Getting our Facts Straight

We made a new friend.

My daughter and I had the most wonderful day yesterday. We went out for lunch, did a little shopping (and laughing) at the mall, and went bowling with some friends. I honestly did not think about cancer once. Why? Because at this moment, my cancer is gone from my body, thanks to modern medicine.

After I got home from our wonderful girls’ day, I was resting on the couch checking Facebook. I noticed an article being shared around. As I read it, my heart started to pound and my hands started to shake. I wanted to scream at my innocent little phone screen. For there it was, another article about cancer survival rates being the same as they were a century ago and the “cancer industry” being all about making money and not about curing cancer. The author makes reference to a documentary that refers to the treatments I’ve had (radiation, chemotherapy and surgery) as “burn, poison, slash.” They make a claim that if people would only use natural approaches to cure their cancer, the rates of survival would be higher.

I am not a medical doctor, nor a scientist, but as a cancer patient I have done a lot of reading and research. When someone looks you in the eyes and tells you that you have stage 3 cancer, you sit up and you take notice.

When my cancer care team came up with a treatment plan for me, I researched it. The decisions they made were based on years of clinical trials and millions of dollars of research. If I had grown these tumours in my body 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, I would be on my death bed at this point. But here I am, bowling with my little girl and taking silly pictures at the mall.

When I made the decision to undergo 12 heavy rounds of chemotherapy after already having gone through so much, I did the research first. My oncologist explained to me that the chemo would reduce the risk of a recurrence of my cancer from about 65% to 25%. I read the journal article that laid out the research that was done in clinical trials with my chemotherapy regime. The people who took part in these trials had the same cancer as me. And their outcomes were better because of this course of chemotherapy. Thankfully, now I will get the same benefit. So I will be forever grateful to the researchers, doctors and nurses who ran these trials, and the clinical trial participants themselves.

These days, I’m following immunotherapy research. If my cancer does come back in the future I may benefit from this research. As a matter of fact, I have met people online, many who are living with stage 4 cancer, who are being kept alive today by new, cutting-edge methods of treating cancer such as cyber-knife technology, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.

Image result for nobel prize for immunotherapy
Allison and Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2018 for their work in Immunotherapy Research
Image result for nobel prize for immunotherapy
A little breakdown of Immunotherapy research by Allison and Honjo. Many patients’ cancers have been put into remission with this therapy. Some of them were only days from dying at the time.
https://www.cancerresearch.org/immunotherapy/stories/patients/emily-whitehead

I take a holistic approach to my health, and always have. Before my diagnosis I ate well and exercised and generally tried to take care of my mental, physical and spiritual health. Throughout my cancer treatment I have been going for massages and acupuncture treatments to relieve my symptoms and help with my general well-being. I use mediation, yoga and visualization to calm myself and deal with the psychological toll of this experience.

I believe that integrating Eastern medicine approaches into my treatment plan has helped me immensely in my recovery, but there was no “natural approach” that was going to shrink my big tumour and its’ little sidekick deposit. Cancer got radiated and shrivelled and cut out of me just before it ran rampant through my body. My insidious little batch of mutated cells were marching their way into my lymph nodes, but my surgeon and her team halted their progress. These people are my heroes, and I can’t help but get upset while reading an article that suggests that they are only in it for the money.

The article I read yesterday suggested there was no cure for cancer. But, in fact, cancer is entirely curable if caught early enough. Researchers and medical professionals know this. This is why we have screening for colon, prostate, breast and cervical cancer to name a few. Again, years of research and a lot of money has gone into developing screening tools and treatments for pre-cancer or early stage cancer, as well as approaches to prevention.

If you are interested in reading about cancer rates, treatment, or research globally, I’d suggest you start with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). One of the recent articles posted there discusses the recent rise in survival rates in wealthy countries for certain types of cancers. Of course, their information is based on properly conducted scientific research.

https://www.iarc.fr/news-events/new-iarc-study-reports-increasing-cancer-survival-and-progress-in-cancer-control-across-high-income-countries-since-1995/

I hope this post helps to explain to people that, when they donate to cancer research, they are really making a difference. I also hope that, if your life is touched by cancer now or in the future, you have access to the kind of care and treatment that I have had. My doctors and nurses have been nothing but compassionate and informed. They made, and continue to make, educated decisions for me and my health, and here I am.

I still have a way to go in my cancer experience. I am not the same as I was a year ago, but I am alive. I am bowling and writing this post. I am kissing my daughter’s cheek during funny moments at the mall.

