Sunday, October 24, 2004 – 5:25 pm

“What is this, The Dark Ages?”

I’ve been gathering a lot of information on my condition (or lack thereof) lately. I sort of went through the first round of treatment doing whatever my doctor’s told me, because I trusted medical science to do it’s perverbial thang. But after entering the “after-chemo” phase, I’ve sort of become disillusioned with the state of affairs that is cancer treatment.

It’s like in Star Trek IV, when they go back in time to get the whales, and they’re going through a hospital looking for Chekov. Dr.McCoy runs by a woman suffering on a bed in the hall and stops to ask her what’s wrong. “Kidney failure,” she replies. Dr.McCoy is horrified (exclaiming “What is this, the Dark Ages?”) and quickly gives her two pills. Later on she is seen rejoicing her new kidneys.

I sort of feel like doctors don’t really know what they’re doing sometimes, especially when I can’t get a straight answer out of them. It’s not that they’re incompetent, we just simply don’t have the technology yet. I live in one big grey area.

People say that we’ve come a long way in the fight against cancer. I don’t even think we really know what cancer actually is. Well, we know it’s bad, and we know how to stop cells like cancer (All chemotherapy really does is kill cells that multiply quickly, it doesn’t specifically target cancer cells. That’s why you lose your hair), but we haven’t yet figured out how to stop cancer itself.

In fact, most experts agree that the term “cancer” isn’t even accurate. Saying you have cancer is like saying you have a cold – it’s a catch-all term for what is in reality hundreds of different afflictions. Even though I have “Large B-Cell Lymphoma”, there could be several different types of this same cancer when you look at it on a genetic level, yet they’re all treated with the same CHOP chemotherapy.

I kind of wish I’d gotten cancer about 10 years from now. We’re just on the cusp of some absolutely startling revelations about what cancer is and how to fight it. Thanks to things like the Human Genome Project, we know more about how cancer spreads in different parts of the body on a genetic level. In the next decade or two, you’re going to see more specific diagnoses – and more importantly – more specific treatment. It will be more targeted and therefore less invasive. It will literally be like taking a pill and waking up with a new kidney.

But for now we have chemotherapy and radiation. It’s kind of like using a flamethrower to cut the lawn, but it’s the best we have.

Mood: Dammit, Jim, I’m a designer, not a doctor