t even tax-deductible).  I attempted to keep my rampages to a minimum, and also to confine them to sections marked “Commentary”—as distinct from those marked “Chronology” that continued the linear narrative of my journey.  But I couldn’t very well pass over the polar separation between how I was treated in Tijuana and how in my own country, how I was given a new lease on life in Tijuana and how consigned to death in Georgia.

The hipshot conclusion reached by several (usually much younger) fellow patients at Carlos Bautista’s Immunity Therapy Clinic) was that we Yanks need more socialism.  No, that’s not a thesis whose merits impress me.  In fact, I contend that my experience in the US was very much that of a pawn caught in a vast, impersonal socialist system.  We already have the worst aspects of public health care: long delays, one-size-fits-all diagnoses, pigeon-holing treatments, a highly manipulative payment structure, haughtily indifferent doctors or “experts”, and an unstated assumption that your individual inconvenience is not a concern to the well-functioning state.  Also typical of socialism is that particularly abusive aspect of late capitalism which draws misdirected denunciation from our young citizens: corporatism.  The state, that is, farms out certain development or production needs to private operations.  I suppose in a socialist state, the emphasis is on what the central authority deems necessary (as in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, or in Communist China today); whereas in the late-capitalist model, private industry dictates (very subtly, through lobbying and bribery) where the emphasis goes so as to maximize profit.  In neither case is competition allowed to flourish and energize innovation.

So I’m not ranging far and wide to attack Big Pharma, and I’m not launching into half-baked political diatribes against capitalism.  Everything I say is said from the perspective of somebody “on the ground”.  I do not, for instance, float any proposal about how to straighten out the health insurance racket.  It’s a nightmare for most of us to negotiate… but I realize that the “inside baseball” awareness needed to advance workable improvement isn’t in my possession.  I’m not going to fire a broadside when I don’t even know if my cannon are loaded with grapeshot or chick peas.

My “commentary” sections are very occasionally dedicated to religious issues.  The book neither cries foul on religious concerns as being out of bounds in the “cancer game” (how could it?) nor insists on transporting divine will into the middle of every moment.  Cancer remains a mysterious subject, even to those who have studied it for a lifetime.  Sometimes lifestyle choices—smoking, drinking, consumption of sugar or red meat—seem a likely motive force… but then there are people like me who’ve made the right choices but find themselves under attack, anyway.  Genetics, maybe.  After much research (and, of course, prostate cancer is only traceable through the male line, which is evasive in my family’s history), I did find a genetic marker.  My uncle’s fatal cancer began in the prostate.  But my older brother has been unaffected, as has my first cousin.  Could it be stress?  Again, this is a plausible factor in my case—very plausible.  Yet many people have been more stressed than I throughout their careers and family lives, and… and I see them cruising along into their seventies with drinking problems, but no cancer.

So… is it “God’s will”?  Certainly you can discover something of God’s will for your life during any tragedy or calamity.  A devastating flood, a car accident, six months on the front line of a bloody war… these are experiences that can make your earlier priorities disappear into a vapor of silly illusions.  It was so for me as I skirted death this past summer.  But I’m always appalled to hear the theory advanced that God is punishing Jack or Jill by visiting that person with a dread disease.  What odious arrogance—what spiritual nullity!  St. Paul writes that the ill do not sin, meaning (I suppose) that their energies are entirely consumed in fighting off the threat to their body rather than divided between routine living and ambitious, toxic daydreaming.  The suffering are dear to God.  It is the most prosperous of us who should worry about where we stand in His eyes.

The one thing I want more than all else is for readers of the book afflicted by cancer not to feel bound and gagged by a supercilious medical community’s verdict that they just need to settle down and die comfortably.  I hate that Siren song—that whisper of the Serpent—with all my heart, mind, and soul.  May nobody succumb to it through professional bullying!  In our struggle with death, may we wrestlers in the mortal match shout in the face of Establishment “experts” that we are spirits trapped in bodies, and that the spirit will have its say!

