Monday, April 1, 2013

Conspiracy Theories and Cancer

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Cancer is cured. It has been for a long time. But the [fill in the blank] are keeping the cure a secret because they're making so much money treating cancer patients.

That's a theory that's been going around for I don't know how many years. Usually, the alleged conspirators in this plot are the pharmaceutical companies who don't want to let in on the cure because it would eat into their profits. They're also experimenting on people. And, by the way, don't eat the Soylent Green. See, I do love science fiction, but there's more than just a space separating science from fiction.

There's so much crazy out there that I expect to hear conspiracy theories from everyone.. about everything. I just didn't expect to hear the cancer conspiracy theory from a nurse. Here's how it went down.

I was visiting my primary care physician and as I sat in the exam room, I saw this magazine:


As an editor, this sensationalist headline bugs the crap out of me. Granted, I've never had to compete on the newsstand like Time does, but the idea that a magazine journalist is going to reveal to the world how to cure cancer is absurd, misleading, insulting, and, to all the people looking for answers and hope, cruel. So I was about to engage my nurse on the subject.

Me: "Oh, I see you have the Time magazine that's gotten a bit of attention."

Nurse: "Oh yeah, that. Well, they found the cure a long time ago."

Me (doing my best Scooby Doo): "Huh?"

Nurse: "Yeah, I heard that years ago at Dana-Farber, they..."

Me: "You know I work at Dana-Farber?"

Nurse: "Oh. Well, didn't they fire a, um, not a doctor. What do they call them?"

Me: "A researcher?"

Nurse: "Yeah. They fired him because..."

I'll just stop the conversation there... NOT because she stopped. Oh no, she continued. She continued, even after I added that I'm not just a Dana-Farber employee, but also a CANCER PATIENT! She claimed that Dana-Farber didn't want to cure cancer because they made so much money treating cancer patients. Dana-Farber. A non-profit. That has curing cancer as part of its mission. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that just because you attach a non-profit label to your organization, you guarantee goodness. But I've seen the dedication and commitment of Dana-Farber doctors, nurses, and what do you call them, oh yeah, the researchers up close. And, you know what, they have cured some cancers. And hopefully more cures are on the horizon. But there is no conspiracy.

I wanted to scream at her but I remained polite. She was a nurse and she had to take my vitals. Plus she probably had access to needles and other sharp things.

Look, everyone's entitled to their opinion - crazy as it may sound. But if you're going to be a nurse, shouldn't you have the trust and faith in your fellow healthcare professionals? Shouldn't you at least vet some of your crazy theories before your launch them on your patients? Or at least, check your patient's chart before you open your mouth.

--Michael