Mistreating cancer patients: how about not making us sicker?

I asked a friend who specializes in medical history what it is about cancer patients, and the way they get attacked psychologically. She says there is a huge stigma about lung cancer, but she didn’t think it was true for other forms. So that leaves us without an answer to the question, How can anyone think it is a good idea to deal someone a blow at as they are goiing through treatment for cancer? And, believe me, they do all too often.

There are pretty bad figures about the national complaints, but there is also tons of anecdotal evidence that I’ve heard at my cancer center. Maybe part of it is that a lot of cancers occur when people might want to get rid of you and put a younger person in your place. But whatever it is, research is now making it completely clear: Stress can affect ways in which cancer cells grow and spread.

One of the US’s main cancer center just sent around the following:

there is growing scientific evidence that considerable psychological distress can affect the immune system, cancer specific biological pathways, and treatment recovery.

Some kinds of cancer love to spread; in fact, that’s often what makes them lethal. And they can create their own pathways. Stress can help them get the needed ingredients. It really can shorten lives and do so in very awful ways. Metatasis to the brain can lead to WBR, or whole brain radiation. There’s no way that’s something you want to do unless your life is at stake. You really, really don’t want to worry of you helped cause that because of your hostile behavior, however self-righteous you may have felt at the time. So concentrate on healthier people, OK? Not some experiencing an awful and still fundamentally mysterious disease.

11 thoughts on “Mistreating cancer patients: how about not making us sicker?

  1. People can be very unfeeling and unempathetic with anyone who is suffering problems.

    For example, do you think that someone who has been unemployed for a long time
    will not be attacked, scorned and marginalized?

    As the song says, nobody knows you when you’re down and out. The next verse could say that nobody knows you when you’re seriously ill.

    And of course, people use the misfortunes of others to settle scores and to remove rivals (as you point out) as well as to flaunt their radiant health.

  2. SW: I have to say that I just don’t get it. I certaiinly understand the urge to settle scores, etc., but there is the problem of living with doing that. But even more, cancer treatment is really often exceptionally dangerous and scary. To whom does it seem a good idea to inflict more pain?

    Perhaps one needs a very vivid dislike of the person, or maybe a poisonous envy.

  3. I probably sound horribly negative to you, but in my experience, lots of people (not everyone) pick on weakness.

    They don’t even need to dislike the person involved; if he or she is weak or an easy target, they mock or discharge whatever inner demons they feel like discharging.

    In addition, there is a silent majority who do nothing to stop them.

    Probably, with cancer there is an anti-body thing involved in the cruelty. That is, cancer reminds one of one’s body in the form that one does not want to focus on one’s body and that often may increase the rejection of cancer patients.

    I’m terribly sorry about what you are going through. I’m a bit of a Spinozist myself: that is, I try to see whatever evil occurs as a necessary product of human nature and the society which we live in. That helps me at times.

    Do you like the Rolling Stones? I was watching this movie in Youtube. It’s good and it’s “realer” than Woodstock.

  4. SW, i think it is important to recognize what you describe. The brochure I got yesterday still truly shocked me. I dearly hope people who like to hit at ill people will realize their involvement may actually kill their targets.

  5. It’s horrible to have a serious illness, to know that stress makes it worse and to see that others do not understand or not care about that.

    What I have noticed in my case (I have high blood pressure) is that I am not a very good judge of when stress affects my blood pressure (as it does, according to the literature).

    Sometimes I feel that I’m so stressed that I’m about to have a stroke, I go to get my blood pressure taken and I’m okay.

    I have no idea whether stress affects your condition in the same way, but I have observed that stress and feeling that one is under stress do not always coincide.

  6. Your post is a little disconcerting to me. Of course one shouldn’t want to stress out a cancer patient, but why should one want to stress out anyone?

  7. I think SW’s point about passive bystanders shouldn’t be neglected. Teaching colleagues to be responsible allies should be crucial to creating academic departments where people can flourish. Thanks for the Stones video too.

  8. SW: interestngly, some major cancer centers are looking at alternative medicine for stress release ffor cancer patients- yoga,meditaion, pilates. I absolutely agree that stress isn’t the sort of thing one can determine by introspection.

    Unfortunately, in the initial stages of treatment one seems to get measured all the time. My blood pressure would go sky high at every diagnostic appointment, and I started to take meds.

    Anonymous, i think that like me you don’t automatically share SW’s perspective. I wonder, though, if he is just more engaged with the details of a variety of lives. It is also the case that we should all know that academia can be a very vicious place.

    Another thing we don’t consider enough is what happens as sexist cliches work themselves out. For example, if a woman works closely with a man, a lot of people assume that she is subordinate, his assistant. So what happens if she points out that that is not true and in fact she’s the entrepreneur of the pair. Everyone believes her? Absolutely not. They infer she is deceitful and self-promoting.

    I am also very impressed by Naomi Zack’s work on an organization’s cronies. They are the group of people in charge who support, praise and benefit each other. They can be very cruel to outsiders.

    So perhaps from the cronies’ perspective you have a deceitful self- promotor and a chance to stop her unjust prvileges her deceits have gotten her. So why stop just because she is getting daily radiation treatments?

    Actually, none of that makes sense to me, but I can say that in the radiation waiting room I sat in about 22 times (on an excellerated program) a lot of quite wonderful women were treated cruelly by the too often now former employers.

    Seeing, as I did 2 days ago, that the new evidence is that such cruel treatment helps the cancer in ways that go beyond simply dampening one’s immune system is really horrifying.

  9. I’m glad you liked the movie. I saw it about 40 years ago and understood nothing.

    I now see the inexorability and implacability of tragedy in the events.

  10. Btw, if someone decides the female colleague who works closely with a man is really his assistant and is also deceitful and self-promoting, then you’d better be right, because otherwise youu are breaking federal law(s), which, interestingly, frown on injuring members of protected classes because of your vulnerability to believing sexist cliches.

    JT, I very much agree, but unfortunately, the clear sighted people are often vulnerable, because they lack tenure or even are grad students. They are limited with it comes to the bigger and powerful miscreants.

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