Reactions to "Farrah's Story"

I wasn't going to watch "Farrah's Story" last night, but then I did, all two hours of it. It made for a fitful night's sleep and every time I woke up I was thinking about it and how horrible and tragic and hopeless her situation is.

I wasn't going to write about it but this review in the New York Times made me angry. The comments by readers are across the board. [More...]

As to those who wonder why she went to Europe for surgeries and treatments not authorized in the U.S., I thought the answer was clear: When her cancer returned and the tumor was the size of a peanut, her doctors at UCLA said they wouldn't operate because the surrounding tissue had been too damaged by her prior chemo and radiation. Maybe I missed something, but I thought they were telling her there was nothing they could do, so she opted to let the doctors in Germany try.

Did she make some bad decisions, like flying back to the U.S. against the wishes of her doctors who thought it was too soon? Yes. Did that make a difference? Unknown.

Farrah Fawcett is dying, she and those who love her are in pain, and her documentary was powerful, in a very disturbing way. I think criticizing her or Ryan O'Neal or her son, who happens to have a drug addiction that like thousands of others, he is unable to shake, is crude. I also have a lot of admiration for Alana Stewart, who apparently has been by her side through this entire, awful ordeal.

As to the film's effect on viewers, while some say it may promote early detection and cause people to seek treatment, I wonder whether it's not equally possible others will say, "Just let me go now. If that's what ahead, why bother?" Particularly those without the support system Farrah has.

Of the comments to the article I read, I think this one most sums up my attitude on the show:

I am disappointed to see “Farrah’s Story” being critiqued as if to say there is a “right” way or “wrong” way for a person to present their end of life story…. or the choices that one makes to seek help and remission for their illness.

I admire Ms. Fawcett’s grace in exploring and attempting to make sense of this obviously painful [literally and emotionally] time in her life.

Your thoughts?

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    I have watched friends and relatives (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat May 16, 2009 at 11:38:51 AM EST
    die of cancer. It's it not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

    You're so right -- (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Natal on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:55:16 PM EST
    it's not the fear death, it's the transition that's most worrisome for people.



    My best friend (5.00 / 5) (#16)
    by Jjc2008 on Sat May 16, 2009 at 01:36:49 PM EST
    died of cancer ten years ago.  She was only forty-five.   She came from a fairly wealthy family, had good insurance, so there was no lack of care.  But it was hard.  In the end I tried to be there as much as possible.  We laughed and cried together.  When her husband turned to booze and drugs because he could not deal, I was thankful I was there.  I learned so much about myself....about life...about death.  Since then I have lost my only sibling and two other close friends.  So I chose not to watch Ms. Fawcett's story.

    It's hard no matter who you are........
    Death and dying are a part of life.  We look into our mortality when we are with those we love as they go through the process.  In the end, being able to be with someone as they travel that journey, for me anyway, was a good thing.  


    Living with Cancer, LIVING with Cancer... (5.00 / 7) (#6)
    by denise k on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:24:46 PM EST
    I had a brush with cancer five years ago that cost me a valued body part, but it was worth the sacrifice since it has given me five years of good health. I found during that experience that there is no road map about how to deal with it.  There are only questions.  What does this mean?  If I do x, what will happen?  If I do y, will I still be able to do this other thing?  Will it come back if I do that thing?  Noone has any real answers, because even the best doctors don't know how YOUR body will react to treatments or surgeries. You have to dig deep into your own psyche and make your own decisions even if they are controversial or they go against your loved ones, because you have to live with them -- or die from them.  It is beyond hard.  

    I have not watched and won't watch Farrah go through her illness, because I don't want to go back to those feelings, but if my cancer comes back and I face the end, I probably will watch it to understand I am not alone in my experience.  I honor her for being courageous enough to share her experience with the world.

    And to my comment title, for all you out there who keep saying she is "dying of cancer" let's flip that on its head.  She is not "dying of cancer", she is "living with cancer" and every day of that life is precious -- even the painful ones.  

