Can You Fight Cancer?

I've been surprised to find that I've followed the US primaries much more closely than I thought I would, given my boredom with day-to-day politics and the fact that I don't live in, nor am a citizen of, the United States. I guess I like the whole politics-as-a-contact-sport setup, coupled with the fact that we now have a cast of four easily distinguished characters, as though this were a boyband: Slick Type You'd Cast As President in a Hollywood Movie, Kranky Old Man with Krazy Ideas, Flyover Beta Who Tries to Play Tough and Used Carpet Salesman. I've even watched one of the TV showdowns, or whatever they call them. When the host asked the four contenders to make the argument that their wives would make good first ladies, I naturally rolled my eyes, but it turned out that the answers were less uninteresting than I'd anticipated [the following quotes are from memory]. Gingrich's answer has kinda faded in my memory, though I seem to remember he loves his wife. Paul said his wife had written a cookbook, "The Ron Paul Cookbook". Santorum pointed out that he and his wife had brought up seven kids, "so we know children aren't good by nature". Romney said something strange. His wife, he said, is a fighter, as evidenced by the fact that she survived cancer.

Although I find it strange, you hear this kind of thing a lot. I've seen two cases of cancer in my immediate family. Both survived, but there wasn't a lot of fighting involved. They both got diagnosed, had an operation, and it turned out that the cancer hadn't spread. Competent surgery? Yes. Luck? Yes. Fighting? No.

I am aware, of course, that many people go through chemotherapy, and that this isn't exactly a fun experience. But still, suffering does not equal fighting. The closest thing to fighting in this context I can think is visualization. As you probably know, there is an idea that you're supposed to imagine little Pac-Man-type creatures moving through your body, eating up cancer cells. If that works, I'd like to see a solid study on it - I'm envisioning a large randomized controlled trial analyzed using IV techniques. Even if it does work, visualization doesn't strike me as particularly fight-like.

You might say that even if it's nonsense, it is nice to think of people who have been through hard times, often due to no fault of their own, and came through, as strong, and admire them for it. O.k. But there's a flipside to that. It suggests that those who didn't pull through sorta had themselves to blame - they just weren't tough enough. That seems kinda wrong.

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