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Elizabeth Edwards & the Arc of Cancer

Elizabeth Edwards at the "Stand Up To Cancer" event in Calif., Sept., 2010. (AP)

For Elizabeth Edwards, it was difficult and merciless on all sides of life.

Her teenaged son killed in a car crash. Her body, attacked, and attacked again by cancer. Her famous politician husband, John Edwards, leaning deeply on her and then infamously stepping out, secretly fathering a child with another woman.

And through it all, Elizabeth Edwards looked for grace and hope and championed resilience. Yesterday, at home in North Carolina, the cancer finally killed her. But the inspiration she gave was public, real, and lasting.

We remember the grace of Elizabeth Edwards.

-Tom Ashbrook

**Listen back to On Point’s interview with Elizabeth Edwards in 2006.

Guests:

Eleanor Clift, contributing editor to Newsweek and author of, “Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Politics.” You can read an excerpt, and hear her conversation with On Point about the book.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, cancer physician and researcher. He is author of the new book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” Read an excerpt.

On Monday, Elizabeth Edwards posted her last Facebook message:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel towards everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.

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  • Pancake Rankin in McAdenville, NC

    Cancer: Treatment these days is confusing, and comes in several varieties and levels. Genetic information about tumor type is fallible and often irrelevant. Surgery as a product is losing share. Few patients or loved ones take charge and become self-educated. At some facilities the methods used bring a strong revenue stream but are out-dated. Sometimes the treatments become a continual ordeal of imposed suffering involving lies, fraud and cruelty. With the poor state of insurance in the USA many medical offices are run like mills, and mainly for profit. Patients might lose all their property and die in medical debt. With all her wealth and intelligence Elizabeth Edwards was not saved. I wonder if palliative care without the torture of unlikely treatment may have given her a better quality of life in her final months. Cancer becomes an industry under corporate capitalism, and the upper, middle and lower classes are on different tracks. We don’t acknowledge many of the environmental causes that are intensifying as we use genetic propensity and lifestyle to blame the individual. How can we successfully treat something we refuse to understand or discuss honestly? We didn’t know Elizabeth Edwards and we never will. What we knew was a media figment and a manufactured victim.

  • yar From Somerset, KY

    Pancake, You have framed the topic beautifully, let Elizabeth Edwards’ desire to bring affordable healthcare to all live on in mission. 19 percent of GDP for healthcare is not sustainable. Even more reprehensible is the regressive way our nation distributes the burden of medical costs. We can’t even get price lists from hospitals.

    Does every American deserve equal treatment in medicine?
    I wonder if race affects the amount paid for healthcare?
    It seems to affect outcomes.
    Race certainly affects price for vehicles and housing, the only other commodities have unpublished lists. I wouldn’t mind if healthcare was paid solely through a value added tax if it gives universal access.

    Cancer is a difficult disease to deal with, medical exploitation in the US is worse than cancer and is totally preventable.
    What would Elizabeth Edwards want today’s topic to focus on?

  • http://bruceguindon.com bruce guindon

    I am so sorry to hear of the passing of this courageous woman and must agree that she is a shining example of grace under fire.

  • Jessie Carter

    The tragedy of cancer comes long before the individual victims suffer its consequences. We need to pause a moment and look at our society that spawns such illnesses through its industrial waste and other toxic minerals, our farming methods that poison our food and our work environment that all destroy the integrity of our bodies. What we are left with is medicine that serves as a meager effort to undo the damage that is being done by a society whose only interest is the bottom line. How long must we endure this useless waste of life?

    Clarence, New York

  • JS from NY

    Much love and respect to Elizabeth and her family.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    There are studies about stress hormones and how they contribute to high blood pressure, inflammatory problems, and heart disease.
    Thinking of the life of Elizabeth Edwards, there seems a chance to reflect on this. When I had breast cancer I read books where physicians (a physician) anyway was studying the ways different emotional predispositions affect the body. Not very scientific.
    But one can’t treat stress, maybe. If Elizabeth’s life was spinning out of control in the sense her marriage was producing a sort of shock, she could do a double split. One: live like the future is a lot shorter; intensify everything. Two: split somehow as to whom you depend on.
    Cancer, for a lot of us, reveals very clearly whom you can rely on, who is willing to run the gamut. I’m not sure she had the flexibility to do that. Married women are sort of stuck, even if the situation is that the man is coming unstuck.
    I haven’t read “Resilience,” but I’m not sure a mother can turn the page as easily as other women.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Breast cancer was supposed to be related to failures in interpersonality, dependability in interactions. I believe the author has given presentations on PBS. I’m trying to recall back to 1992. By the way, my oncologists cut me loose after two rounds of chemo since my white blood cell count plummeted, and I was deteriorating from that. I kept on chugging because there was no alternative. I was a happy camper.