    Living vs Dying (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by talesoftwokitties on Sat May 16, 2009 at 01:06:14 PM EST
    You are right Denise.  But even then, it's really the person with cancer that decides whether they are living with it or dying of it.
    Both of my parents died at 63 - cancer.  My dad chose to LIVE with it.  He had multiple myloma, 20 years ago now.  He did everything from fly to Croatia for a novel treatment to undergo bone marrow transplants and other new options at Dana Farber.  My mom, on the other hand, contracted lung cancer, inoperable, nothing but palliative treatment available.  She was depressed and lingered for 6 horrible months - she was DYING of cancer.  I was with her for 2 months.  It was the most difficult thing I ever did.  Guess one never knows how they will react to a cancer diagnosis, but I pray that I am able to LIVE with it.

    thank you (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:29:54 PM EST
    that was a great comment and you make a great point:

    She is not "dying of cancer", she is "living with cancer" and every day of that life is precious -- even the painful ones.  

    I'll use living instead of dying in the future.


    thanks (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by denise k on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:49:24 PM EST
    The difference is huge for those living with cancer.  The number of people who looked at me or talked to me like I was the walking dead really shocked me -- even at a very early phase of the disease.  

    Just lost two people to Cancer (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by blogtopus on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:37:41 PM EST
    One of them was a mother-in-law, the other a family friend, and now another friend of ours has learned his Chemo isn't doing the trick and they have to do some really hard stuff now.

    There is no one rule on how to deal with Cancer, I've learned that. My Mother-in-law had all the best treatments but she still didn't make it. On the other hand, I have a few friends who've been living in remission for years, and they were close to the edge. It's a funny thing.

    However, I did note that one thing everybody seemed to tell me, and all the reading I've done has convinced me that there does seem to be one rule: Keep as optimistic and happy as possible. That sounds pretty Pollyanna, but the truth is there is a link between being positive and better health. If you have a grim outlook, or are cynical about the whole process, it doesn't do a bit of good.

    Anyway, I hope that Farah's last moments are filled with loving family and peaceful thoughts.

    Couldn't agree with you more. (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Dr Molly on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:54:00 PM EST
    I've been watching news clips about the movie, but couldn't bring myself to watch it. I've watched (closely) both my parents die of cancer, as well as my brother-in-law, to whom I was very close. The fear, courage, dignity - all of it sounds so trite, but it is all so overwhelming and true when you see it firsthand.

    It seems obvious that Farrah Fawcett was trying to bring something meaningful to her experience with cancer (and perhaps with death) by doing this film. Maybe it helped her deal with the terror of this experience.

    I usually like Alessandra Stanley's writing, but I can't imagine why she wrote something so insensitive about this. Her review seems filled with fairly mean-spirited assumptions, such as her assumptions about Ryan O'Neal.

    It's a film review. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Fabian on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:58:41 PM EST
    I remember being outraged when I read the review of a particular book because it was obvious the reviewer hadn't read it.  (I really do mean that - skimmed - maybe, read - no.)  It so happens that it was and still remains my favorite book by that author and the review panned it.  So I was in a righteous rage when I visited the author "OMG! Did you see this?  It is horrible!".

    He and the others looked at me, astonished and puzzled.  "It's just a review." they replied.  I sputtered briefly and then shut up.

    Yeah, reviews can be good, bad or just plain appalling, but they are just reviews.   Whatever a critic reviews will continue to exist, no matter what the critic may say.

    I watched the first segment (none / 0) (#47)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 18, 2009 at 09:34:17 AM EST
    of it yesterday at the website.  I thought it was a very good start to a woman's cancer story.  I doubt any of the reviews will color my experience of the documentary.

    It scared the wits out of Stanley-literally. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Sweet Sue on Sat May 16, 2009 at 01:24:03 PM EST
    I too was angered by the NYTimes review.
    "Farah's Story" scared the hell out of Stanley so she dismissed it as sentimental and tabloid like.
    Besides, cancer is just so icky.
    I thought the film was brave and harrowing and I never once saw Ryan O'Neal-a man whom I don't generally admire-act like it's all about him or fail to be loving and supportive.
    Maybe because before Fawcett proved herself to be a talented actress, she was so idolized for her looks and her hair, but when I saw bald Farah, I began to howl like a sick hound.