And to the “cancer industry” that yesterday’s article presented in such a scathing light? All I can say is “thank-you.”

Waiting for a scan in this classy get-up. MRI machines are just one of the amazing technological developments that help diagnose and treat cancer.

18 thoughts on “Getting our Facts Straight

  1. Janine you sure are and inspiration and I’m enjoying ready all your stories keep your head high and keep strong you got this girl ❤️❤️❤️

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  2. This post is extremely valuable, Janine. Would you consider sending it to a newspaper or magazine so that it gets greater exposure? It has the potential to save lives. Unfortunately, we live in an anti-science era replete with conspiracy theories, so extremely ill people who are more gullible and less research-oriented than you may well grasp at useless, therefore potentially lethal, remedies.

    I’m delighted to hear that you’ve reached the mall-trip, bowling stage of your recovery!
    Cheers,
    Annie

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  3. Hi Janine,
    Hurray for you and your righteous indignation. You have gone even further in this post into the politics of cancer and support for research. You always look so good in the pictures. I’m curious….you never lost your hair? my friend was told she definitely would. She bought a wig to get ready. I send her all your posts.

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Hi Bethanie, thanks for reading yet again. All the chemo regimes are different, and Folfox (which is commonly used for colon cancer) causes thinning but most people do not lose all their hair. The worst side effects, other than the usual fatigue and nausea, are mouth and throat issues and nerve pain and neuropathy, which I have in spades.
      My best to your friend. I hope she enjoys the blog 😊

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  4. Hi Janine:

    I wish my parents had had access to the treatments they have today. Twenty years ago the treatment was very similar to what you read about. But it was all we had. Today research has provided better treatments and options for cancer patients. Many people believe there is a cure for cancer but we don’t have access because of the billion dollar business the pharmaceutical companies have made. My mom died twenty years ago with cancer and believing this. Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know. I do know research has given us much better options for treatment. Hopefully one day there will be a cure. I am so happy this immunotherapy has been developed. I am happy it is working for you. It gives us all hope. You continue to be an inspiration but even more you are passing on a wealth of information to us. For that I thank you. Keep the positive attitude and doing what you’re doing. I love success stories.

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    1. Hi Vicki,
      Thanks for sharing, and for always taking the time to read and comment. I know a lot of people believe that pharmaceutical companies are hiding a cure for cancer. There is no truth to it; they would stand to make a lot more money from a cure than from the drugs and therapies they are producing now. Also, the people who work at these companies are human beings whose own lives have often been touched by cancer – it is unfathomable that all of these people would be sitting on a cure for cancer as they watch friends, neighbours or family members fight the cancer battle. But it is understandable that your mom and many others have thought this. It is one of many cancer myths that have been around a long time.
      Prevention and early detection are what most researchers will tell you is most important. Early cancers, once detected, can be cured. I was lucky because I got diagnosed just in time, before my cancer spread to other organs in my body.
      Thanks again, Vicki, for taking the time😊💖

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  5. Hey Janine!

    I have just recently started working at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary and as you have already mentioned there are so many people dedicated in helping people and their families navigate through their journey with cancer. I am fascinated by how many more options there are even from just 10-15 years ago with targeted therapy and immunotherapy making headway. And I am captivated by individuals like yourself who continue to fight and promote more awareness around early screening. It is so important because cancer statistics are alarming and as you also mentioned can be curable if caught early.
    I enjoy reading all your posts, keep writing and keep us posted on your progress❤️. If you ever have any questions you can always send me a message or call David and we can chat (expect a sarcastic remark from him, but you already know that 😜)

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    1. Christa, Congratulations on your new position! I bet you will so enjoy working in the cancer center. If it is anything like the ones we have around here, I think it would be such an amazing place to work.
      There are so many more treatment options than even 10 years ago, you are right! Even in terms of things like how our medication is delivered – ten years ago I’d have been in hospital for 3 days every two weeks for my chemo infusion, now I’m there part of one day and bring my infusion pump home with me for the rest of the time. So my life can be more normal, thank goodness!

      Feel free to share my blog with your colleagues and patients. I know when I was diagnosed I read everything I could get my hands on by people who had been through what I was going through – it’s one of the reasons why I started the blog. I wanted to reach out to others. Also, as you mentioned, I wanted to raise awareness because prevention and early diagnosis is key!

      I will definitely contact you with questions if they arise. And I don’t mind going through Dave to get my quota of funny for the day! Lol!

      Thanks so much for the message and for reading! Let’s keep in touch 💕😊

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