  • Lynn from Nashville

    Barbara Ehrenreich was on this program once, criticizing the popular emphasis on positive thinking in the face of illness, that it doesn’t improve one’s prognosis at all. Doesn’t Elizabeth Edwards’ attitude support the notion that even if a positive outlook doesn’t prolong your life, it may help you deal better with getting through treatments and living well until you can’t?

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    There is a huge difference between “positive thinking,” which can be an awful straitjacket, and actually letting oneself fly.

  • Ann, Barrington, Rhode Island

    Thank you so much! That opening audio clip with Elizabeth defining “resilience” just gave me an insight. I think I’m pretty “resilient” about my cancer, now metastatic, remarkably, for six years. I’ve not had those brutal chemo regimens your guest mentioned, but I have had long-term, excruciating pain. But, I have had life circumstances that caused me deep anguish, PTSD, even, in one case. THOSE times were despair caused by “betrayal” in personal and professional relationships.

    I say this because we MUST BEWARE if we are tempted to judge someone for their LACK of resilience. Betrayals of trust may be even worse than some diseases to the psycho-social foundation of a person’s world.

    (Trying to understand betrayal, broadly, was chemo for my soul, but it took a LONG time!)

  • Mark Durant

    As inspiring as Elizabeth Edwards was, there are plenty of other cancer patients who are inspirational. Does her “position” as the scorned wife of a former presidential candidate warrant an hour of On Point?

    Mark Durant,
    Walpole MA

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I too was dealing with betrayals when I had cancer, because I had gotten sick from multiple chemical sensitivities and had spent a decade working in a building that no one would admit was exposing me to toxins. So once I was free of that, starting my own business, I could focus on new beginnings. I had to. This is what I think people with pre-set families can’t re-set. There is no point in “judging” this or that. For one thing medical realities probably trump the psychological. But there can be an awful lot going wrong if one can somehow put hope in the picture. Hope doesn’t have to be longevity.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Ann, I struggled for a decade with awful pain (not sure at ALL why) and am still mad that I had to figure out a resolution for it myself. It’s been a decade since I figured this out. There is frustration that the medical establishment has NOT become gods. And we pay them so much.
    I’m hoping you find relief.

  • http://www.helenepowers.com Helene J. Powers

    I am glad to hear how this program today is shining a light on all the many aspects of dealing with cancer and appreciate Elizabeth Edwards’ willingness to have been so public about her situation.I also hope the country takes this opportunity to deal more realistically with the huge impact such a severe condition has financially, socially and emotionally on the many of us who are low- and middle-income. My family was blessed when our friend Chuck stepped forward to create an organized caregiving group to provide practical and emotional support as my then 47-year-old husband’s rare bone marrow cancer became more severe, leaving him unable to work and me juggling work while being his caregiver. I write about the power of caregiving groups and the many free resources available at my blog http://blog.helenepowers.com/

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Estrogen-receptor positive cancer. I believe there are anthropological studies that show in cultures where estrogen therapy is not used, breast cancer is virtually unknown. In cultures where women breast-feed their children (and estrogen is not the dominant hormone when breast-feeding), and in cultures where women spend most of their time pregnant (with progesterone the dominant hormone), there is virtually no breast cancer.
    My own estrogen-sensitive cancer to me was related partly to toxins (PCP’s? that I was exposed to), my not having been pregnant, and also having taken huge doses of estrogen from age 16 to 22 in the 1960s because my periods had stopped, and my mother worried.
    So I see heightened risk.

  • Sherrie

    Hello. I currently have a cousin facing all breast cancer involves. I worked for years as a Physician’s Assistant in anesthesia. This is a very valuable conversation. My days in the operating rooms taught me we are all living limited lives–in terms of the days and time we are vibrantly alive and healthy.
    Now I would focus highly on the factors in our genetics and lifestyles which are causing the cancers and how changes in diet, environment, life experience can make us all healthy.
    I live in Quincy, enjoy On Point very much. great coverage.