    Having just experienced the (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat May 16, 2009 at 01:48:23 PM EST
    death of my mom I couldn't watch. She didn't die of cancer, and her illness was not painful. As an elderly patient, doctors also were not suggesting or taking extreme measures to keep her alive.

    But, that walk created some very precious months for me, my dad, and brother. I can see why Farrah wanted to have her experience documented. So many love to share in the time surrounding birth, and shy away from death. It shouldn't be that way IMHO.

    I didn't watch the film; I had seen the (5.00 / 6) (#21)
    by Anne on Sat May 16, 2009 at 03:01:38 PM EST
    promo and just could not decide if I wanted or needed to be an onlooker to the end of someone else's life.

    People who are diagnosed with cancer - or any disease that could take their life - have to make the decisions that are right for them; there is no one-size-fits-all way to make one's way through - there's no medical GPS telling you when to turn left or right or when to pull over and stop the car.

    My dad died of a heart attack three months after he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.  Those were three months that are burned into my brain - even now, 20 years later, I can still remember the details as if they had just happened.

    The medical details are, for me, less important than what my father experienced on an emotional level, what it did to his sense of self, to his relationships with those he loved.  I remember him telling me how much he hated that he knew when people looked at him, they no longer saw him, but his cancer.  At a time when he wasn't ready to die, he was dealing with the loss of who he was before - people who have been through this, either as a patient or as a friend or family member, know all too well about "Before."

    So, I couldn't call and say, "how are you feeling?"  I called or stopped by and asked what he was up to, we talked current events and sports and TV.  I brought him books I knew he would want to read.  I got the details about the medical stuff from my mom - for me, and for him, it was more important to preserve who he was, who we were together - father and daughter.  I let him be Pop-pop to my kids, letting him dictate what was too much for him and what wasn't.

    I let him decide when he wanted to talk about what was going on in his head, and when he talked about his friend who had died some months earlier, about his funeral and what-not, it gave us an opening to talk about what he wanted when the time came.  Eventually, we talked about it with him as a family, but I always felt honored that he had trusted me with that before he went "public" with it.  I think it was because he knew I would just let him talk when he needed to, without judgment and without shushing him and telling him not to be so negative.

    Oh, I miss him so much, and I mourn for all he has missed these 20 years, but I wouldn't have done anything differently.

    I think this is why I ultimately decided not to watch the special - that lost look, that brave face, the trying so hard to live - sure it can inspire, but for many of us, it's just too familiar, and not in a comforting way.

    Exactly, exactly, exactly (5.00 / 3) (#24)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat May 16, 2009 at 05:58:09 PM EST
    That's so much of what I just went through with my mom, except she was fine with being sick at an incurable level and we could ask her about her health.

    But, the emotional side was such a privilege to share with her. She actively participated in the decisions that needed to be made. I knew she wasn't afraid, that she knew how much I loved her, that it was okay for me to cry, that she wanted me to have these memories and incomparable moments with her.

    That Farrah was willing to show that experience to the world is a blessing.


    The Movie, "One True Thing" (none / 0) (#43)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun May 17, 2009 at 01:51:40 PM EST
    with Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, William Hurt
    brings home the need of cancer patients to be seen as whole individuals, not just defined by the disease.  

    My takeaway from having had both parents die from cancer, my father when I was quite young and my mother a decade ago, is the need to let the patients tell you what they need.  So many get so upset at the thought of losing a loved one and having no control, they react to the patient out of their own needs, rather than the patient's.
    To borrow a phrase, just speaking for me.  


    God forbid I am there (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by samtaylor2 on Sat May 16, 2009 at 04:50:08 PM EST
    I pray someone will just give me a big shot of insulin and let me die quickly and in peace.

    I always dismissed her as a bit of a silly goose, UNTIL the show last night.

    I was very impressed and touched.

    And yes, it was maudlin and such, but so what? Lord knows were I to do a documentary in the same circumstances, it would be beyond maudlin, full of fluffy bunnies (which i do genuinely love) and flowers and everything in life which I would miss so, so much.

