The COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much consumed this blog since shortly after it hit US shores (and, to some extent, even a bit before). It’s not surprising, given that COVID-19 is the single largest medical disaster to have befallen the world in over 100 years, when the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 hit. The current estimated death toll in the US alone is 220,000 and climbing rapidly. Moreover, the pandemic has provided a cornucopia of material for this blog, be it the rise of COVID-19 denial and conspiracy theories, the unholy alliance of COVID-19 deniers, antimaskers, and conspiracy theorists with the antivaccine movement (which surprised some people but didn’t much surprise those of us who’ve been following the antivaccine movement), and all the pseudoscience, promotion of unproven treatments and other quackery for coronavirus, and fusion of all of this with a conspiracy theory as utterly bonkers as QAnon. That’s even leaving aside the degradation of federal scientific and medical agencies, such as the CDC and FDA, under our current leadership. Sometimes, I just hunger for a simpler time, a time from, say, 8-9 months ago, when the pandemic was just in China and we in the US were as yet blissfully laboring under the delusion that we would be OK and it wouldn’t affect us. I sometimes just long to go back to long time topics of this blog, no matter how odd that it might sound. So, for one day at least, I will do just that. This desire leads me, oddly enough, to Rush Limbaugh, his lung cancer, and über-quack Mike Adams’ reaction to an announcement about Limbaugh’s cancer last week.
Many readers might recall that, way back in early February, as the pandemic was well into its spread from China to the rest of the world but before the you-know-what really hit the fan outside of China (and in the US in particular, you know, those halcyon days that now seem like ancient history when we could still actually believe that the US would escape the worst), Rush Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer:
Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said Monday that he’s been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. “The upshot is that I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Diagnosis confirmed by two medical institutions back on January 20th,” Limbaugh told his listeners. “I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing because I don’t like making things about me. But there are going to be days where I’m not going to be able to be here, because I’m undergoing treatment or I’m reacting to treatment… it is what it is.” Limbaugh, host of the The Rush Limbaugh Show, is one of the most popular talk-radio hosts in the U.S.—with about 15.5 million people tuning into his show.
It was a natural reaction that some of those who really don’t like Limbaugh to feel a bit of schadenfreude, given his longstanding dismissal of secondhand smoke as a risk factor for lung cancer and other tobacco-associated diseases, his downplaying the dangers of smoking while describing smoking as “cool,” and mocking celebrities with serious diseases, such as when he accused Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and mocked his movements by pretending to shake uncontrollably:
Personally, having had an aunt die of lung cancer almost certainly due to her 40 years of smoking and several other family members either suffering from or dying from cancer, combined with my career as a breast cancer surgeon that’s led me to see what cancer does to people, I said nothing, and I did not gloat. Limbaugh is a horrible human being, but he is a human being, and I knew then that he was unlikely to survive very long even with the best treatment that his wealth could purchase. Nearly nine months have gone by, and facing death didn’t change Limbaugh much, if at all. Meanwhile, I paid little or no attention to him until stories like this one started popping up in the media last week:
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show radio host, is battling stage 4 lung cancer and said Monday he’s had a setback in his prognosis.
“The scans did show some progression of cancer,” he told listeners of his radio show. He later added: “It’s not dramatic, but it is the wrong direction.”
The 69-year-old was diagnosed with lung cancer in February.
Limbaugh said his doctors changed his medications in “hopes of keeping additional progression at bay for as long as possible.” Prior to this week’s update, he said that cancer “had been reduced, and it had become manageable.”
“It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over,” Limbaugh said. “Now, we all are, is the point. We all know that we’re going to die at some point, but when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.”
Rush Limbaugh’s statement was posted to his website a week ago. Clearly, if Limbaugh’s tumor is progressing on treatment, this is not a good sign. Of course, it’s stage 4, which means it’s gone beyond the lungs, and stage 4 lung cancer is not curable. (Even earlier stage lung cancer is very difficult to treat for long term survival.) Of course, this development is expected in stage 4 lung cancer (and, unfortunately, nearly all stage 4 solid tumors). Resistance develops and the tumor starts to grow again despite treatment. The treating oncologist will then tweak the treatment switching to second line therapy until resistance develops again, then to third line, and so on until treatment options become too toxic and unlikely to be effective or are exhausted. This, sadly, is how these cancers behave.