  • John

    Here’s my thesis: as long as there is so much money in treating cancer we’ll never see a cure. It’s been 40 yrs since Pres NIxon declared a “War on Cancer” to find a cure in our time just as we had w polio and small pox. But w billions spent we only have more treatments and no cures.

    As w everything it comes down to making money. I’ like to hear your guests comments on this.

    John

  • Danya Baudis

    My Mom was diagnosed with cancer in September 2008 and at that time we were told that she would not survived till end of the year. She died Feb 14th .
    Couple of days after her diagnosis she broke her hip bone. Doctors didn’t really wanted to treat that as they said that chemo will destroy any good cells as well and not allow for the bones to connect. Is that the case?

    Danya
    Stoneham, MA

  • Brittany

    My mother was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer when she was 36, I was 7. As she started chemotherapy, I slowly watched my mothers health slowly deteriorate & even more slowly improve. I remember lying to her, telling her I that I in fact couldn’t see any balding spots when she was doing her hair. I would ask her if she was going to die, she would reply ‘I don’t know, but we’re doing everything we can to make me better.’ I look back & recognize the incredible strength that requires – my mother is the strongest person I know.

    -Boston MA

  • Kate

    What about the connection between women who shave their underarms and the imapct from chemicals found in the deodorants used? Like Arid Extra-Dry from the 70′s? That stuff can kill ant nests!

    What about all the PCBs found in our gas transportaion pipelines and ultimately brought into our homes (for those using gas ranges) which no one knows about (since the utility industry has redacted all text/discussion related to it in FERC Order 436 testimony?

    Just asking…..

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I think certain significant others can feel as to one’s cancer, “Get it over already; don’t make us wait,” in other words they see death as an inevitable outcome and want to keep their distance.
    It doesn’t mean they care less. It means they can’t stand it.

  • Amelia

    I am a breast cancer survivor, endured surgery, chemo and radiation.

    My experience tells me that in acknowledging the strength and grace of the cancer patient/survivor we can run the risk of expecting the cancer patient to be noble, patient and “otherworldly” in her or his fight.

    You need to let your listeners know, many of whom are experiencing this battle right now, that it’s OK to be sick, tired, angry, confused, frustrated and that perhaps it’s the healthy people around you who can reach for their larger selves. Not all moments will be filled with “grace” but rather with tears, fear, trauma, and suffering…….simply living through it may be enough, enduring it….the grace is there in those moments as well. Meanwhile, it is true that for all those involved there is a permanent shift about one’s mortality and all that comes with that.

    Here’s to the sisterhood! And brotherhood!

  • Metastasister

    I did feel cured after my treatment for breast cancer had responded so completely to chemotherapy that there was no tumor left when the surgeon went in to do the lumpectomy. (My tumor was large, but not visible in any of the routine mammograms I had had.)

    It was a shock when it came back almost five years later, metastasized to bones, but Elizabeth Edwards was there to be my role model. I brought up her name the day my oncologist told me what was making my hip hurt so much: metastatic cancer? you mean like Elizabeth Edwards? -Yes, but with a nicer husband.

    Elizabeth Edwards lived an active, productive, and meaningful life for years after she was diagnosed. She knew there was no cure, but treatments to try to keep it under control for as many years as possible. And then, when the end was near, her doctors were honest enough to tell her, so she could prepare to say goodbye. I can only hope to be so lucky at the end.

    Call me Metastasister from Connecticut

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    When I had breast cancer (with chemo, radiation, surgery), my aunt had lung cancer, and she had never called me previous, but had me travel to spend time with her, promised to drive across country to visit me if needed, and told me how she had cared for me when I was an infant, taking time off from college.
    When I checked chances of survival and saw hers was the same as mine, it was as if she had hit some floor. The percentage seemed to her like fate, 6 months before she died, but to me the same seemed okay. I was flying without the support of chemo when she died, yet my body fought off the cancer without help somehow. I sure did mourn.

  • http://www.2012vision.us craig howell

    I had readiation, then chemo but only 2 rounds. Docs said I would die, but I chose to discontinue. I went from paralysed in a wheelchair to walking in 6 months, cancer free. My treatment? Good food, rest, meditation and an understading an implementing of metaphyscial Spiritual Law in my life. Beleive what you will. That was in 1990. Cancer is a vibratory rate and a holding on of anger, fear and resentments. It can be healed many times, but sometimes it has gone too far. The soul just moves on to the other side, but the physical process is always hard. I know – from personal experience.