    In fact, i was thunderstruck by her comment how much she'll miss the rain. in my darkest moments, I've thought the exact same, but never had the courage to even allow the thought to take form in words.

    She's a woman with courage and heart.

    Okay, I guess this is (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by otherlisa on Sun May 17, 2009 at 04:18:16 AM EST
    my latent mushy, gushy side. But I'm watching the documentary now and am finding it really touching. I'm even admiring all her Hollywood friends (and I worked in the industry for years).

    Doesn't (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun May 17, 2009 at 10:39:49 AM EST
    Buddhism help you through any of this?

    I'm terribly sorry to hear what you endured as a young child. Adults don't always know the right things to do.

    Probably why the only "religion" that (none / 0) (#40)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 17, 2009 at 11:48:40 AM EST
    ever made any sense to me was Buddhism and yes, because I seem to be wired to need a "God" Buddhism not only helps me but was very healing and continues to be.

    I also understand why now (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 17, 2009 at 11:56:48 AM EST
    both of my father figures felt they needed to fight.  We all three survived it and three separate extended families.  It was a lot of pain and suffering for both men.  I never did like that shrink though, even at seven.  My child radar put him in the suspicious creepy column, and not all counselors/shrinks get placed in that column by me.  I would have to say that my impression of him as an a adult is a very narrow minded and dramatic man with a very large degree:)

    I won't watch (4.83 / 6) (#2)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat May 16, 2009 at 11:53:09 AM EST
    I've had enough tragedy in my life, that I don't need to adopt a stranger's tragedy, even if she's been on my tee-vee.

    I will say that there are no inherently "right" answers when it comes to dying, but a huge host of answers that are "not wrong".  Any critic needs to sit down and shut up.

    The friend, Alana, is great.  So many people run from those who are dying (e.g. John Edwards from Elizabeth).  To stay and support and watch is truly heroic.

    This warrants (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:08:46 PM EST

    I will say that there are no inherently "right" answers when it comes to dying, but a huge host of answers that are "not wrong".  Any critic needs to sit down and shut up.

    I should point out (none / 0) (#20)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat May 16, 2009 at 02:05:39 PM EST
    Were the stranger poor, or alone, I could see adopting their tragedy.

    However, one who is rich, and has loads of support probably doesn't need my help and thus I don't need to place their pain on my shoulders.

    Not saying I wouldn't support _anyone_, but well, you know what I'm getting at.

    And the rest of what I said holds.


    Review (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jacob Freeze on Sat May 16, 2009 at 11:57:53 AM EST
    I can't see why the review was particularly offensive...

    The film isn't as nearly as brave or as serious-minded as its cancer-stricken subject.

    That gets it about right, IMHO.

    the woman is dying (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:23:24 PM EST
    she filmed the story of her life under this death sentence, and the reviewer dismisses it as:

    maudlin music, gauzy slow-motion film, and pseudo-revealing interviews with friends, coworkers, doctors and hairdressers reminiscing about a former star.

    Just one example of what I found offensive.


    and, as to Ryan O'Neal (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sat May 16, 2009 at 12:27:09 PM EST
    Ryan O'Neal, Ms. Fawcett's longtime companion, is devotedly at her side for much of the time, but his preening actor's vanity keeps creeping into the frame.

    He wasn't vain at all, and he explained that his joviality when around Farrah was so she wouldn't know how worried they all were.

    Regardless, it's clear he's about to lose the most important person in his life, was it necessary to slam him with her perception of what he meant by a one of his responses?


    Loved ones can only deal with cancer (5.00 / 5) (#17)
    by MO Blue on Sat May 16, 2009 at 01:42:13 PM EST
    the way that they can deal with it. People give you what they think you need because that is what they think would be important to them under the same circumstances. It may or may not be what the person experiencing cancer thinks they need.

