Chemotherapy Truthers Are the New Anti-Vaxxers
Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are trying to step in, but the misinformation permeates
In 2017, a family member of mine was diagnosed with colon cancer. The sad announcement was sent via email, after which my (enormous) extended family sent a flurry of follow-ups. One detail stuck out: My family member had decided to forego chemotherapy after discovering the website of Chris Wark, a self-described health coach, blogger, and public speaker.
According to Wark’s site, in December 2003, when he was 26, he was diagnosed with Stage 3C colon cancer (meaning the cancer had grown into or through the outermost layer of the colon or rectum and may have spread to four or more lymph nodes). Wark had surgery to remove part of his colon, but when an oncologist told him he’d need up to a year of chemotherapy, he refused. Instead, he adopted a raw vegan diet, subsisting on juices, salad, and smoothies for months.
Today, he says he has a clean bill of health, which he attributes to his “radical” diet and lifestyle changes. He’s also part of a vocal community of holistic health advocates who decry traditional cancer treatments as ineffective at best and harmful by design at worst. Their enemy number one: chemotherapy.
“Chemotherapy,” Wark writes on his site, “is toxic poison.”
Technically, Wark is correct: Chemotherapy is poison. Chemotherapy is derived from noxious mustard gas, which was first developed as a military weapon; those who inhaled it experienced trouble breathing and instantaneous blindness and they usually died. In 1943, two scientists at Yale experimented to see if mustard gas could be aimed specifically at cancer cells, which are distinguished by their constant division into new, unnecessary cells. They were successful.
Today, chemotherapy drugs, of which there are numerous different types, are usually administered in a medical facility via a port implanted in a patient’s chest. Chemotherapy can be used as a sole treatment for cancer or as an adjuvant to surgery or radiation to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. The side effects, which can include hair loss and intense nausea, can be debilitating.