  • Ellen Dibble

    There is a post in the Aging thread from last week about 17-beta estradiol triggering the telemerose or whatever it is that assists longevity. Jeffrey Dach.
    Estriol is the safe estrogen for people like me. Soy milk provides the same boost, without the risk. See that thread.

  • http://ncpr.org stillin

    My neighbor who is about 48 just got diagnosed with breast cancer…very over protective, over mothering, over controlling type of person. Warm! Loving! But those descriptors fit her, and according to metaphysics those are the traits of many women with breast problems. My own mother died of ovarian cancer at 69. Full of long held regrets…another big characteristic of ovarian problems, metaphysically speaking. I can’t dismiss the metaphysical part, it makes too much sense to me. My mother died saying there was so much money in cancer treatment it’s not meant to be “cured”. I have to say that is a big part of my belief system too. I am sure the environment also plays a role..but whenever I am dealing with health issues, I check my metaphysical book first and it always, always, hits home.

  • Eartha

    I’m writing from Nashville, TN. I just wanted to share a remarkable blog written by a 27 year old woman battling cancer. She writes with such humor and honesty, I think that it is worth sharing.

    http://lumpsandlipstick.blogspot.com/

    Thanks,
    Eartha

  • bb

    We need more show like this and on the wave of destruction cancer leaves in it’s wake. Thank you.

  • Ebony and Ivory

    It is certainly a tragedy when a life is taken regardless of the reason. However we find it difficult to understand why your show would pre-empt your regular programming for this and not devote more time to the senseless death and maiming of our children fighting political wars in places like Iraq and afghanistan and soon to be other places

  • Jane

    stillin – Unless you have scientific proof that personality causes cancer, I’d refrain from making statements to that effect. Metaphysical or not, they are cruel and unsubstantiated. No one deserves cancer.

  • http://ncpr.org stillin

    In response to Jane. I wasn’t stating that people “deserve cancer”, I even said my OWN MOM died of cancer and no I do no think she caused or deserved it as you imply. I don’t think my understanding of metaphysics is cruel. I also did not state “personality” causes cancer. I think life experiences and perception of life experiences may play a big part in who gets cancer, which kind, and why. As an artist, I don’t refrain, and also, I don’t believe anything I stated in my previous post is “offensive”. I also don’t take direction well. No offense. On an end note I also think it’s interesting that medical science can tell you WHAT you have, but a WTICH DOCTOR/ SHAMAN can tell you why YOU got it, and the 20 other people around you did not. It’s that kind of thing, kind, not cruel.

  • Flowen

    @ Jane, on December 8th, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Until you have proof as to what causes cancer, you should refrain from telling people what opinions are appropriate and what are not. You sound like someone who’s salary is connected to or dependent on the medical industry; or, you don’t want to face your personality traits for yourself; or both.

    @ stillin, on December 8th, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    I am not aware of Metaphysics, but I will look into it, as I believe there is something to it. Unlike the Doc on the show, I believe the mind-body connection is much more complex than any correlation with stress; and much more important than technology Docs want you, or anyone else, or themselves to believe.

    @ Pancake Rankin in McAdenville, NC, on December 8th, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    If I recall, you like I have MDs in our family. I believe your description of the current state of medicine is not “nihilistic” as the guest Doc characterized, but is much more accurate than the religious-like zeal modern medicine has for it’s medical technology. The only prevention they can come up with for heart disease is don’t smoke, exercise, and eat right? I think they miss the big picture.

    My own take on the medical industrial complex, and medical inflation: the need for more testing, equipment, and cost generally comes from the fact that the Financial Industry makes a lot more money when national healthcare costs are $2 Trillion instead of $1 Trillion.

    This is effected through the financial industry’s Healthcare Insurance [casino for payers], which is inextricably tied into medical equipment and device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, hospital organizations, health management organizations, investment banks and their (not our) political representatives.

    Why else would Single Payer be off-limits even for discussion?

    Healthcare insurance serves financial needs much more than patient needs; patients are valuable as sources of income as long as they are healthy, and as guinea pigs when they are sick. Patient needs are low on their priority lists.

    The quality of your healthcare is dependent on the quality of your healthcare insurance, which is determined by 1) the size of your income, and 2) the size of your employer. This is a good system!?!?!?!? NOT!!!!

