Apparently, a third of European cancer patients are turning to alternative therapies.
What on earth can they be thinking of? Do they really believe that a few lotions and potions, or a few massages or whatever are going to be enough to fight cell division gone berserk?
I’ve had cancer: a very rare ocular melanoma (why can’t I be so lucky with the lottery?!) that had taken seven years before revealing itself completely (I’d had badly understood symptoms before) and would have killed me very rapidly (melanoma is the most virulent form of cancer) had I not had drastic treatment for it. Fortunately, I was in the right country at the right time. Had I still been living in France I would be sporting an eye-patch now, but I was able to benefit from a very new treatment: Cyclotron proton therapy. Only three countries in the world offered it and the UK was one of them. After an operation, during which tiny titanium clips were implanted in my eye, I underwent that amazing treatment in a prefab lab, in a small hospital outside Liverpool. The place smelled of new wood and didn’t inspire much confidence. But, here I am, 15 years later, not quite looking like Mr Squeers (touch wood!).
A few days after I came back from Liverpool, I received a phone call from a dear friend. She suggested I might want to go and have some kind of complementary therapy. I told her that I believed in the cutting-edge treatment I’d just had; that I had put all my energies into it and didn’t want to somehow “dilute” it. Wanting to spare her feelings, I didn’t actually tell her I didn’t have money to give to charlatans.
Poor John Diamond, Nigella’s former and better husband, used to rail against those people who kept telling him he wasn’t getting well because he didn’t have complementary therapy, when the doctors had had to remove his tongue and G-d knows what else and he couldn’t speak or taste any of the wonderful dishes his heartless wife (here’s someone who deserves a slap) was cooking for the public. So much of his precious energy was spent fending off those silly people.
Recently, homeopathy was shown to be no better than placebo in curing illnesses. It is thought that patients think it works because they feel they’ve been listened to properly by their homeopath. The results also show that you have to believe in it very strongly to get any effect from it.
I could have believed all I wanted in homeopathy, or Reiki or spiritual healing or whatever, when I was diagnosed with cancer; it wouldn’t have done any good. I would still be dead today. If you have a serious, life-threatening illness, get yourself to the most high-tech establishment you can find, as quickly as you can, because erratic cell division will not respond to a dilution of arsenic or sulphur. And then you can have all the massages you want if it makes you feel good. Or, even better, leave all that (expensive) hokum to the worried well.
A slap to those snake oil peddlers, who cynically take desperate people for a ride and endanger their lives!
* “placebo” in Latin.