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I want to take a timeout from biological arguments. From chemotherapy, radiation, diets and herbs. I want us all to step back for a moment and look around at the landscape as it pertains to the fight against cancer.

Generally I don’t like it when people use war metaphors to make a point. However, in 2012 alone, 8.2 million people worldwide died from cancer. Between the deaths, suffering, and the emotional collateral damage it causes, I’m okay with using them when it comes to cancer.

In the fight against cancer we have an army made up of traditional western medicine devotees. And we also have an equally passionate army that is alternative and or complementary. Western and alternative practices each fight cancer with a unique arsenal of weapons. Each stake the higher ground when it comes to comparisons to the other as being the one true terrain to follow. Cloaked in the faith and arrogance of their chosen path, each can be guilty of personifying the Gore Vidal quote, “it is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

While I respect the passion and conviction, it pains me when I see the slings and arrows going back and forth between traditional and alternative medicine. Cancer is such a menace. It has caused so much suffering and death that we need an all hands on deck mentality. If necessary we need to agree to disagree and not see a different paradigm as the enemy.

From one side we often hear: “stay away from alternative medicine, they’re nothing but charlatans and snake oil salesmen… There is no science!!”

From the other we often hear: “cancer is big business, the pharmaceutical companies, doctors and government are all in bed with each other. They don’t want a cure! In fact they are blocking alternative methods and doctors that have a cure!!”

Before I get to the point I want to make, I would ask that despite any discomfort, you take a moment to close your eyes. Forget about the daily minutia of what may trouble you. Forget about what side of medicine or healing you align yourself with. I ask that you visualize the damage, hurt, pain, and death caused by cancer. Take a moment to take in the vulnerability, tears and loss felt by loved ones left behind. Feel the emotional tsunami and upheaval it can bring about.

Together We Can Chalk Illustration

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And here is what both sides have in common. Odds are there are very few among us who have not been touched by cancer. This includes advocates of traditional and alternative medicine. There have been too many casualties on both sides for me to believe that either is completely corrupt or without authentic belief in what they are doing and pursuing in the cause to beat cancer. To end cancer, so that no one, ever again, has to experience what I have just described.

I refuse to believe that all western doctors who have lost loved ones are going to “blindly line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies”.  Or worse yet, subject themselves or their loved ones to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, if they do not believe it is what gives them the best chance to live or live longer than they could otherwise.

Likewise, there are alternative medicine healers or believers who have lost too many loved ones or been directly hit by cancer for them not to believe what they are doing is right, or to knowingly sell false hope and prematurely end a person’s life.

It simply isn’t that black and white. While each side can make disparaging comments and accusations about the other where there may be a partial truth, let me say that a partial truth does not equal the whole truth. To extrapolate and damn a whole group based on the actions of a few, or maybe even a little or a lot more than a few, is called stereotyping. It is wrong when done to groups of people and wrong in the fight against cancer.

A sentiment stated by two prominent U.S. senators, one republican and one democrat, is: “question my policies but not my intentions.” (I am specifically not naming the senators because the importance is in the message not getting sidetracked by thoughts about the messengers.)

Are there corrupt, greedy, and or incompetent people on both sides of this medicinal argument? I’m not naïve, so yes, I’m sure there is. We do need to find them, call them out, and if and when appropriate, let the legal system deal with them.

But I’m also not so cynical as to think everyone is. Not so partisan to my own ideas that I lose sight of the fact that cancer is the enemy. Truth, in the search for the cure or at least extending and improving quality of life, are the goals. Given the escalation of cancer, we should be willing to seek truth in all likely and even what we may think are unlikely places.

Given the lack of a cure we need to critically, objectively, and without ad hominem attacks, examine and question all of our approaches and methodologies.

When passion and sense of rightness is married to ends justify the means thinking, it is easy to justify almost any behavior. Cancer involves life and death and pain and struggle, so if you believe your way is the right way and any other way is potentially deadly, it is understandable how passions can boil over.

Right now there are still a lot of questions when it comes to cancer. People of good conscious should respect the authentic efforts made by anyone trying to end this blight. If for no other reason than the alternative of mudslinging can be a turnoff to a the very population you are trying to get through to.

Aside from loss of loved ones to this pandemic there are two other things I believe true soldiers of these armies have in common. 1 – Is a desire to find a cure. 2 – As of this time, the belief that prevention is the best cure we have.

Perhaps a shared focus on the elements of prevention that are agreed upon is something positive that could make difference. The numbers when it comes to death by cancer are so large that even a small difference can make a big difference. And that is far more important than being right or proving the other guy wrong.

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(c) image digitalista/bigstockphoto.com

While all the specifics of prevention may not be agreed upon, there is enough agreement on certain aspects of diet, exercise and lifestyle choices that are. Let’s strengthen this message and do whatever we can to get it out there and understood because it doesn’t seem to be getting through.

In addition to cancer, there is also heart disease, diabetes and obesity. We’re doing undeniable harm to ourselves. If we can focus on what we can agree on, just maybe we can make a positive dent on these outcomes.

As far as the disagreements, I don’t expect them to end anytime soon. And that’s okay. Disagreements are to be expected, and when done constructively they can even spark greater innovation. But when it comes to intentions and how we disagree, remember, soldiers who are fighting the same enemy as you have suffered their losses too.

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