  • David Sgambellone

    Thank You for this Program…
    I’ve had cancer and its been over five years.
    My big question, why don’t we talk about the cause?
    I was in perfect health one day and the next I found out
    I had Lymphoma. My question…Why are so many people getting cancer? If I were president…I would stop war and spend the money on cancer research.

  • http://ncpr.org stillin

    Anybody interested in mind/body should check out DR. Mona Lisa’s Schultz’s book who’s title is not coming to mind..I think it’s Awakenings or something…It is really good and she is a certified neurosurgeon she has some interesting things to say, she is also a medical intuitive and it’s just fascinating to read…I keep a copy to check all ailments, also The Little Blue Book by Louise Hay…every ailment. These are such great books! Jane if you don’t like the subject don’t read them.

  • Mark

    Why do they use radiation to kill cancer when it causes cancer?

  • Pancake- who never gets cancer screenings

    Flowen- I have often appreciated the courage in your many posts too. I do tend to seek categorical and structural causes to the ills of society. My grandfather who practically owned a hospital and was a political conservative taught me that method. In his day your responsibility was commensurate with your station in life and conservatism made more sense, kind of like William Buckley. We have to be our own role models today.

    I wrote because my deceased partner died of lung cancer and had a disastrous treatment regimen that cost us her end of life resolution. (She did smoke every minute.) I met Mia during that dismal episode as she was undergoing treatment. She survived and we got together. Some survivors have a lust for enjoyment and appreciation of others that can buoy up introspective persons like me. I am very thankful for what we have together. I volunteer but have no career except keeping the household books. Maybe I’m retired at 35, and maybe I serve by standing ready to help when needed.

    Mysticism is fun (Ouiji) but probably does not cause cancer. Dale Cooper is still stuck in the Black Lodge since 1991, but there is no cancer in Twin Peaks (at least neither peak has any lumps yet). Stress is one of the biggest cardiac killers and probably cancer too. Workplaces can kill with cortisol.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I was wondering what you meant by checking out the metaphysics. A few years before my cancer diagnosis I had been directed (by the medical establishment, wholistic branch) to acupuncture, and I read about it, and my practitioner was frustrated with my progress and actually drove me to an appointment with the individual (aged about 90) who was passing through the region, who had been the head of her school. He zeroed in on the root of my issues being the heart meridian, and advised I get a new job, a new location for living, and a new set of relationships, most especially. The heart being “off” in Chinese terms is the worst. The acupuncturist let me fly on my own at that point, but I was fine with that insight.
    That “diagnosis” rang true. I had a matrix that held me in place, and yet I never felt caught. If I said something, it was as if the objective was for my point to be deflected, not returned. Imagine if your world was entirely like that. No one is to blame, exactly, but there is (was) an Alice in Wonderland feel to it.
    In retrospect, it is a wonder that it took so much illness of various sorts to get me detached. I was like a barnacle, clinging to the wrong intercontinental shelf.
    IMHO, some of the trouble is family-of-origin things getting superimposed on later constellations. You can’t get a spouse to function as a mother, for instance. There is a different kind of fidelity involved.
    I thought maybe Stillin was using the I Ching, which you can open randomly and read your metaphysical disposition. When I was really badly off I used to type master’s theses for social work students (one month out of each year), and those kids did care for me. One wrote a thesis about a faith healer, who would hug you and somehow thereby suck the illness out of your body. Afterwards she would vomit and otherwise carry on, but she could do it. That healer had received this gift of healing after one day her house burned down, which re-arranged her sense of priorities. That social worker gave me a supposedly magical amulet. Another social worker gave me a volume of the I Ching, fully believing that I would find a way into the future with it.
    People do believe there is much, much more to be discovered both by faith and by science, and they are not waiting around.

  • Flowen

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss Pancake, as well to all reading these posts for theirs. As so often happens, if open to it, good things can come spontaneously out of crisis. Such as Mia for you.

    Similarly, I think there is a lot to the idea that one needs faith in nature, and faith in the body’s ability to heal itself. To fight to overcome nature, and live by will power, has limitations; and in some situations, is counter-productive.

