Most of us have spent some time thinking about our own deaths. We do it with a sense of dreadful curiosity, but then we push it aside with “well, we’ve all got to go sometime.”
Unlike most people, I probably know the how, the why, and maybe even the when of that event. It is profound information that turns the world upside down for us, our families, friends and caregivers.
I have cancer that is incurable, aggressive, and has negligible survival odds. My chemotherapy is a long shot. I will leave a spouse, children, siblings and a life that I love and cherish. I cannot imagine existence without them.
Last Sunday on his show on CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed pediatrician, Dr. Robert Lustig, who made the assertion that sugar is toxic, and probably carcinogenic. This attention-grabbing statement had earned him a wide following on UTube. But is it true? Let’s examine the evidence.
How is sugar used in the cell?
Every cell in our body needs energy in order to survive and perform its functions. Our biochemistry has evolved over billions of years to extract energy from simple sugars, like glucose and fructose. I mentioned the evolutionary ancient-ness (is this a word?) for a reason. In the beginning (relax, I am not getting into the creation debate) the atmosphere was poor in oxygen. Yet cells had to extract energy from their nutrients. The solution? Extract energy from glucose without the participation of oxygen. This process is called anaerobic glycolysis, and even today, there are anaerobic bacteria that survive solely through glycolysis. This process nets a measly 2 ATP molecules (these are the molecules that store the energy necessary to drive chemical reactions in the cell), and two 3-carbon molecules of pyruvic acid.
Lisa M. Schwartz, MD and Steven Woloshin, MD wrote a good article published in the New York Times called “Endless Screenings Don’t Bring Everlasting Health.” Click here to read the full story.
Many Americans have high expectations for avoiding cancer with the right regimen of tests. After all isn’t that what our wellness programs teach us? Isn’t that what we hear trumpeted in the popular media? Getting such screenings on a regular basis just makes good sense, no?
Recently, our city hosted the fifth annual national marathon to fight breast cancer. This is not part of the Komen “race for the cure” but rather a grassroots effort that mushroomed from its inception five years ago into the impressive event it is today. Thousands of people participate as runners, volunteers, and cheerleaders clad in the signature color. I must admit, seeing some grown men run twenty six miles wearing pink tu-tus is both awe inspiring and a testament to dedication over self-image.
It’s supporters include corporate sponsors, vendors, and exhibitors, and (no surprise) pharmaceutical companies. Its originators are a local TV celebrity breast cancer survivor and a cancer physician at Mayo clinic. It promises to donate 100% of the money to breast cancer research or care. To date, the event has raised millions of dollars and has met its contribution promise. It’s all very worthy, noble and heartwarming.
Brian’s Note: When I read this poignant piece about one woman’s brave perspective on fighting cancer, I showed it to my wife Elaine, who is dealing with late stage primary peritoneal (ovarian) cancer. She commented, “Ah! Someone else who doesn’t want to be categorized as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’!” It clearly struck a chord.
Monique Doyle Spencer (seen here in July 2010) died peacefully and surrounded by her family last night after a long stint with metastatic breast cancer. By any measure, she was an extraordinary person, full of ideas, strongly held views, and with a marvelous sense of humor. I was privileged to be her friend.
Yes, you read it right: the dreaded AIDS virus provided a breakthrough in the search for cancer treatment. In a brilliant Jiu Jitsu maneuver University of Pennsylvania scientists (Dr. Carl June and his group) turned the strength of the virus into an advantage to the patient.
Here is the background to their feat.
There are 2 types of lymphocytes (white blood cells): T cells and B cells. T cells are the “generals,” directing the attacks on non-self interlopers, like bacteria, viruses and virus-infected cells, and importantly –cancer cells.
A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that people with only a high school education are nearly three times more likely to die from cancer than people with college and advanced degrees. From the Associated Press story:
For all types of cancer among men, there were about 56 deaths per 100,000 for those with at least 16 years of education, compared with 148 deaths per 100,000 for those with no more than 12 years of school. For women, the rate was 59 per 100,000 for the most educated and 119 per 100,000 for the least educated. People with a high-school education or less died from lung cancer at a rate four to five times higher than those with at least four years of college education. More than a third of premature cancer deaths could have been avoided if everyone had a college degree, cancer-society officials estimated.