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Byrne-out: a tale of two cancer victims.

Today, boys and girls, we have one of my occasional guest columns, this time by a regular who pops in now and then under the name "Frances."

A few prerequisites. First
as is always the case when I present these columnsthey are not to be interpreted as anything beyond "one person's opinion."* I am showcasing the following thoughts not under the guise of presenting universal truth (though I do think they cut pretty close to the heart of the matter, or perhaps in this case the breast of it); I'm showcasing them because I find them interesting and on-message. Second, by their nature, all posts of this type deal in anecdotal evidence. Frances is comparing the plight of one high-profile cancer victim who turned to conventional medicine to the plight of another high-profile cancer victim who turned to The Secret. Bear in mind, however, that in the latter instance, anecdotal evidence of failure carries more weight than in the former instance, because devotees of The Secret, beginning with its creator, claim that its core methods always work. Therefore, in theory, all one need do to refute The Secret is find a single case where its methods didn't work.

That said, I now give the floor to Frances.


Kim Tinkham is the woman who famously said on Oprah that she was stopping all science-based cancer treatment, and was only going to rely on The Secret. Well... the cancer magically got attracted to her again after she thought it was no longer there, and she died last Tuesday:

The last link compares Tinkham's cancer with Elizabeth Edwards' (coincidentally, they died on the same day). Edwards, of course, chose standard science-based medicine. I thought this quote was very telling:
Now, a cancer quack would argue that Edwards "only" lived six years.
And this paragraph about Tinkham was very interesting as well:
The reason [she chose The Secret over standard medicine], I suspect, is that she was the type of person who needed answers. Remember, she wasn't satisfied that conventional doctors couldn't tell her why she got this cancer. Even though conventional doctors could treat it with a fairly high likelihood of success, they could not tell her with 100% certainty the answer to the question: Why me?
Promising certainty, and an all-or-nothing attitude about survival ... I have always said that money isn't the root of all evil nearly to the extent that seeking comfort through black-or-white thinking is. But it's something humans just want, whether it's good for them or not. Emotional junk food.

Meanwhile, the very definition of humanity is complexity along a continuum. We need to teach comfortability with complexity/ambiguity as an essential life skill.

Tinkham was stage III and would have had a 40-70% chance of surviving 10 years with standard treatment. Without standard treatment, however, her chances of surviving 10 years dropped to 3.6%. She ended up surviving four.


I (Salerno) would also add that this site is a treasure-trove of info on cancer incidence, prevention and mortality.

* For that matter, my own thoughts are not to be interpreted as anything beyond one person's opinion, either, except that I can vouch for the time, thought and spadework that informed that opinion, especially on SHAM-related topics.That doesn't mean I expect anyone to buy what I say hook, line and sinker. It just means that I'm usually not speaking off-the-cuff, at least when it comes to the self-help realm.

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