Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery Religion

“To kill and cure cancer, you must first understand it”

Yesterday, I was annoyed by a particularly vile article by quackery promoter supreme Mike Adams claiming that Christina Applegate didn’t need a bilateral mastectomy and could have “cured” herself of cancer with “natural” methods. Indeed, my contempt for Mike Adams knows no bounds, given that he is the purveyor of a seemingly never-ending stream of antiscience and quackery, much of it directed at cancer patients, who if they follow Adams’ “advice” could very well miss their best chance at treating their cancer and thereby wind up dead. Indeed, so great is the amount of quackery emanating from that website that I could easily devote this blog to nothing other than refuting it all and I’d still never be able to counter it. On the other hand, when Adams gets to a certain point and I get into a certain mood, I feel that it’s my duty to do what I can for a while and then move on, lest the concentrated stupidity of that site drive me to drink.

Oddly enough, this time around, I found an article with a title that I actually agree with, that title being To Kill and Cure Cancer, You Must First Understand It, although I’m sure that neither Adams nor the writer of this piece has any idea just how ironic the title is. This being, of course, the author Kal Sellers, a man who describes himself as a “Master Herbalist, a Massage Therapist, Technician of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration, Iridologist, Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner, Mental Re-programmer, Life Coach, Natural Nutritionist, Reflexologist” who is preparing to enter chiropractic school and runs a website called Kal’s School of Vitalistic Botanical and Holistic Medicine, demonstrates unequivocally that he does not have even a clue about cancer. Given the sheer concentration of woo Sellers is into, I was not in the least bit surprised.

I will give Sellers credit for one thing, though. He does try to counter the most unsavory aspect of a lot of “natural medicine,” in which “healers” claim that “intent” can cure: The implication that if a patient isn’t “healed” it’s because the patient either didn’t follow the program or deep down didn’t want to be healed:

In the natural healing world, one thing that is frequently emphasized and often proven is that there are no incurable diseases! In the background of this, the same healer will hasten to add that there are, indeed, incurable people. This seems to make it not the healer’s fault that someone did not get well.

This padding from the truth obscures two very important realities:

Reality #1 – There are only two healers for you: Your Higher Power and Yourself.

Reality #2 – A person who cannot be healed from some thing at any given time is not bad or at fault or less of an individual. That person is simply in a place (less comfortable for him or her than for anyone else) where s/he cannot get healing at that time. That person needs help and support in the worst way and there is no justification for giving out criticism instead.

Of course, Sellers is deluded if he really believes that there are “no incurable diseases.” There most certainly are, unfortunately. On second thought, now, I realize that Sellers is trying to weasel out of vile implications made by “natural healers” when they claim that “you can heal yourself,” which is very much like The Secret, the unspoken second part of that being that if you die or get worse you didn’t really want to be healed. He’s avoiding this by instead implying that the person’s mental state is such that, although he could be healed he “cannot get healing at this time.” It’s a subtle and clever difference in that it blames the lack of healing on a condition in a person that sounds almost like a mental illness that prevents him from doing what it takes to be healed. The natural question that follows is: If “natural healing” is so powerful why can’t a healer like Sellers remove the postulated mental blocks to healing?

Another irritating aspect is this appeal to a “higher power.” This is even more explicitly religious an appeal than we usually see from “natural healers” like Sellers. Normally, instead they invoke “life energy” (or qi) and various other mystical forces. Here, Sellers sounds just like your run-of-the-mill faith healer. What I find more interesting, though, is this admission:

Another addition to add to the stew we are metaphorically brewing in this article, is the statistic that the very best therapies are effective (meaning that they actually perform as intended) only about 30% of the time. They may help in far more cases than that, but the intended result is only reached about 30% of the time.

This means that it is not the exception, but rather the rule that people do not respond typically to even the very best healing programs.

Having practiced several healing modalities, I understand that I am working to relieve suffering where I can. Maybe in 80-90% of the cases, I can relieve some suffering with my best techniques. I will get 30% who will actually be free of suffering and then a few who will not respond favorably at all to my initial attempts. They will either return for a different strategy or they will seek another healer who may be able to help them.

When we enter the cancer discussion, we have to be honest going forward. There is a reason that there are hundreds of cures for cancer: not any one of those cures works predictably all the time!

So Sellers admits, basically, that in the vast majority of cases his “healing” doesn’t work the way he thinks it should. That’s an amazing admission. Of course, in reality, he’s almost certainly still exaggerating, and those people who feel better after being “treated” by him almost certainly feel better because of the placebo effect rather than any intervention. In fact, that Sellers woo doesn’t work is what leads patients to search for other “healers.” they probably feel better for a while, thanks to the placebo effect, and then when they no longer feel better it’s time to find another modality, either with Sellers or with another “healer,” and the cycle of a brief seeming improvement due to the placebo effect followed by deterioration continues.