    Life is rarely easy, and often a struggle; but being easy-going, and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin represents health to me. Along these lines, my Dad, a psychiatrist trained by Wilhelm Reich, who had been one of Freud’s best students, (and fled or was kicked out or jailed in every country he was in, starting with his native Austria), wrote a fascinating piece entitled “The Will to Live, The Wish to Die.” Although struggling with dementia/Alzheimers in his last years, he passed away just short of 98 in 2008, and enjoyed an exemplary life.

  • http://ncpr.org stillin

    All of these practions and practioners link to the same ideas and they are all interesting….Carolyn Myss..HUGE medical intuitive, Mona Lisa Schultz, shaman’s etc..Ellen mentions the I Ching…I mean, how anybody NOT want to check out this whole area…to me it explains so much. My little brother died suddenly of a tumor on his neck/back which nobody could see..yet when I looked up the spinal column and neck in Louse Hay’s “Little Blue Book”…it made PERFECT SENSE. Do I miss him tons and love him of course! Am I saying he “deserved” a tumor? No way! did he creat his own tumor? I don’t know…I do know that I believe every life experience is encoded in my cells, and it is up to me to be sure those are experiences I want, as much as I can have a say…it’s just all interesting, it’s not the be all the end all it just is, and for me, it’s fascinating. Check out those authors if you find stuff like that worthy of a look. If my posts jumble it’s because I am trying to do too many things at once when I have access to a computer, sorry!

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    When I posted that I was in a matrix but didn’t feel “caught,” that was not at all well put.
    I meant that the matrix of relationships that I was constantly trying to please and interact with, it did not reflect in ways that I could verify that I had communicated accurately.
    I was thoroughly “caught” in the matrix. But the give and take was not satisfying. I was not caught like a baseball coming down to the outfielder out of the sunset with a satisfying clop.
    It was like eating empty calories, touching plastic. I was not fed, yet I kept eating. I was not heard, yet I kept speaking. I was not able to establish a “language” that seemed to engage at the level I was functioning at.
    My experience was exactly objectified in my inability to recognize a toxic workplace environment immediately, and once having identified it, taking a decade to get myself out of it, by which time my body was allergic to everything, and “saw” pretty much everything as toxic. (My acupuncturist diagnosed that as follows: Your body is not “sorting the good from the bad”; I believe she saw this in my liver meridian.)
    So I see cancer as certainly CAPABLE of reflecting a dysfunctional adaptation to dysfunctional environments both social and physical. People who are not sick are liable to think that this is all hocus-pocus or just turn away. Lawyers who do certain statistical and scientific studies and try to prove the matter are liable to get in over their heads. See Jonathan Harr’s “A Civil Action,” in re Woburn, MA. One lawyer to me circa 1988: Do you think every office has to provide safe air to its employees? (Twenty years later: Apparently so.)

  • Flowen

    FWIW Ellen, I got your meaning the first time. It makes a lot of sense to me.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    F Lowen, for some reason I had assumed the exact connection to psychoanalysis that you outline. I’m not surprised to hear about Wilhelm Reich being routed for some of his approaches. I’ve read — long ago. Religion courses and philosophy courses both got into psychoanalysis. Psychology and education, not so much.
    I thought Freud initiated the idea of the death wish. Maybe Reich stated it better. They both might find it rampant in the upper echelons of “central planners” these days. The death wish is embedded in the quarterly profit statement/Federal Reserve/Wall Street/ Republican/Democrat planning, if I read the thread from yesterday right. Go off a cliff, but go with flair. With flare? Let the rest of the Milky Way take note.

  • pat (Indiana)

    I have had close experience with cancer, not mine, but with my family. This is a list of family members who have had or have died of cancer: maternal grandmother, mother, two aunts, one cousin & her daughter, three sisters. On of the aunts did not die of cancer, the cousin, her daughter and one of my sisters still battle the disease. I wonder how much heredity plays a role in cancer. My doctor has suggested that I have the test for the Breca gene—my maternal side is of Eastern European descent. How much is heredity and how much is environment and life style?
    Furthermore, I too have a real problem with the “cure” issue. I cannot believe that cancer, particularly breast cancer as most of the cases in my family have been, would continue to be common if it were strictly a “man’s issue.” Likewise, I question that chemotherapy is really a valid treatment. Given that, I wonder how many men would endure chemotherapy and its effects on the body. Having seen my mother and sisters struggle with chemo, I feel that the “cure” often is as bad or worse. I have thought about what I would do if I had to endure what they did. I have thought that, perhaps, chemo would not be my choice.

