if you read it on the internet, it must be true

in the midst of late, LATE-night baking for a potluck at work later today, i came across this article on msn. granted, the site's credibility as a newsource is somewhat questionable-it's devolved over the years from featuring mostly news articles to currently being very heavy on soft content. as such, i very prudently usually only read the "celebrity gossip" articles at the bottom of the page (every girl has to have her guilty pleasures).

then i saw the link, "trying mind over cancer." my curiosity sufficiently piqued, i gave the write-up a quick read, then read it again to make sure that i didn't misunderstand it. oh yes...it's another one of those nbc news/msn/newsweek features about how if you just put your mind to it and have a good attitude, you too can beat cancer!!!

this "mind-over-tumor" attitude is discouraging when it's regurgitated by some average-joe acquantance who's never dealt with cancer--but for a major american news organization to be perpetuating the myth that 'if you just have a positive attitude, YOU CAN BEAT CANCER,' is downright irresponsible. what's even worse is that the article in question is from a popular psychology journal.

positive attitudes and humor are both important coping skills, and coping with stress is an important part of dealing with cancer. but the article, and so many others like it, fails to mention that you need to fall into one of two categories in the united states to beat this disease: most survivors are either upper-to-higher-middle class, or they fall into the other category, which is "damn lucky". it's no secret that the wealthy have better access to a wide range of many healthcare services in this country. when the media publishes work like "mind over cancer," the facts become obscured in the perpetuated attitude that everyone is ultimately responsible for his own health. the fact that a fat wad of cash can buy a person better-than-average healthcare is hidden by the sentiment that if someone just tries their hardest and has a positive attitude, they'll be triumphant over cancer.

hubby and i are part of the latter group: my job as a Fed has afforded us many opportunities that the average american cancer patient does not have. when we were stuck in a part of the country where the necessary treatment was not locally available, my government agency transferred us to a new base close to several great hospitals. all united states federal employees have the ability to acculmulate sick leave year after year, a perk which proved invaluable when hubby was required to have a caregiver with him at all times during the transplant. most private-sector employees simply don't have 2.5 months of paid sick leave sitting around in case of an emergency. the health insurance that the federal government provides is also more comprehensive than what is afforded to most other employees--hubby and i met too many people at johns hopkins who were struggling to have medically-necessary treatment paid for. while other insurance plans deem certain bone marrow transplant procedures "experimental," hubby and i were able to have the security of knowing that anything deemed medically necessary would be covered. we've had A LARGE amount of copays, but the total amount that we are responsible for paying is still a VERY small portion of the overall hospital bill.

the myth that positive thinking can have a significant affect on cancer needs to be stopped. the real heroes in this journey are not those who walk around saying, "cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me," but the men and women who are going to cut-rate rural county hospitals for their treatment because their insurance won't cover another facility. those who try to keep on working their blue collar jobs throughout treatment because they can't afford to take time off are of far greater mettle than those who daze along through treatment with a beatific smile on their face.

shame on msn for publishing another article that insinuates that one's attitude determines the outcome of their cancer therapy. this fictitious idea has received far too much press already.

posted by amanda @ 11:17 PM


At 12/09/2005 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Minerva said...

I couldn't agree more and I think you put it beautifully - this SO annoys me.. So if I have cancer, it means that I am a depressed mournful person? That if I have a recurrence it is MY fault for not being positive enough? And that if I am down about having a life-threatening disease it makes it worse? GEE - thanks for the guilt as well - I SO needed that...

Well said girl!



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