Two stories from today’s London Telegraph caught our eye, mostly because they are of such imminent and eminent personal import.
They deal with something we’ve experienced firsthand, and in two forms: Cancer. Just over two years ago we lost bladder and prostate to the Big C, followed by a course of chemo that is still very much with us in the form of diminished hearing and loss of sensation in feet and, to a lesser extent, hands.
Dad had two types of cancer as well, starting with a tumor in a kidney in his early 60s that led to surgery. He survived that one, but it was the prostate that eventually got him, leading to death in his sleep under hospice care just weeks before his 91st birthday.
Mom was left fortunate, with a glioma diagnosed after she suffered an unaccountable collapse at home. They tried laser surgery, but the tumor was deep in her brain and dense with blood vessels. After a couple of laser zaps, the blood flood was so great they simply sewed her up.
Her last weeks were spent in a strange time slip. As one moment she was a child on a Nebraska farm, looking for her beloved cat, Jimmy Meadowmouse, then shifting abruptly to a child, eager for a trip to St. Louis, then again to her days as a school teacher in Bennington, Kansas.
It was a sad plight for a woman so intellectually vigorous and present-oriented.
Death, when it came for her, was truly a release.
For Dad, the first surgery was a life-saver, enabling him to live a vigorous life [he was still keeping house, going on long fishing trips, and mowing his yard before his last illness]. For Mom, surgery was a savage mutilation, shredding her dignity and leaving her bereft of the dignity that meant so much to her.
And for ourselves, surgery was a mixed blessing, removing the imminent threat of a virulently metastatic bladder cancer, but appreciably diminishing our hearing and sense of balance [a consequence of the neuropathy of the feet, which deprives us of some of the critical feedback need for delicate balance.
With that by way of preface, the first of those London Telegraph stories:
Cancer is the best way to die and we should stop trying to cure it, says doctor
- Dr Richard Smith said cancer gave sufferers time to say goodbye and pain could be endured through ‘love, morphine, and whisky’
Cancer is the best way to die because it gives people the chance to come to terms with their own mortality, the former editor of the British Medical Journal has claimed.
Dr Richard Smith, an honorary professor at the University of Warwick, said that a protracted death allowed time to say goodbye to loved ones, listen to favourite pieces or music or poetry and leave final messages.
He claimed that any pain of dying could be made bearable through ‘love, morphine, and whisky.’
Writing in a blog for the BMJ, Dr Smith admitted that his view was ‘romantic’, but said charities should stop spending billions trying to find a cure for the disease because it was clearly the best option for an ageing population.
Wow, where to begin?
First, we’re all for that love-morphine-whisky triad, and anything else that helps get the dying through the night. But as for the notion of giving up the search for cures, hell no!
On that point, we’re solidly with the Dylan Thomas school of rage, rage, raging against the dying of the light.
We do have plenty to say about Big Pharma and profiteering from tragedy, but we passionately believe that the quest to relieve human misery represents all that’s best in us, while insatiable greed reflects the very worst.
Which brings us to the second Telegraph headline, and through it, to today’s Chart of the Day:
Most cancers are caused by bad luck not genes or lifestyle, say scientists
- Scientists at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US found that the majority of cancers are not linked to environment or lifestyle
For years health experts have warned that tumours are driven by a bad diet, lack of exercise, or gene errors passed down from parents.
The government even set up its ‘100,000 Genomes Project’ to try and find the genetic causes of many rare diseases and cancers.
But now a study has shown that most cancers are primarily caused by bad luck rather than poor lifestyle choices or defective DNA.
Researchers found that two thirds of cancers are driven by random mistakes in cell division which are completely outside of our control.
They found that the more cells need to divide to stay healthy, the more likely cancer is to develop.
And now, that chart, which accompanied the article: