Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cancer. Chemo. Capitalism.

Warning: Bitching Ahead.

I've a passing familiarity with human cell mutations. My mother has defied three different types of cancer and keeps on kicking. Two of the three cancers she had cut out of her. Two of them she battled with chemo.  She's hit the purported maximum allotment of specially concocted poison one is permitted to receive in a lifetime. She's lost her hair multiple times. She's oozed toxins that would make any of the X-Men take note. She's still struggles with the crippling weaknesses and the misfires in her brain. She's lost her independence and looks for the simple joys. Yes, she survives. Yes, she's still figuring out how to truly live.

When she thinks she's alone, she still asks God why.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1.7 million people in the United States are projected to be diagnosed with some type of Cancer in 2014. Those are new cases. It doesn't account for those already diagnosed. Those already fighting. According to the CDC, that number is closer to 19 million, or 8% of the US population.

The cancer industry -- yes, there is one -- generates revenues in the hundreds of billions annually. For example, Big Pharma rakes in over $100 billion. (One of my mother's "maintenance" chemo drugs was $283 after insurance.) Then there is the cancer/tumor profiling market bringing in $13 billion (WSJ). There are hundreds of other category providers doing extremely well. The good news is, these are the companies trying to keep us alive after out cells have rebelled against us.

I don't begrudge this much-maligned industry the money. There is a demand. They supply. I believe in the basic principals of economics.

My ire is directed at the companies, the lobbyists, and the politicians who allow us to be poisoned in the first place. No, no you cannot convince me the increase in numbers of people suffering from cancer is mostly due to better diagnoses. We, the human race, are killing ourselves in the name of profit. Speed to market. Poorly tested innovations across all markets. Spectacular marketing and artful redirection. It's not just Big Agro messing with our food. It's bigger than paints, plastics, and pesticides. It is countless inescapable things in our everyday. We have the power to stop it for future generations, but we won't. We will continue to willfully turn a deaf ear and blind eye to it all in the name of consumer convenience.

Our capitalist culture is one of "enjoy it now, pay for it later."

Well, we are paying for it. The price is cancer. Chemo is not a cure. It's a lesser evil. 


  1. Hugs to your Mom! We lost my mother to breast cancer a few years ago...so I saw some of what you're describing, especially the "lesser evil" part.

    1. Thanks, Veronica, and I'm so sorry for your loss.