Saturday, December 24, 2011

How's your health?

...the inevitable question around the holidays for a person living with cancer. Always has and always will be a difficult question to answer. I usually say something along the lines of "Excellent, but complicated". And then hope I'm not pressed for more.

Generally I feel like I'm being truthful: I do what I love. I feel like I'm making a difference as a dad, husband, and in science. I'm super passionate about riding a bike. I'm riding well and a pretty high level for an amateur. But, of course I literally have lungs full of 2-5mm tumors and a know nodule in my vertebrae that just seems to be hanging out; not growing and not shrinking. And for the time being, causing no problem.

My father-in-law is an oncologist and gave me a great article to read about Steve Jobs and his death from Cancer.

Here is a link

The meat of the article is this:
"This may be unfair, or at least incorrect. The facts are reasonably straightforward, at least as I can piece them together. He was diagnosed with an early stage pancreatic islet cell tumor, the only kind of pancreatic cancer with any sort of cure rate. Despite the entreaties of friends and colleagues he wasted nine months on worthless alternative approaches before finally undergoing pancreatic surgery. He subsequently had a recurrence of his cancer, underwent a liver transplant, received experimental therapies and eventually succumbed to his disease.

Cancer Doesn't Care

But I do know that cancer doesn't care. It doesn't care if you are rich or smart or powerful, it doesn't share your beliefs on nutrition or meditation and it has no desire to ever give you a second chance if you screw up your chance for a cure. It is an agent of entropy. It maximizes disorder, and our short lives are possible only if we try and preserve ourselves from the entropic catastrophes it foments."

Then about his money:
"I (the physician author) have had similar experiences with some (though not all, by any means) high-flyers (mega rich people). Because the normal rules of existence don't seem to apply to them, they sometimes seem to believe that cancer's biologic imperatives are options rather than mandates. They think they can perform, through use of their wealth and position, some Kobayashi Maru maneuver, reprogramming life's computer to alter the outcome of their disease. Curiously, the well off sometimes suffer from lack of access to good medical care. They surround themselves with toadies and yes-men and (viz Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley) the unethical and incompetent. Idiots with medical degrees endorse their magical thinking. Because they can afford concierge doctors they assume that they are receiving better care, when their care is frequently inferior to that received by the average Medicare recipient. This doesn't seem to have been the case with Jobs, however, who received his care at excellent institutions."

And about his liver transplant:
"Leaving aside whether the transplant was medically wise or appropriate, or even if it was performed for his cancer (I lack data sufficient to make a judgment on this), Jobs apparently got the transplant by gaming the system. Because transplants are assigned on a state-by-state basis, there are inequities in distribution that have a geographic basis. Californian Jobs got his replacement liver in Tennessee by getting his name on their state registry, as well as many others.The Apple addict in me mourns the passing of Steve Jobs. The doctor part of me wonders whom he bumped off the transplant list. There are always more candidates for liver transplant than there are livers, and people die while standing in line for their turn."

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