Final week, at a transformed 18th-century farmhouse close to Derby within the UK, mates gathered in reminiscence of Katie Britton-Jordan, who died not too long ago after a valiant battle towards breast most cancers.
She was 38 and leaves a grieving husband, Neil, and Delilah, their five-year-old daughter.
Neil, who introduced his spouse’s dying on Fb earlier this month, known as for the occasion to be a celebration of Katie’s energy and resilience. He requested mates to “carry smiles, love, dancing sneakers, bubbles and sparklers”.
By rights, ought to Katie nonetheless be alive? That worrying query is certain to ripple by way of the minds of her family members.
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When Katie’s stage 2a triple unfavourable breast most cancers was recognized in 2016, she was supplied a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However she rejected standard remedy in favour of a vegan food plan of primarily uncooked fruit and greens, supplemented with turmeric, seaweed and spells in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
She sought assist at a clinic in Mexico, the place therapies included inserting her toes in a basin of water that supposedly drew toxins from her physique.
Britton-Jordan was an clever lady with a long-standing curiosity in different therapies, who decided based mostly on her beliefs.
However docs have gotten more and more involved on the concentrating on of susceptible most cancers sufferers by charlatans peddling well-meaning however ineffective therapies – an issue that’s gathering tempo due to the usage of social media, and drawing parallels with the newly emboldened anti-vaccination motion.
Sufferers who refuse standard remedy and go for options are two-and-a-half instances as more likely to die inside 5 years of being recognized.
David Gorski, an American surgical oncologist who specialises in breast most cancers, and a crusader towards “quackery” by way of his weblog, Respectful Insolence, is satisfied that if Katie had opted for standard remedy, she would nonetheless be alive.
“From what I’ve learnt about her most cancers, I can say with confidence it was fairly treatable,” he says. “It hadn’t gone to the lymph nodes. With a mixture of surgical procedure plus chemotherapy, she may have anticipated an 85 per cent likelihood of long-term survival.
“Sure, surgical procedure is nasty. Chemotherapy is even worse, I get that. The choice, nevertheless, is near-certain dying.”
The anti-vaccination foyer has been adept at utilizing social media, with docs and authorities companies caught on the again foot, utilizing old school technique of communication.
In England, take-up for the measles, mumps and rubella jab by kids’s fifth birthday is down, alarmingly, to 87.2 per cent, beneath the extent wanted to supply widespread immunity.
CHEMO AS ‘POISON’
An analogous stream of anti-establishment rhetoric round most cancers – dismissing chemotherapy as “poison” – appears to be taking maintain.
Amazon Prime was not too long ago discovered to be carrying unscientific “documentaries” purporting to point out that most cancers could be cured by way of dietary adjustments, together with the story of a German lady, who claimed to have overcome most cancers in 30 days utilizing laetrile, a substance derived from fruit pits, which breaks down into cyanide within the physique. Amazon has since taken these documentaries down.
Outlandish tales about “cures” for most cancers have been doing the rounds for years, after all, however social media is rushing up dissemination, making it simpler than ever to take the message direct to most cancers victims.
Anybody who posts on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag “most cancers” is more likely to discover themselves bombarded by information of miracle cures and coverings, from turmeric shakes, inexperienced tea and high-dose vitamin C to proteolytic enzyme remedy, cannabis or frankincense oil.
“There are lots of people on the market promoting this type of quackery,” says Catherine Priestley, scientific nurse specialist on the charity Breast Most cancers Care, which funds analysis and helps ladies by way of analysis and remedy.
“It’s straightforward to assume ‘It will possibly’t do me any hurt’, however simply because it’s pure doesn’t imply it’s protected.”
Priestley attracts a transparent distinction between complementary therapies like therapeutic massage and acupuncture, which have been proven to alleviate signs and unwanted effects from most cancers remedy, and different therapies, which goal to switch standard chemo and radiotherapy.
Tendencies come and go: probably the most well-liked options doing the rounds till not too long ago was the concept that you might “treatment” most cancers with maple syrup and bicarbonate of soda (the obvious logic being that most cancers cells love sugar and thrive in an acidic setting, so in the event you took each collectively the cells would take in the sugary syrup then be destroyed by the alkaline soda).
“If an internet site says one thing has been studied, search for that research. It could be that 50 per cent of individuals obtained nice profit from a remedy but when that 50 per cent is 2 out of 4 individuals, it’s meaningless.”
Rebekah Smith, 35, was recognized with breast most cancers precisely a yr after Katie Britton-Jordan, in July 2017. She was discovered to have an analogous triple unfavourable most cancers, however extra superior, at stage 3.
After asserting her analysis, she says she was deluged with “assist” from mates: “Folks don’t know what to say, so that they attempt to provide hope. It’s ‘Have you ever tried honey? What about an alkaline food plan? Eat plenty of lemons. For those who eat a great deal of turmeric it’s meant to treatment most cancers’ and so forth …
“Within the early days, I took pure honey day-after-day, tried a spoonful of turmeric and thought ‘if it really works, it really works’, however in my head I knew that science was my greatest warrior.”
Smith, from Leicester, who has two sons, Louis, 3, and Henry, 5, had surgical procedure to take away the tumour, then six rounds of chemotherapy adopted by radiotherapy. As soon as she began posting about her most cancers on social media, the messages started.
“Numerous stuff from individuals attempting to promote you nutritional vitamins. They are saying all types of issues: different individuals have taken it, and it’s achieved this and achieved that … it’s laborious to inform, is it an organization concentrating on me to purely make money, as a result of I’m susceptible? Or somebody who genuinely needs to assist me?
“The messages at all times appear to return second-hand, from somebody who is aware of somebody who took one thing. It’s by no means the individual themselves, saying ‘I took CBD oil and it’s made my most cancers shrink’.”
9 months on from her analysis, Rebekah was cancer-free and has since run a marathon.
‘CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE’
Sophie Sabbage, creator of The Most cancers Whisperer, was recognized with incurable lung most cancers that had unfold to her bones and mind, 5 years in the past. She has had each standard and complementary remedy.
“There are some dodgy individuals on the market, however there are additionally some superb individuals, doing superb issues. The difficulty is that, as a affected person, you get caught within the crossfire. Typical oncologists will say ‘Don’t hassle with all that quackery.’ Pure practitioners will say ‘Don’t do chemo, it can kill you.’ They’re each taking a place and it’s important to one way or the other make choices with little or no assist.”
Sabbage runs a Fb group for fellow victims and says she needs to be “extraordinarily strict” about who’s allowed to affix, as individuals maintain trying to make use of the group to promote cures.
The members of her group swap experiences and recommendation. “We will ask one another ‘have you ever tried this?’ Usually, what I’d say is: do your homework. Don’t simply say sure as a result of somebody is promising you one thing. Actually, if they’re promising, say no.”
Katie Britton-Jordan was effectively conscious that family and friends have been frightened. She admitted, two years in the past, that she was getting “nearly every day messages” pleading together with her to strive the traditional path.
After she died, her husband, Neil, stated: “I do know some individuals might have their very own opinions on what Katie ought to or shouldn’t have achieved, however no matter that’s, it doesn’t alter her bravery and dignity over the past three years.”
Nobody will understand how issues would possibly in any other case have been – however it’s a tragedy for him, and their daughter, that she is gone.
The Telegraph, London