    My neighbor down the street brought me a six pack of Boost (a liquid diet supplement) because when she was dealing with throat cancer that was the only food she could tolerate. From her viewpoint she brought me a "life giving" substance. I didn't need the Boost. I did need the support and the caring

    My daughter thinks that the most important thing is maintaining a "positive attitude" at all times. Also, she needs to see positive outcomes for her to deal with the situation. I found it impossible to maintain a "positive attitude" all the time. At times, certain situations just plain sucked. I needed someone to acknowledge that fact and validate that I had a reason to be upset with the "news" or outcome. I found friends who could supply that for me. I didn't need continual "positive attitude" injections. I did need the support and the caring that my daughter gave me in so many other ways. I did need to find people (my friends) to support me in other ways.

    I found that the caring and the love that was behind the actions was the most important thing when all was said and done.


    I think you're right. Often, what people (none / 0) (#31)
    by DeborahNC on Sat May 16, 2009 at 09:38:31 PM EST
    need is to be heard and to have someone to 'be there,' and listen to the person in need's feelings and thoughts.

    Having counseled people in the past, clients find it comforting just to have someone to be with them and acknowledge that their feelings have value, and that you are willing to stick with them through whatever comes their way.

    In a therapeutic setting, there will be additional approaches to treatment, but friends and family can at least spend time with loved ones in need, and validate their experiences. Too often, people think that staying positive is the only approach in difficult times. It can be valuable at times, but too much of that type of input will invalidate another person's perspective.


    That is it exactly (none / 0) (#35)
    by MO Blue on Sun May 17, 2009 at 07:40:02 AM EST
    During my treatment, there were times that Murphy (if it can go wrong, it will) was an optimist. Once I was able to talk freely about how I felt, which was definitely not positive, I could then be more forward looking and more positive. The negative feelings grew when they were suppressed and dissipated and were replaced once they were discussed and accepted.

    Merit doesn't vary with imminent death (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Michael Masinter on Sat May 16, 2009 at 02:03:59 PM EST
    I don't think Ms. Fawcett's impending death should affect a film review since the writer is reviewing the film, not the awfulness of approaching death.

    I have a different beef with the film, and it is one Ms. Stanley also makes -- the film offers a misleading view of the public health issues posed by anal cancer, and for that matter, by many forms of cancer.  Investing money into late stage treatment research rather than prevention or early detection is a waste of limited resources.  Discover the disease early and there is some hope for treatment; discover it later, and as Ms. Fawcett has demonstrated, the biology of the disease rules.  Spending public health money on the treatment of metastatic cancer diverts money from research into diseases that actually can be cured.  Perhaps the best examples are lung cancer and breast cancer; since Nixon declared war on cancer, many billions of dollars invested in research and treatment have not meaningfully reduced the death rate for either disease; we are reduced to calling it a victory when we discover a treatment that adds two months to life expectancy.  By contrast, screening for colorectal cancer and uterine cancer have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and during the same period we have failed to reduce the death rate for lung cancer and breast cancer, we have reduced the death rate for cardiovascular disease by over 60%.

    Add to the impossibility of treating the  metastasized disease its relative rarity.  36,000 people die in this country every year from ordinary seasonal influenza.  Anal cancer extracts a much smaller toll.  Why should sympathy for a courageous public figure drive research priorities?  Whatever her legacy should be, it should not be the diversion of limited public health and research resources (human and economic) into anal cancer.

    I do not mean to suggest any criticism of Ms. Fawcett; she is brave beyond words.  But a film critic's job is to critique the film, and I don't think Ms. Stanley missed the mark.  


    Blanket statements (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by shoephone on Sat May 16, 2009 at 06:21:04 PM EST
    Would you care to share your statistics on how death rates from breast cancer have not significantly decreased in 40 years? Because, as the daughter of someone who had -- and beat -- breast cancer, I think the stats and results over time are a lot more complex than you present them.

    While metastatic cancer can't be "cured", education and research has resulted in different treatments for women with stage one and stage two breast cancers. In the old days (say, before 1987) the doctors recommended mastectomy almost as a matter of course. That is simply not the case anymore.

    People are still getting, and dying from, cancer. No doubt. But the complexities surrounding incidence of cancer and corresponding death rates need to be acknowledged and understood. Articles like this one might be a good place to start.