As I explore the option of free promotions, I’ve decided to give several other publications the same trial run.  Here’s the list.  Again, all ebook download are free until Tuesday morning, September 15.

Faith/religion/spirituality:

Social and political commentary:

Nightmare Made of Dreams (essays tending toward a paleo-conservative, somewhat pessimistic conclusion, in that progressive thinking has undermined even our culture’s self-styled Right)

Fiction (novels):

Visit my Amazon Author’s Page for both Kindle e-books and on-demand bound copies.

Why I’m Not Dead: Treating Cancer in Mexico

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When my blood was drawn for the first time at the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, it returned a PSA reading of 295.  Ask an older man in your life what that means; no layman I’ve spoken to has ever heard of a score so far in the clouds, though one doctor claimed that he’d seen higher ones.  I had metastasized prostate cancer, and U.S. medical professionals (including the one who “consoled” me with his awareness of higher PSA’s) all gave me up for dead, offering no more than palliative treatments to help me go gentle into that good night.  The Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia, persistently refused to return my calls.  I have to assume, in this stone-cold absence of response, that the clinic’s physicians didn’t want their batting average of successes compromised by a guy with one foot already deeply in the grave.

After two weeks of “non-traditional” (i.e., non-invasive, largely non-pharmaceutical) therapy in Tijuana, my PSA score was 65.  After four and a half weeks, just before my departure, it was 4.3: well within the normal range for a man of my years.

Something’s wrong with this picture.  In fact, not very much is right.  I have vowed to my creator that I will make several changes during whatever additional years my new lease on life may give me.  The foremost of these will be to alert cancer sufferers that they don’t have to die: not like lab rats in a cage that failed to make the cut in an experiment—not shivering and shedding their hair after procedures to “cleanse” them have reduced them to little more than shiny white skeletons.  I was actually the healthiest person in ITC’s treatment room on any given day.  The fact that I had received no treatment whatever back in the States left my body much better prepared to fight its battle against the invader.

(Full disclosure: in the esoterica of medi-speak, I’m still classified as Stage Four because, I believe, supplements and injections continue to be part of my daily regimen.  You have to be off the program for a certain period and remaining cancer-free, I’m assuming, to be considered in remission.  But call me any stage you like—I’m in the game again, and I have the strength and the attitude I need to win.  Nobody in my native country ever gave me that gift.  No doctor among the lot would even write me a letter on medical letterhead so that I might obtain an emergency passport—none would dirty his sterilized fingers by implicitly condoning “voodoo medicine”.)

In this first of what I suppose may be many articles, I want to accomplish a couple of ends.  Right out of the gate, I offer my sincerest thanks to those who wished me well in my struggle and urged me to be of good cheer.  Most of these are Internet friends.  I’ve never met them personally, but their concern was the more obvious and credible for being expressed in thoughtful messages rather than squeezed into one of those awkward corridor-encounters.  (“You have what?  Wow… I’m so sorry.  Well, good luck, dude.  Oh, shoot—that’s my phone.  I gotta take this call.”)  Not included in the radius of my gratitude are the comments of a pair who exhorted me to get religion—*their* religion—in my hour of need.  It seemed as though they had been waiting, like the proverbial snake in the grass, throughout our “friendship” for a mortal crisis in my life to tell me that my spiritual convictions were forged of hellfire and brimstone.  What a way to encourage a friend—or to encourage anyone—confronting a deadly disease!