  • Brett

    My mother has been dealing with uterine cancer for over a year; she’s 83. She seems to be doing okay, presently, although the prognosis seems to be that she’ll live another 4 years statistically (the kind supposedly found in younger women is less aggressive than supposedly the kind found in women my mom’s age). She’s been through surgery, then radiation treatments. I am glad chemo hasn’t been in the bag of tricks; I believe that would kill her.

    I didn’t hear much of the program but I did hear the one caller not wanting to use war mongering metaphors to describe her situation. I could relate to that. I pick two or three close friends to discuss my feelings (and they are complex and myriad) and just really don’t like to talk much about it otherwise. My mother doesn’t talk much about it with me (I respect this and know that she has friends she can talk with, which is what’s important). People who are casual acquaintances tend toward reducing the whole thing to the war metaphors, and desire to hear me effuse about being strong and feeling closer to my mother, and so on, ad nauseam. I have neither felt compelled to re-evaluate my relationship with my mother nor compelled to mythologize it. She has not shown any signs of hidden strengths or weaknesses in dealing with cancer; she is the same person she was before she had cancer, which is a victory in and of itself.

  • Carolyn

    I completely agree with Clarence. We live in a toxic environment, use personal care items that have carcinogenic ingredients, and eat fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides. Neither fame nor fortune can save us from the scourge of cancer. It does NOT discriminate. Look at all the rich celebrities who have succumbed to this disease.

  • http://www.theschwartzcenter.org Julie Rosen

    Elizabeth Edwards’s long battle with cancer reminds us that compassion plays an important role in how patients live with illness. Health care professionals must balance connect with patients, balancing hope with realism. A recent national poll shows that patients and doctors also agree: http://www.boston.com/news/health/blog/2010/11/compassionate_c_1.html

    Julie Rosen
    Executive Director
    The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare

  • Nancy

    Let us consider that the reason we get cancer is very likely due to what has entered our bodies and has caused our various systems to go awry.

    Our immune system is met with challenges every day. Most of the time it rids us of threats to our system, but mutation of cells happens.

    The first thing we can do is to eat really well, and live our own lives in a healthy manner. Many books have been written on this subject.

    But we also need to become activists in improving our environment – we should INSIST on clean air, clean water,
    clean soil; we need to insist on the removal of toxins from our foodstuffs, our air, our water and soil.

    This is where we need to start; then we wouldn’t get cancer in the first place!

  • Flowen

    @ pat (Indiana), on December 8th, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    The genetic/environmental controversy is as unresolved as ever. With so much familial experience it is easy to presume a genetic linkage. However, relational patterns are often replicated generation to generation, and broadly within a family. To complicate matters further, there is evidence that the genetic code is not static throughout life, and the mechanism by which it changes is not understood, but is probably in response to environmental factors. With respect to cancer, it is important to be open to many possible avenues. Similarly, as pointed out by other posters here, the effects of toxic substances common in a wide variety of consumer products are not understood, and purposely downplayed by commercial interests. Often, branded products that one grows up with, or toxic elements within a common environment, cannot be easily identified or dismissed.

    I didn’t understand your meaning of your phrase: “breast cancer as most of the cases in my family have been, would continue to be common if it were strictly a “man’s issue.””

  • http://OnPoint Francene (Charlotte)

    One caller talked about not forgetting the physicians that provide cancer care. As a former hospice nurse, please recognize that there is an entire healthcare team, including nurses, that are in the trenches with the patient on the cancer journey. We are most often the ones at the patient’s side during the difficult treatment and there at the bedside as many transition from this life. Please do not disregard or forget the “other” folks that are there to hold a hand, wipe the tears (and the rears), and to provide a listening ear to a fearful family member in the late night hours. It is not only the physician that plays a crucial role in the patient’s cancer journey.

  • Flowen

    @ Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA, on December 8th, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Just to be clear, it was my Dad who wrote “The Will to Live, The Wish to Die.” The Death Wish idea was originated by Freud. Dad wrote his piece 40-50 years later, and is a refinement based on his, and Reich’s clinical experience.

    I believe you are quite correct that related dynamics are embedded in the institutions of power in our culture, in government, and in Big Business. Reich, who died in 1957 in prison in this country, and had his books burned by order of the FDA, referred to this behavior/phenomenon as the “emotional plague.”

    During the ’50s, Reich had clearly become psychotic himself; but that doesn’t diminish the significance of his prior work.