    Breast Cancer Death Rates (none / 0) (#44)
    by Michael Masinter on Sun May 17, 2009 at 02:09:16 PM EST
    For a comprehensive overview of how little our war on cancer has affected cancer death rates generally and breast cancer death rates in particular, see this NY Times article from last month: http://tinyurl.com/d5vnhq

    Some highlights:

    "Yet the death rate for cancer, adjusted for the size and age of the population, dropped only 5 percent from 1950 to 2005. In contrast, the death rate for heart disease dropped 64 percent in that time, and for flu and pneumonia, it fell 58 percent."

    "With breast cancer, for example, only 20 percent with metastatic disease -- cancer that has spread outside the breast, like to bones, brain, lungs or liver -- live five years or more, barely changed since the war on cancer began."

    Nothing in the article to which you linked suggests otherwise.  Overall cancer death rates have declined, but not because we have gotten better at treating the major forms of cancer.  Lung cancer deaths are down because fewer people smoke, not because we have gotten better at treating lung cancer cancer; the incidence of lung cancer is down significantly even as its case fatality rate is unchanged.  Colorectal cancer deaths are down because of early screening, not because of advances in treatment.  

    I am delighted that your daughter recovered; many women who do not have metastatic disease and who have well differentiated tumor cells fully recover (as they did a generation ago), but remember that the plural of anecdote is not data.  Numbers don't lie, and the numbers for metastatic disease and for poorly differentiated tumors (likely to have metastasized before diagnosis) are as terrible as ever.


    How do you think some of those (5.00 / 4) (#27)
    by Anne on Sat May 16, 2009 at 06:42:51 PM EST
    diseases that can actually be cured came to be in the position?  Think it might have had anything to do with money that funded the research?

    And if some of those diseases are now in the "can be cured" category, why not address diseases that have not reached that point?

    Whatever money comes from the government, there is a lot of money that comes from the private sector, from ordinary people who contribute their own funds toward finding cures for terrible diseases.

    And who's to say that the researcher who gets money to study and develop a cure for anal cancer, or for metastatic disease, won't make a discovery that ultimately benefits the field in general?  Do you have any idea what discoveries have been made in the course of studying and researching one disease that have proven helpful in the studies of other diseases?

    Doors to research should not be closed, ever; and if someone like Farrah Fawcett - who could just as easily be Mary Smith or John Doe, your loved one, my family member, the person in the office next to yours - can be part of a study or treatment protocol that already exists, why is it any skin off your nose?  When your spouse gets anal cancer, what will be your response?  "Oh, too bad...but let's not ask the government or our local major medical center to waste funds helping you live - let's talk about your funeral?"

    I kind of doubt that.


    Breast Cancer (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by denise k on Sat May 16, 2009 at 07:10:18 PM EST
    Huge strides have been made in the treatment as well as in the detection of breast cancer in the past 20 years.  It is by no means a death sentence. These advances happened precisely because of the research you decry.  And even if there had not been such advances, it is pretty callous imo to consign to death those unfortunate enough to find their cancer at stage four.  

    Huge by what standard? (none / 0) (#45)
    by Michael Masinter on Sun May 17, 2009 at 02:21:46 PM EST
    What basis can you offer for the claim of huge strides in treating breast cancer?  Epidemiology is a brutal science; it doesn't sugarcoat its news.  The biology of the disease still largely determines its course.  We have learned how to diagnose breast cancer earlier, but the keys to predicting survival remain the same -- the biology of the tumor (poorly or well differentiated, location, etc) and whether it has already metastasized (usually a function of the former, not the earlier diagnosis).  That's why 50 years of research have not improved the survival rate for metastatic disease.

    For a sobering look at the reality of cancer research and treatment, see last month's comprehensive NY Times article, an abbreviated version of which can be found here:  http://tinyurl.com/d5vnhq


    I heartily second your comment. (none / 0) (#23)
    by Fabian on Sat May 16, 2009 at 05:27:20 PM EST
    There is a visceral, emotional reaction to someone in dire peril.  We want to help them.  We want to save them.  That's usually the immediate reaction.

