A Disease Nobody Understands

At age 90, former United States President Jimmy Carter wouldn’t be rightly described as a patient of any disease. Nelson Mandela understood that age itself is a disease known by different names. At 91 or so, he refused to be called a sick man. “I’m not sick; I’m old,” he had said. Dementia soon set in and, for the next four years that he lived, the best doctors and the best medicines couldn’t stop the irreversible march of age.

Only a fortnight ago, a “small mass” was removed from President Carter’s liver. Doctors said he would recover fully. On Wednesday, however, the 39th US president opted for full disclosure: he announced that he has cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. He is expected to reveal more this week.

Carter should have spoken like Mandela. Although he is said to have lost his parents and siblings to pancreatic cancer, he has obviously been spared. For he has led a long and fulfilled life and doesn’t need the “best wishes…for a fast and full recovery” as conveyed by President Obama and other well-wishers.

These days, many people are being diagnosed with “cancer”, the disease nobody seems to understand. Some doctors say cancer is curable if it’s detected early; others say it’s incurable, though life could be prolonged. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to state that some types of cancer are curable while others are not. There are over 100 forms of the unknown disease: it could affect the breast, prostate, brain, blood, lung, gullet, pancreas, bone, muscle, cervix, anus, head, leg, neck, kidney, skin, liver, spinal cord, eye, nose, tongue and other parts.

Medical scientists have a name for everything, including things they fail to understand. I’m told, for instance, that everyone gets “cardiac arrest” or heart failure – the ultimate end of life. But what leads to “cardiac arrest”? Scientists should admit their ignorance in matters of life and death. Just as they have failed to understand the origins of life, they won’t understand certain terminators of life. That’s why all the researches done for centuries have been unable to provide a clear definition of cancer or its actual causes. It’s not enough to say it’s “the unrestrained growth of abnormal cells”.

Those who ascribe such symptoms to witchcraft or poisoning may not be far off the mark, after all. The curse of Africa is that Africans have failed to develop African science. Likely, the cure for “incurable” diseases could be found in the realm of metaphysics or the third eye that some Africans possessed before the coming of the white man. Our ancestors lived longer and even better. It’s possible few of them died of the strange disease now known as cancer.
My doubts about the roots of cancer persist because I know many people that have been cut down by the disease. A woman goes to her farm and catches cancer. A man is promoted above his colleagues in an office and, suddenly, he develops cancer. Yet, a chronic consumer of alcohol lives to old age. A chain smoker keeps smoking until he clocks 100. What then is cancer?

Record keepers say it’s the second leading cause of death in the Unites States and perhaps in the whole world. Is it not surprising that, in spite of all the advancements in science and technology, diseases like “cancer” have proved incurable? That strange diseases are rearing their ugly heads this time is a confirmation that science hurts more than it helps. The atmosphere is being poisoned daily by mechanical, electrical and electronic gadgets. We no longer eat fresh things. Synthetic drugs exist for all ailments; they lower the immune system and introduce diseases that didn’t exist.
A huger irony is that those who receive treatments for cancer die earlier than those who don’t get treated. I say this based on my own observations. And I once read a thesis supporting this assertion – the writer said that what kills a cancer patient is the treatment and not the disease itself. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or other oncology services have side-effects that are more lethal than what they are meant to cure.

We must keep hope alive all the same. The testimonies of cancer “survivors” offer such hope. In recent times, we have read the accounts of many, including Prof. Wole Soyinka and ex-governor Sullivan Chime. But Steve Jobs succumbed to it five years after he had testified that he had been made fine. It’s unfortunate that patients like Dora Akunyili and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke who sought treatments in Indian hospitals did not return home alive. There are patients that got cured by faith, however. Prayers work. And anything that works should not be discouraged.

A name should be found for cancer that doesn’t kill within 10 years. The type that afflicts octogenarians and nonagenarians must be different. Scientists equally agree that aging is a risk factor for developing cancer.


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