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Winter Solstice? and the death of cancer?

Friends and readers,

I begin with a soothing video -- surely needed during this season




as a preface to two linked topics: climate change and the spread of cancer everywhere to all age groups.  The chemical manipulation of our environment.

So to the heat:  We are still having shortened daylight here in a mid-Atlantic state of the East Coast of the US, but otherwise he climate is really changing. Well, duh. Summer in winter?  Well in Virginia (not far from DC so by the water) we are having a summery-winter. It's not summer and it's not an Indian summer and it's not fall. It gets quite cold when the sun goes down; dawn is dank and chilled but by noon it's balmy with a chill in the air; waters are higher too (as in the Potomac). The bulbs I planted do not grow as they do in very early spring/late winter (as it once was). You do need some sort of coat or sweater. If I open windows too wide, it gets too cold in my house. The cats sit by the grates still.

In the morning as I awake and the sun creeps into my room (like it did in the older winter) it nonetheless feels hot in the way it does on an early summer day. And at night the house is hot the way it is after it's baked all day in summer. It's just not baked with quite the same high temperatures.

My younger daughter went to the University of Buffalo to become the librarian she is today. She used to talk of small, medium, and big snow events. The first January she wrote us that she would never leave her room again, it has been that cold for so many weeks. She now
tells me it has yet to snow in Buffalo. This has not happened in 150 years. It's a new kind of season.

Then cancer. The New Yorker is not usually stupid or mean or obtuse, as witness this week's cover by Eric Drooker:



But they can be, as witness a peculiarly small-minded essay on Thoreau several weeks ago, spiteful ("pond scum"?), written out of the new certitude that people who retreat are idle self-indulgent fools, living off others, and anyway only social life is life. The moral myopia is Kathryn Schultz's.



I usually don't review reviews, especially when I've not read the book through. But Malcolm Gladwell's dismissal of T. De Vita Jr's admittedly oddly titled The Death of Cancer in the Dec 14, 2015 issue of the New Yorker deserves to be called the ridiculous point of view it is. Gladwell's complaint is De Vita was not a team player. Hence he was didn't last when he reached the prestigious position of physician-in-chief at Sloane Kettering. The chapters' demonstration is that 1) the medical establishment does not look for a cure for cancer; 2) is far more careful to follow protocols lest anyone be sued than try to cure a particular person's cancer; 3) lets people die knowing this is happening and something could have been tried to stop it; 4) carries on with bad policies and procedures known not to help but perhaps harm lest a particular group of doctors (breast cancer folks) or arm of the industry (any of the chemo drugs) make less profit. Gladwell calls all this "deeply unsettling." But clearly he's not unsettled by what DeVita shows the reader. What he doesn't like is DeVita's take on institutional politics. (We may assume Gladwell wouldn't like Thoreau either.) Gladwell's priorities are as screwed up as the people treating cancers who can't predict even what their medical treatment will result in. Read the review by all means. Gladwell is conscientious and gives his devil his due, and reports the important content of De Vita's book.

In the light of some replies I've gotten I want to say that cancer is anything but dead and among the things wrong with this book is the false upbeat framing of it. Cancer is spreading, more kinds are emerging, more rare kinds are becoming common and more and more people develop cancer at an early age: not only is our climate changing, but it and all we eat and drink is more and more poisoned by cancer-causing chemicals.

Miss Drake

Comments

misssylviadrake
Dec. 18th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC)
Further on DiVitaq, Gladwell and personal experiences of cancer
(Your blog on Gladwell wouldn't let me post without jumping through FB listings that seemed to want not only my name and photos but blood type and DNA --ok, exaggerating a little-- and I have no idea if it finally went up but if not, here is what I wrote:)

I was just ready to email you to see if you'd seen this review, when I saw the link on Wompo. I find Gladwell exasperating elsewhere, but I read the review quite differently than you did. I thought in stating that De Vita's not being a team player was the reason for not staying in positions of medical authority that Gladwell was citing De Vita's opinion and not Gladwell's own. As a matter of fact, I thought Gladwell was doing mostly summary rather than stating much of an opinion.

And I am of two minds on what I think of De Vita, as depicted in the book (which, Gladwell's review aside, is DE VITA'S point of view.) One of the things that bothers me about De Vita's point of view is that it does not seem to take into account the patient's suffering or finances. So the person throws up on the subway? Hey, let him take a cab.

I saw my sister treated by both kinds of doctors, the ones that threw up their hands from the beginning, offered her palliative care, and grudgingly gave her round after round of basic chemotherapy. Then, finally, when she was sent to one of the top specialists in blood cancers in the country, that doctor tried everything in the year and a half (that seemed like five) painful year-long march to her death, which my single mother sister gladly took to spend 18 more months with her four-year-old daughter. It was instructive for me in more ways than one. I wouldn't let them treat my dog with chemo (and, surprise, it wasn't cancer and she lived four more healthy years!) and I wouldn't undergo it for myself.

HOWEVER-- and this is to finish off my story and is far from DeVita's book, I guess-- we will never know what would have become of my sister if her managed health care system had let her have an appointment with her primary care physician five months earlier when she began having pain and asked for an appointment and got antibiotics phoned in and then got antibiotics phoned in four more times instead of an appointment.

Anyhow, it is good to know you are out there reading and responding. I will go back and scan the review.

Diane Kendig

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