I’ve been watching the Ken Burns special on PBS about cancer “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.” It’s been an amazing documentary detailing the progress and how it translates to the common person. If you missed it, you can catch it on demand at PBS. It’s well worth your time.
Here’s what I learned.
Before Richard Nixon was president, cancer treatment was just a shot in the dark. It was poorly funded and it was very ineffective. There was no networking among doctors and no sharing of research progress. And to make matters worse, no one really survived. Women who had breast cancer were often so disfigured by a mastectomy they were unable to lift their arms due to the sheer amount of muscle which was removed during surgery – if they survived the surgery at all. Patients who volunteered for radiation were often so badly burned by the treatment that they died from infection.. Methotrexate, the medicine that revolutionized so many blood born cancers, is derived from mustard gas. Yes, mustard gas that killed American soldiers during WWI.
But….similar to so many other landmark discoveries, you need a “perfect storm” to reach it – and beating cancer is/was no different. You need smart doctors, brave patients and lots and lots of money if you want to see progress. Smart doctors are a dime a dozen – so much so that I would imagine a “dumb” doctor would be an anomaly. Brave patients? What choice did many of them have? Since the prognosis from a cancer diagnosis before 1970 was about 5% survival rates for all cancer, most patients were willing to try anything, even if they knew it was a long shot.
For More, Please Read The April 8 Edition Of The Nashville News.