So why am I blogging about his now? Well, I did mention Mike Adams, and longtime readers of this blog know one thing about Mike Adams that I’ve written about him on and off since very early in the history of this blog, and that’s his tendency to glom onto the health misfortunes of celebrities either to try to “blame and shame” them for getting sick due to some lifestyle or diet flaw, real or perceived, to “lament” that they could have survived their cancer (or whatever) if only they had tried “natural remedies,” or to claim that “natural remedies” could still save them. Many are the examples, of which Rush Limbaugh is just the latest. Before I get to his ghoulish gloating about Limbaugh, let’s just take a trip down memory lane and look at some previous examples, in no particular order:
- Tony Snow. The death of Tony Snow, President George W. Bush’s former press secretary, in 2008 of metastatic colorectal cancer was the first time I noticed Adams ghoulish tendency to attack dead and dying celebrities to promote “alternative” medicine. At the time, Adams gloated, prefacing his gloat by mentioning “actor Heath Ledger’s death following the consumption of doctor-prescribed medications,” CNBC anchor Tim Russert’s “death while on cardiovascular medications,” and Anna Nicole Smith’s “death caused by a lethal combination of FDA-approved prescription medications,” as if the comparisons were in any way relevant to Tony Snow’s death from stage IV colorectal cancer. Adopting a stance of faux sympathy, Adams opined that for “reasons we will never know, Tony Snow chose the chemotherapy route in an attempt to treat his colon cancer, subjecting his body to systemic poisons that all the evidence shows produce absolutely no improvement in the five-year survival rate of colon cancer patients” (not true, by the way) and asserted that Snow “was apparently unaware that colon cancer is rather easily cured with plant-based medicines” and that, had he “adopted a raw, vegan diet and engaged in high-volume vegetable juicing immediately upon learning of his colon cancer diagnosis, I have no doubt he would still be alive today.”
- Patrick Swayze. As you might recall, Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. Of note, Swayze earned the ire of cancer quacks everywhere by being very realistic about his impending demise and then slapping down cancer quacks, by saying in an interview with Barbara Walters, “If anybody had that cure out there, like so many people swear they do, you’d be two things. You’d be very rich, and you’d be very famous. Otherwise, shut up.” After Swayze succumbed to his disease, Adams again put on his faux oh-so-sad demeanor, asking the question whether Swayze could have saved his own life with “natural therapies” thusly, “Absolutely. Without question. Even late-stage pancreatic cancer can be reversed (yes, reversed) with full-on naturopathic treatments involving Chinese herbal medicine, deep body detoxification that includes sweat saunas and colon cleansing, radical changes in diet from ‘dead’ foods to ‘live’ foods, a healthy dose of vitamin D and the daily consumption of raw anti-cancer living juices made from fresh, organic produce like cabbage, broccoli and garlic.” In particular, he added this howler: “I’ve never met a person who was cured of cancer with chemotherapy. Not a single one. Never even heard of such a person. They don’t exist.” (Lance Armstrong and many others might beg to differ.)
- Christina Applegate. Christina Applegate, you might recall, developed breast cancer and opted to undergo bilateral mastectomy, the removal of both breasts, because she also tested positive for a deleterious mutation in BRCA1 that produced a very high lifetime risk of breast cancer for her in the other breast. Opining over her “maimed” body, Adams then claimed that “by surgically removing Christina Applegate’s breasts, cancer surgeons have misled her into thinking she’s cured, when in reality, she now has the exact same risk of cancer coming back as she did before the surgery,” which is absolutely not true.
- Elizabeth Edwards. The wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards died of metastatic breast cancer in 2010. In response, Adams ranted that “cancer doctors destroyed Elizabeth’s health for six years and then abandoned her, saying that ‘further treatment would be unproductive, adding that this “is how conventional cancer doctors operate: They poison your body, take your money, and when it turns out they’ve nearly killed you, they just stop treating you and tell you to go home and die,” adding that there “there are many cures for cancer” but that, rather than curing patients, “traditional oncologists poison them with deadly chemicals and call it ‘treatment.'”
- Farrah Fawcett. Farrah Fawcett, many will recall, died of anal cancer in 2009. She was an interesting case for Adams to attack because it had been widely reported at the time of her death that she had used “holistic therapy” and had gone to a “holistic” German cancer clinic for “galvanotherapy,” chemoembolization, and “immune-boosting vitamins”. She died anyway. (Funny how Adams didn’t mention that. She’d even made a documentary about it.) None of this stopped Adams from writing that, against the “advice of many in the natural health community, Fawcett gave in to her doctors and agreed to be poisoned as a treatment for anal cancer” and that, had “she chosen natural remedies, she could have skipped all the pain and suffering, restored her immune function, reversed her cancer and gone on to live a much longer and more abundant life.” (But she did choose some natural remedies.)
- Beau Biden. It’s hard not to know that Joe Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer at a much too young age in 2015. Given the timing and a father’s grief, Beau Biden’s death was a major reason that Joe Biden chose not to run for President in 2016. Shortly after Beau Biden’s death, Adams blamed his cancer on chemotherapy and—of course!—glyphosate, concluding that “Beau Biden, like hundreds of thousands of other Americans each year, was killed by a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and glyphosate.”
- David Bowie and Alan Rickman. David Bowie (my all time favorite musician) and actor Alan Rickman both died in January 2016, Bowie of liver cancer, and Rickman of pancreatic cancer. Adams, being the ghoul that he is, responded, “When people like David Bowie and Alan Rickman die from cancer, it’s because the cancer industry withheld livesaving information from them about cancer prevention, anti-cancer foods, vitamin D supplementation, avoidance of toxic chemicals and other crucial information that can save lives.”