Indeed, Sellers unwittingly demonstrates one key difference between scientific medicine and woo: Predictability and reproducibility. In Seller’s world, treatments are “individualized” based on the hunches of “healers” to the point where there are “hundreds of cures” for cancer. Of course, none of them are actually cures, but we can say that there are hundreds of forms of woo that Sellers and his ilk use to try to treat cancer. In contrast, although there is biological variability, scientific treatments for cancer are more predictable and much fewer in number. When used in large numbers of people, they will cluster around a mean effect with a standard deviation to produce a bell-shaped curve of outcomes. It may not be perfect, but we can make predictions based on scientific experimentation and clinical research. Although there’s considerable room for improvement, we’re getting better at predicting response to treatment, too. Thanks to genomics and proteonomics, we now have a better idea of what patients will and will not respond to various therapies. Sellers has no idea. He never will.

But let’s get to the part where Sellers demonstrates his lack of understanding about cancer, exhibiting the arrogance of ignorance. First, however, Sellers has to repeat the whine of woo-meisters everywhere:

First – We establish a distinction between “killing” cancer cells and “curing” cancer. Of course, it is illegal to claim to cure an incurable disease in this country (especially if you happen to be a medical doctor). Anyone with any success at marketing themselves as curing the incurable diseases will have to leave the country.

No, it is not illegal to claim to be able to cure cancer. It is illegal to claim to be able to cure cancer if you don’t have the scientific evidence to back up your claim. Believe me, if anyone came up with a real cure for cancer and had the goods to prove it, that person might catch some flak initially but evidence talks. Eventually, the government would accept such a cure if the evidence supported it.

Sellers continues:

A cancer cure is going to be a lot more involved than a simple supplement that happens to alkalize the blood or inhibit cancer growth or kill cancer cells. Cancer is diagnosable as cancer only because it got out of hand.

This out of hand situation can definitely be helped by killing cancer cells, but unless you are using chemotherapy, the kill cancer approach is probably not, by itself, going to work. Instead, a planned holistic approach to cancer must be selected and followed. It will need several steps and, no matter how good it is, it will probably require help outside of that plan for each individual to become totally healed.

Once again we see the claim beloved of woo-meisters everywhere that cancer is not really the disease itself but rather a “manifestation” of some other process that got out of hand to produce the cancer. Sellers’ evidence? He presents none, of course. That doesn’t stop him from invoking uber-quack Hulda Clark and then continuing with a line of B.S. that resembles more than anything else the German New Medicine, in which all cancer is claimed to be due to in essence some unnamed psychic trauma::

Cancer, in particular, is partially extant because the individual needs something dramatic on some level. As such, any mold will be broken as a matter of course in cancer cases. There will be exceptions in very few cases (maybe about 30%) where the individual got what s/he needed from just having the disease and does not need to make any more drama in order to fill a particular hole in his/her life.

That’s right. Sellers has actually made the claim that 1/3 of cancer patients can be cured because developing the cancer gave them something they needed to “heal” something else. What, Sellers does not say. What evidence for his claims? Sellers does not provide any. Nor does he give any evidence for this next claim, which provoked such a reaction in me that I assert that Sellers owes me a new computer keyboard:

Second Caution: We realize that cancer is life-threatening and many people only get it because they know about it and need some life-threatening condition in order to heal their own life. Really, I am willing to bet half my kingdom that if cancer were stricken from all media, and no one heard about it for several years, that cancer rates would be cut in half or would get even lower than that.

You read it right. Sellers is actually claiming that hearing about cancer leads people to develop cancer. Who knew the power of suggestion was that powerful? Personally, I think it’d be cool if we could strike all mentions of cancer from the media, if only to try to see the contortions of explanation Sellers would go through trying to explain why cancer rates don’t fall by half. He then takes the German New Medicine one step beyond its already despicable lies and, contrary to his cautions above about not blaming cancer patients for their condition when natural medicine can’t “heal” he views cancer as a patient’s attempt to do himself in:

People do not feel that it is okay for others, especially those they respect, to love them like they are today. They do not love others because they think they are not worthy to love others and others would not want their love anyway, and thus they perpetuate the loveless condition!

Killing themselves off, at least partially, is part of the strategy used unconsciously to attempt to reconcile this dual and totally divergent life experience.

It is like, “one of us has got to die, which will it be?”

Cancer cures cannot be approached without addressing this issue. If it is, only the symptoms can be treated, the rest of the disease will continue to grow.

Someone noticed that, “The real tragedy is not death from cancer, it is getting cancer and not benefiting from it.”

Calling Oprah STAT! According to Sellers, cancer is a condition that’s apparently all because of low self-esteem! How much more perfectly New Age Oprah-worthy can you get? No more, I submit! I have news for Mr. Sellers: Cancer is only occasionally a “benefit” and then only in the way that undergoing any stressful test of one’s mettle can sometimes leave one stronger than before. What’s really despicable is the way that Sellers says that “not benefiting” from cancer is worse than dying from it. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! I’ll take surviving cancer and “not benefiting from it” any day of the week over dying from cancer, both for my patients and for me if I’m ever unfortunate enough to develop cancer.