    As you pointed out - the biology of the disease rules in many cases, despite our every effort.  Imminent death can get our attention where a mere disease cannot.  The irony is that our attention should be fixed on the most treatable diseases instead of the least treatable ones.


    If we focused only on the most treatable (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by MO Blue on Sat May 16, 2009 at 06:47:35 PM EST
    diseases, we would have a lot less diseases in the treatable or most treatable categories. Great strides have been made in the last 10 to 20 years in many diseases that were once considered untreatable.

    Expect to hear even more good news about treatment on certain types of breast cancer within the year.

    None of this would have been possible if your strategy had be followed.


    Once you run out of easily treatable (none / 0) (#34)
    by Fabian on Sun May 17, 2009 at 07:29:01 AM EST
    diseases, you'll have to move onto the more difficult ones.

    Cancer is a bear - frequently more difficult to detect and diagnose than other diseases, with fewer options to treat it.  Plus each cancer strikes a fairly small segment of the population and each cancer requires specific research.

    I'd pin my hopes on genetic engineering, which has the potential to be able to treat or prevent not just cancer, but a huge range of genetic diseases.  Start at the beginning, the origin, the source and you'll accomplish far, far more than if you start at the end and work backward. Duchenne's, hemophilia, brittle bone disease, cancers galore and genetic diseases not yet known, probably a good percentage of mental illnesses.

    I know, I know.  Prevention is so not sexy, especially if it affects generations not yet born instead of those nearest to us.


    FYI (none / 0) (#36)
    by MO Blue on Sun May 17, 2009 at 07:54:58 AM EST
    A great deal of the cancer research is currently based on genetic coding. Rather than waiting for prevention and watching real people suffer and die, the doctors are using this information to develop treatments that will help people NOW. The money that is being used for this research is often not your tax dollars. Some of the major research done at Washington University is sponsored by foundations (Komen, SLBCC) and corporations (Avon).

    If we had adopted your strategy for the last hundred years, people here in the U.S. would still be dying daily of malaria,  polio and T.B.,  just to mention a few diseases that were once considered incurable.  


    Really? (none / 0) (#46)
    by Fabian on Mon May 18, 2009 at 07:44:41 AM EST
    I had a coworker at the children's hospital we worked at.  She had worked at adult institutions previously.  She said something that has always stayed with me:
    "I didn't even know about these diseases before I came here."

    The reason?  Simple.  The diseases she was talking about kill or cripple children before they ever reach adulthood.  Since she had only worked with adult populations, she never saw those diseases.

    The majority of those diseases are genetic.  Babies are born with them and die of them.  Fawcett was lucky - she lived a long and mostly healthy life.  Outside of the March of Dimes, the most well known organizations for researching diseases are geared towards diseases that strike adults.

    After all, a child who doesn't live to adulthood doesn't get to know very many people.  There are a lot of genetic diseases that are even crueler than cancer and Alzheimer's.  I'd be firmly in favor of completely free genetic screening for everybody.  Prevention is best - especially when there's no cure or treatment for so many genetic diseases.


    Just, WOW (none / 0) (#39)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun May 17, 2009 at 10:48:34 AM EST
    So, you say just push the patient to a waiting room where all that's available to them is time to die. I'm trying to figure out why they didn't try a liver transplant. I remember a case of liver cancer in Italy where the doctors removed the liver and gave it a major dose of radiation to kill the tumors, then put it back....successfully.

    If this could be brought to remission, she's got plenty of life still in her, and she wants to live. I don't think it's anyone's place to say she isn't entitled to try to find that bit of hope.


    Liver transplant (none / 0) (#42)
    by smott on Sun May 17, 2009 at 12:20:33 PM EST
    ...probably not an option. A terminal cancer patient with liver metastasis is likely not going to get priority on any waiting lists. Nor could they withstand a surgery that large.

    It's not really treatable once it gets that far - you cannot do radiation on the liver, that would kill you anyway.

    I did not see the show - but can anyone confirm that Farrah refused the advice/surgery that would leave her with colostomy?

    Now that would really be disappointing...