#sciencesaturday – Why Beth Caldwell is my hero, part 1

If I've been quiet lately, it's because the metastatic breast cancer (MBC) community just received a big hit. One of our leaders, Beth Caldwell, is entering hospice care. She's only 40 years old, people. Let that sink in.

I "met" Beth online in 2014 on a young women's cancer message board. She was diagnosed Stage IV from the start with an aggressive, misbehaved fucker of a cancer – which is why she's in hospice now. I was Stage lllc with an aggressive, misbehaved fucker of a cancer myself. Wanting to prepare myself for if/when my cancer metastasized, I started reading MBC blogs, including Beth's.

Now I've never been much of a science person. I barely squeaked by in high school chemistry and college freshman biology. As soon as I finished my two required science courses, I joyfully ran away from the subject. I was a history and humanities person. Not a science person.

When I was diagnosed, one of the most dismaying parts was that I was going to have to try and understand science and shit. I didn't think I could do it. I read all the paperwork I got from my oncologist's office – the words swam in front of me like they were in a different language.

Beth (who was also a history major) and her wonderful writing, helped me understand the science of how cancer worked and helped me believe I could understand enough that I could become extremely proactive in my own care. I'd like to share some of her writing in the coming weeks, not just to honor her, but because I believe it will help educate many other people.

A lot of people believe that cancer can be cured by diet or in natural ways. This is an extremely dangerous misconception and it has caused many deaths that could've been prevented. So I will present to you a series in Beth's blog – Crazy Cancer Cures.

You should really read the whole thing, but if you don't here are some of my favorite quotes:

"The theory behind this Crazy Cancer Cure is that cancer feeds on sugar, so if you don’t eat any sugar, it can’t grow. That’s it, that’s the whole theory, it’s pretty straight-forward. There’s like books and stuff out there selling this cure and saying they’ve cured their cancer by cutting out sugar from their diets; however, you’ll note that none of them are written by oncologists.

Now, it’s true that cancer cells feed on sugar. You know what else feeds on sugar? Every other cell in your body. All of them. Cells run on sugar, it’s their energy source. Even if you don’t eat any sugar, your body will take other foods you eat and convert the carbohydrates in them into sugar. Because that’s what your cells need to function. Don’t believe me? OK, then perhaps listen to the nice folks from Cancer Research UK. 

Is it healthy to eat a lot of sugar? Of course not, are you stupid? Sugar contributes to all kinds of health problems, like diabetes. And who the hell wants to get diabetes? No, I’m just saying that a no-sugar diet won’t cure your cancer. It just won’t. Because even if you don’t eat sugar, your body will just make it, even from the healthy foods you eat. Like those carrots that that asshole commenter said that a dying woman should juice because it’ll cure her cancer. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK."

"Do I hope breast milk will someday be found to be a miracle cure for my cancer? Sure, I’m all about miracle cures. I’m also hoping to win the lottery and buy a bungalow in Tahiti, but I’m not holding my breath."

"Here’s where the science gets in the way of the health food trend: what the science seems to have shown in human trials is that when you eat turmeric, hardly any of it makes it to your blood stream. So, if your cancer is limited to your gastric tract, then maybe the turmeric is being delivered to your cancer–although we have no studies showing that eating a lot of it will cure you. But to have enough turmeric reach your blood stream to have any hope of it attacking cancer cells anywhere else in your body, I mean, you’d have to just be injecting it like heroin or something. Now, scientists ARE currently experimenting with finding a way to deliver turmeric to your tumor. But “eating a lot of curry” is not one of those ways.

Compounding this turmeric “cure” craziness is that if you want to buy supplements with high levels of turmeric to bypass the scientists and their pesky science in hopes of curing your own cancer, you may run across supplements that contain all kinds of seriously harmful shit in them, because the supplement industry isn’t regulated. And now I quote from Cancer Research UK:

“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a warning about the turmeric based food supplement Fortodol (also sold as Miradin). Fortodol has been found to contain the strong anti inflammatory drug nimesulide. Nimesulide can cause serious damage to the liver and is not licensed as a medicine in the UK. The Food Standards Agency in the USA states that taking products that contain unknown amounts of nimesulide could be very harmful. Fortodol and Miradin are sold in the UK and on the internet as food supplements. The FSA advises anyone taking these products to stop doing so immediately, and contact their doctor if they have any signs of liver disease. The signs include jaundice, dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, stomach or abdominal pain, or loss of appetite.”

Look, I get it: we all want a simple solution to our cancer problems, and we figure taking a few supplements can’t hurt. Except when they cause goddamn liver disease. If I wanted to get liver disease, I’d have started drinking a shitload more whiskey, thatnkyouverymuch."

And my favorite:


#sciencesaturday – Why Beth Caldwell is my hero, part 1

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