Next, after mentioning “cancer curing” diets, such as avoiding concentrated proteins, processed sugars, and the like to “starve” cancer (never mind that, while for general health it’s good to do these things and that there is no doubt that certain dietary manipulations can decrease but not eliminate the risk of cancer, no diet will cure an already established cancer), Sellers continues in the same Secret-like vein with strategies #3 and #4:

3. Creating a mental and emotional state where cancer is not needed. The first step here is being grateful for every symptom. In the symptom is energy that is designed for healing, or for scaring you to death, but you get to decide that or you can do nothing and see what you get. I generally recommend having gratitude for every symptom and saying it often. More than one case of cancer has been cured doing only this.

Be “grateful” for every symptom? Yeah, right. Chronic extreme pain? Sure, my patients will be “thankful for that! Shortness of breath due to tumor involvement in the lung producing a pleural effusion (fluid surrounding the lung)? Sure, my patients will be “thankful” for that, too. Bone pain from bone metastases? Sure, why not? Be thankful, and bring on more suffering! Intractable abdominal pain and vomiting due to bowel obstruction from metastatic tumor? Of course the patient should be grateful for such suffering and the inability to eat or drink! Fungating masses growing on the chest wall that bleed and stink? Definitely something to be grateful for, especially since breast cancer will be far more likely to reach that unfortunate and very difficult-to-treat state if a woman listens to this sort of twaddle.

As for the claim that cancer can be cured by just being grateful for its symptoms, is Sellers on crack? I thought I had seen every ridiculous, pseudoscientific, New Age, and religious claim that quacks make about cancer, but here Sellers actually came up with one I hadn’t heard before, and it’s one of the most despicable, vile lies I’ve ever heard. Even fundamentalist Christians usually don’t so bluntly say that one should be “grateful” for one’s symptoms or that being grateful will lead to healing. They may say that the faithful should “accept” the suffering as “God’s will” or part of God’s plan that we can’t understand, but they make no claim that being grateful for the suffering will cure them of the cause of their suffering. As hard as it is to believe, Sellers has cranked the religious quackery (and, make no mistake, his concepts are religious, not scientific) to 11 and beyond.

But he’s not finished:

4. Healing life so that cancer is not needed. Cancer is needed when things are really dichotomous in nature. When both negative and positive elements are building up, one of fear, greed and want; the other of love and peace and goodness, there comes a time when these must be reconciled and can co-exist no longer. You must choose. Cancer forces this choice upon you. Very often, even those who are treated medically will find that they survived because they dealt with this issue in their lives. Cancer may also indicate a need for attention, both within yourself, and in the world of people around you to authenticate something that did not get the authentication it needed earlier in life. This is no shame and those of us who are extending grace to those in need should be sensitive to this very real need.

This is some seriously concentrated woo, and sounds more explicitly like German New Medicine quackery than ever before. Indeed, the whole business about cancer “forcing a choice upon you” sounds exactly like this, direct from a website devoted to the German New Medicine:

THE GERMAN NEW MEDICINE provides us with illuminating explanations about the origin, development and healing of both physical and mental disorders. In 1981, Dr. Hamer discovered that every DISEASE is caused by a shock experience that catches us completely off guard. He found that this shock not only occurs in the psyche but simultaneously in the brain and on the organ level. At the moment the unexpected trauma takes place the shock impacts a specific area in the brain causing a lesion that is clearly visible on a brain scan as a set of sharp concentric rings. With the impact the affected brain cells communicate the disturbance to the corresponding organ. Whether the organ responds with a tumor growth (cancer), with tissue degeneration, or with functional loss, is determined by the exact type of conflict shock. Based on the analysis of over 40,000 case studies Dr. Hamer is the first to provide scientific proof that cancer is not caused by a malfunctioning organism producing deadly cancer cells but is rather the result of an innate meaningful survival program that has been successfully practiced for millions of years. Since HEALING can only occur after the conflict has been resolved, the GNM-therapy focuses on identifying and resolving the original conflict. By understanding healing symptoms such as painful swelling, infections, fever, or inflammation in their psychological, biological and evolutionary context, we are able to liberate ourselves from the fear and panic that often come with the onset of an illness. Dr. Hamer’s findings offer a completely new understanding of so-called diseases. His scientific discoveries revolutionize entirely our view of medical conditions and their causes.

I’ve written about the German New Medicine before and what its results are when patients choose it over effective scientific medicine, for example, the case of Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert, who died a needless and horrific death because she put her faith in the German New Medicine. The philosophy that Sellers follows is so similar to the German New Medicine that it’s in essence the same thing, and any cancer patient who chooses him as a “healer” is risking a similar fate.

Once again, I can’t help but emphasize just how much blame Mike Adams deserves, not just for his own screeds against “conventional” medicine but for giving a forum to all manner of purveyors of unscientific or explicitly spiritual or religious woo as outrageously wrong and dangerous as this. He is actively working to persuade cancer patients to choose pseudoscientific or explicitly unscientific “healing,” such as that of Kal Sellers. As has begun to happen for antivaccinationists, who are increasingly–and correctly–being blamed for the resurgence of measles in the U.S., I want to encourage every blogger interested in skepticism and science-based medicine to hold Adams accountable for the vast repository of quackery he has amassed and used in the service of trying to chase patients with serious diseases away from science-based treatments that could help them.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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