The broader theme I’d like to dispose of in relatively few (far too few) words is the almost knee-jerk supposition that capitalism is responsible for our dysfunctional medical system.  Over and over from fellow American patients at ITC, and again and again from family members after my return home, I had to listen to this tired refrain.  In my more vigorous moments, I would introduce the word “corporatism” into the discussion.  Socialized medicine isn’t the cure for what ails our health care: it’s Stage Four of the degeneration.  Why do we cancer patients have so few options in the U.S., and why will Medicare and the federal income tax turn a very cold shoulder to us if we seek assistance elsewhere?  “Because of Big Pharma,” pipe the critics.  “Doctors get a cut of the take on all the hugely expensive meds they prescribe.  They also love to do surgeries and radiation treatments with whopping price tags that typically produce very temporary good results.  They trick the patient into thinking that he’s mending while they actually weaken his body, and they bleed his insurance and Medicare for all they’re worth, at the same time.”

Yes to all that… but notice that our government has tidily arranged the scam.  Most of us are not paying out of pocket for these Pyrrhic victories scored over specific, localized outbreaks of cancer.  The government’s micro-managing allows us to believe that the cost is being absorbed by a benign Uncle Sam, or by insurance megaliths whose unfathomable resources permit everybody to prosper.  The truth is that—yes, again—pharmaceutical companies prosper, and so do the doctors who play their game.  That’s not capitalism in action.  At most, it’s late-stage, failing capitalism: it’s corporatism, the collaboration of private and public sectors in securing a choke-hold over the market.  Small insurers go under; or they’re certainly not able to compete broadly with the big names, at any rate, thanks to legislation that tightly squeezes the marketplace’s limits.  And while we can all concede that drug companies need mountains of funding to continue their world-class research and development, the entire health care system should not be enthralled to this worthy objective.  If an alternative therapy shows promise but does not involve medication, then it should not be branded “voodoo” and its successes denied even so much as access to peer-reviewed medical journals.

Such arrogant neglect, by the way, is seldom a result of behind-the-scenes pay-offs, in my opinion.  I think it reflects a root-level philosophical bias in our medical establishment, and in our technological enterprises generally.  Our culture regards its progress as adversarial to nature.  Rivers must be dammed.  Energy must be ripped from the earth’s bowels.  Viruses must be slain by super-vaccines.  The notion that the body might defeat cancer on its own if only given the right fuel and submitted to the right regimen of training is the equivalent, to our clinicians, of shaking rattles and eagle feathers over the patient.

Meanwhile, the private-sector half of the corporatist arrangement prospers handsomely, because every patient is placed on the same assembly (or disassembly) line involving drugs, surgery, and massive radiation; and the public-sector half, having received its cut of the profit (in campaign donations to statist candidates, etc.), supplies the muscle in the “protection” racket by forcing citizens to pay into a system that only underwrites the drugs-surgery-radiation protocol.  The resources beneath it all, far from being unfathomable, soon reach bottom as the system’s tentacles claim more and more of the populace and wrap around more and more treatments.  Instead of the best care for the greatest number, we have whatever care is available after strained resources have been divided by a denominator climbing into the hundreds of millions.

As I once pointed out to a fellow patient at ITC, Dr. Bautista would not be running his operation if the Mexican system enjoyed the sort of choke-hold over options that the American one exercises.  The Center’s physical therapist explained the situation in her homeland in terms that, I’m afraid, were too “inside baseball” for me.  (And we talked a lot about baseball, too!)  My garbled version of her brilliant summation would be this: the Mexican government is hopelessly corrupt.  Its agents know that they can’t serve the nation’s health needs adequately.  They therefore allow maverick start-ups like ITC to operate untouched.  The results are positive, demand is high, and profits escalate.  A government that can’t do much of anything on its own is very happy to let the private sector—a true private sector, a free-enterprise marketplace—purr along just under the radar.  In the U.S., where a Uncle Mao is still securing his power over every aspect of our lives, such benign negligence doesn’t happen.  Disobedience is not tolerated.  But in Mexico, where the line between patron and peon was drawn deeply and long ago, trickles of officially unnoticed efficiency are allowed to flow.

That may just be our own last best hope, as a nation—or as the shambles of a nation: enclaves of efficiency rising from the rubble of totalitarianism.  Or, should I say, that is the first hope awaiting us after the Collapse.