    The role of psychoanalysis in our culture is fascinating. It is vastly downplayed in our culture where we mistakenly subscribe to the myth that cognitive choice is the same as “free choice,” especially so in the USA.

    A BBC documentary, “The Century of the Self,” is well worth watching.

    It is a 4 part (4 hour) analysis of the role psychology and psychoanalysis has played in Public Relations as used by corporations and politicians since the 1920s.

    It begins with the well-known publicist Edward Bernays who was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and was astute in applying Freud’s understanding of the unconscious towards motivating consumer and voter behavior to buy and to believe.

    It clearly shows that there is much less free choice in human behavior than we like to believe, especially in the US. It is the best work I have seen in explaining the mechanics of manipulating consumer/voter behavior at levels below consciousness.

    I am proud to point out that my Dad, Alexander Lowen, M.D. is portrayed as one of the few good guys in this story. FYI, in the first 10-15 minutes of Part 3.

    I believe this is so important because without understanding this stuff, you cannot fully understand the social problems in the US.

    It was shown in the UK, but never in the US on TV (probably because of the clarity of content). It is readily available at Google Videos, or You Tube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvHcbolQ0K4

    Tom A: the producer/director of this work, Adam Curtis, could be a fascinating guest. He has done other extremely interesting work in areas that are way off most radar screens, but are so central to our issues. He clearly sees the box that most people don’t even realize we’re all trapped in.

  • Mimi, ( Marfa, Texas)

    Thank you so much for this show. I am a very long term survivor of recurrent (same site) breast cancer. I believe it was my oncologist’s comment, 26 years ago, that helped me stay cancer free for so long. I asked him why he went into oncology and he replied that, during rotations in medical school, he discovered that “cancer patients love life.” And I do.
    Thank you, again.

  • Edith, St. Louis MO

    Elizabeth Edwards was truly amazing. I feel that she is the one who should have been running for president!

  • Joe

    It is sad that Elizabeth Edwards and others like her have to die due to the greed of drug companies and their owners. Cancer can be cured and it has already happened! I know because I have seen it happen to several different people. One of those was my wife who was diagnosed with a golf ball size lump in her breast which they said contained the worse type of cancer. First two surgeons wanted to do a double mastectomy immediately. Later we found the natural cure, convinced a third surgeon to only remove the lump and without anything else my wife was clean of cancer. She has remained clean for 12 years now. She did NOT have chemo! She did NOT have radiation! If we had listened to the doctors around us she most likely would not have survived. I have witnessed this same natural cure used on others with the same results. This cure is NOT condoned by most doctors and the discoverer cannot promote it or he’d be shut down or destroyed by drug companies or even worse, the government. It is out there and available, you just have to look. People please educate yourself and find alternatives to conventional treatments. When big money and greed are involved you are fighting a losing battle.

  • Adelaide Nye

    Elizabeth Edwards departed leaving a trail of light behind her; inspiring so many of us. As a patient advocate and hospice volunteer, one element of the story of her final days most captured my attention.

    Elizabeth Edwards apparently fought this cancer, and was in treatment against it, to her very last day. We will never know how or why she reached this decision with her doctors and family; she was an exceptional person. For most of us, though, being human is a rather messy experience overall. There is often much we would like to heal in our last days, with others and with ourselves.

    We might ask, “Is it right, is it humane, to encourage each person to fight to their last breath?” Perhaps not… Instead, we might reflect for a moment on the value of another approach, one where emotional healing is the focus at the end of life. The millions of obituary notices requesting donations to our nation’s hospices tell us that a different final chapter is not only possible, but likely.

    We are blessed with a fine and caring nationwide network of hospice and palliative care services that do nothing but offer better final chapters. In hospice, each patient receives the services of a team: physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, and volunteer. The full human needs of each patient can then be addressed.

    The Five Tasks of Dying. http://dying.about.com/od/thedyingprocess/a/5_tasks_dying.htm This is a quick way to comprehend what this emotional healing addresses. It merely hints at what can be accomplished when the last 3 to 6 months of life is focused on comfort and emotional healing.

    I encourage us all to reassess what we think we know (or possibly fear) about end of life care. The compassionate and healing story of the benefits of hospice care is one of the best kept secrets in our great nation. For any of us with family and friends facing the end of life, it is never too soon to inquire about hospice.

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