Of course, Mike Adams isn’t the only one who pulls this “if only this celebrity with cancer had chosen ‘natural’ treatments he might be alive” routine. Cancer quack Nicholas Gonzalez did it too, when he he oh-so-sadly claimed this about Steve Jobs, who died of neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas:
He wanted to see an alternative. In fact when he was first diagnosed, he got some dietary program – again, he was very secretive of that – So I don’t exactly know what he did at that point. But through his acupuncturist, there was communication. He was getting acupuncture, and he was doing some alternative things as far as I know. This acupuncturist actually talked to me, discussing the situation. She was really anxious for him to come and see me. But he chose not to do that.
You know, I always respect the patients’ right to choose the therapy they want to choose, so I would never dispute that. The patients have to make the decisions based on what they want to do. But she was very adamant; in fact, she knew about all my works in the alternative world. He had seen alternative-type practitioners. She really wanted for him to come and see me. He chose not to do that. From my perspective, it was unfortunate, because he was such a gift to the world in terms of his inventions and genius in the past 30 years.
Conveniently, Gonzalez’s story was completely unverifiable.
It’s been a while since I paid attention to one of Adams’ exercises in ghoulish grifting over the bodies, living or dead, of celebrities with cancer and other serious diseases, but for some reason his latest exercise about Rush Limbaugh caught my attention. I suppose that it surprised me that, given Adams’ penchant for Trumpist right wing conspiracy theories and his general alignment with Trump and right wing conspiracy politics, he’d actually pull the same shtick with Rush Limbaugh, but pull the same shtick he did last week. Well, actually, Adams didn’t do it personally. Maybe his alignment with Rush Limbaugh-style politics is why Adams outsourced the slime job to his lackey Ethan Huff:
Despite undergoing aggressive treatment regimens at the hands of conventional cancer “experts,” Limbaugh’s stage 4 lung cancer went terminal.
In other words, Limbaugh believes in conventional cancer doctors, apparently unaware of the fact that there are alternative methods of treating cancer that, unlike chemotherapy, do not accelerate the degression towards death.
I can’t help but note that stage 4 lung cancer doesn’t “go terminal.” It is terminal, by which I mean that it is not curable. It wasn’t curable in February, and it isn’t curable now. Existing treatments for stage 4 lung cancer are palliative, designed to slow the progression of the cancer, prolonging survival while maximizing quality of life. On rare occasions, a patient with stage 4 lung cancer might live an unexpectedly long time, several years, but, by and large, such occurrences are quite rare. Moreover, in the case of stage 4 lung cancer, it is not at all surprising that, nearly nine months later, his first line treatment has reached the end of its effectiveness and his cancer has started to grow again. That doesn’t stop Huff from channeling his boss:
According to Limbaugh, his latest scans shows “some progression of cancer,” meaning the chemotherapy he has been receiving is not exactly working as planned. Prior to this, scans had shown that Limbaugh’s cancer had turned “dormant.” Something changed, in other words, which is often the case when a patient is receiving toxic doses of chemotherapy, a systemic poison that ruthlessly destroys healthy cells alongside the malignant ones. Perplexed that his cancer at first appeared to go dormant, only to later start growing again, Limbaugh has now arrived at the flawed conclusion that cancer “eventually outsmarts pretty much everything you throw at it,” which is simply untrue (and demonstrates his ignorance of fundamental human health and natural medicine). It is often true, however, for those who rely exclusively on conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation that ravage the immune system and, in many cases, lead to worse outcomes in the end.
Actually, it’s hard not to notice that Huff’s version of an Adams ghoulish gloat is much less ranty and way more…civil-sounding, as he continues:
While we feel for Limbaugh and hope for a miraculous recovery, the truth of the matter is that he needs to learn quickly that the conventional cancer treatment road is a dead end that for most people leads to early death. For someone who knows full well the corruption of Democrat Party, Limbaugh would seem to be almost clueless about the corruption of Big Pharma, which profits immensely from cases like his where the patient receives round after round of expensive drug treatments, only to come up short in the end.
Interestingly, nowhere to be found is the usual victim blaming that Adams loves to engage in, in which, as he claimed for Patrick Swayze for example, many people, of course, aren’t willing to engage in these lifestyle changes in order to save their own lives, but for those who are, the results are astounding.” Funny how Huff/Adams don’t try to shame Limbaugh for his lifestyle choices, his smoking, and the like.
They do, however, continue Adams’ longstanding pattern of trying to use celebrities with cancer in the service of their grift by claiming that they could still be saved with “natural therapies.” Even in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, some things never change. Grifters gonna grift, and despicable grifters like Mike Adams will use any excuse to grift.