Why I Can’t Be “In It To End It”

We’ve all seen the commercials–the women in pink, walking with signs, carrying photos and other mementos of loved ones, or themselves, who have fought breast cancer.  “The Pink” is everywhere.  Just about anything you do, it seems, is to fight breast cancer.  People jump in with both feet, because they’ve had the disease, know someone who has or have lost someone who had it.  I’m lucky; I’ve only had 2 close friends that I know personally who have been touched by this disease, and they are both healthy and cancer free–for which I continue to be extremely grateful.

The trouble is, I can’t just watch a commercial like that without my crazy brain immediately running in a contrary direction.  I guess, deep down, I am and always well be heyoka when it comes to popular opinion.  In this case, part of it also comes from working for an HMO for a number of years.  I used to sit in on the meetings and the conferences about “disease management” and how to get the most out of people who were chronically ill without actually doing much to help them get better.  Trust me, health insurance companies don’t want you healthy, they want you just sick enough to keep paying premiums and going to the doctor just enough to where what they pay out is far less than what’s being paid in.  I speak as an insider on this one.

If you think about it for just a few minutes, how much of our economy is run by cancer and other diseases?  We SAY we want a “cure”, and of course, anyone who is sick truly does want a cure for their disease.  I also believe that as individuals, every doctor, medical director, researcher, etc. also wants that.  As individuals.

But put those individuals into a corporation, and have that corporation be responsible to “shareholders” (um, US, by the way), and suddenly the attitudes become completely different.  For example, imagine that tomorrow, an announcement came that there was, indeed, a sure-fire “cure” for breast cancer.  All you had to do was go get a shot, or take a pill or whatever, and BAM! no more risk, ever.  No side effects, no possibility of any genetic mutation, etc.  All good.  Well, of course we’d all rush out and get that shot or take that pill, right?  Yes, indeed we would.

And what then?  What about all the mammogram centers for starters?  What about all the companies making taxol and Tamoxifen? What about the companies that make breast prostheses and wigs?  What about all those ultrasounds and needle-guided biopsies that wouldn’t have to be done?  What about all the chemo infusion pumps not used and tubes not needed, and gowns and booties, and right down to the hundreds of thousands of fewer pairs of gloves for examinations that no one would need any more?

Oh, well, some other disease will pick up the slack, you say? But listen, isn’t that what we’re fighting for? To git RID of the diseases?  But our economy is BUILT on sickness.  It RUNS on people who are chronically unhealthy.  Our entire society would collapse right now if we all got healthy and got off meds and quit going to the doctor and paying for overpriced insurance that doesn’t pay for anything anyway.  Watch those diabetes commercials for those sparkly glucose monitors aimed at teens–they’re practically telling you it’s COOL to have diabetes!  The vast majority of the diabetes cases in this country are type 2 diabetes, which is NOT the kind of disease where your pancreas doesn’t secrete enough insulin–type 2 diabetes in the biggest share of cases can easily be controlled with diet and exercise and keeping off the extra pounds.  But they’re not encouraging anyone to get up and move–just go get that fancy meter, ’cause you know you’re gonna need it.

Yeah, I’m one to talk.  I’m fat and I’ll be the first to admit it.  I watched my mother die of the complications of diabetes that simply wore out her body.  I think about it a lot.  But, before I go get myself on a bunch of pills (which can help people until they can help themselves, I’m not arguing that), I’m going to get my ass off the couch and play the Wii or ride my bike or go for a walk or work out to Gilad on FitTV.  I may never be skinny but, by God, I am NOT buying into this attitude that I’m doomed to have some kind of disease just because I’m alive.

So, please don’t ask me to donate to “the cure”.  I’m sure one day, there will be a cure for breast cancer.  The thing that scares me is, we may never know about it.  No, I’m not talking about vast, governmental conspiracies, I don’t think the government is smart enough for that.  But when the bottom line is threatened, corporations can be scary.  And sometimes I wonder if shareholders would rather keep their big returns and not think about continuing this cycle of “un-health”, than see their investments tank.

Yeah, I wonder.

GG

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2 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Be “In It To End It”

  1. You make some interesting points. I think, though, that in the future, when we have vanquished cancer, we will all be subject to psychosomatic diseases and spend an equal amount of psychotherapy and placebos… what a nutty world that will be!

  2. In the US, there are only three legal treatments for cancer: chemo, radiation, surgery. Of the billions upon billions of dollars collected “for the cure” over the decades, this is as far as we’ve gotten?

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