Snake Oil Salesmen Prey on Cancer Survivors and Their Loved Ones

It baffles me that people take advantage of patients with cancer by peddling fake cures.

I used to read stories when I was younger of people who would go to Mexico seeking miracle treatments for cancer that weren’t approved elsewhere because there was no medical evidence behind them. These days, I see these types of offerings pop up on a variety of social media channels. Some of them actually messaged me when my articles are published or shared on Instagram or Twitter.

Now that I have had a child experience cancer and know too many young people whose cancer has moved into the lifelong sentence of metastatic disease, I find myself increasingly frustrated with these individuals who try to prey on cancer patients and their loved ones.

I understand how this kind of marketing works. We’ve seen it on late-night television shows and daytime talk shows, infomercials by celebrities endorsing a product hoping to line their own pockets. It was a snake-oil salesman whom Dorothy first encountered when she ran away with Toto, so they have been around for a very long time. 

I have some let-the-buyer-beware energy when it comes to the greatest slicer and dicer or the drawer organizer that beats all others or the tongs that can pick up a grain of rice. What I have absolutely no patience for is marketing to people who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease who are trying to find anything that will let them live one more day, one more week, or one more year.

Turmeric! Kale! Lemons! Tea! Vitamins! Coffee enemas!

The logical mind can make the connection that none of these will cure cancer. If it were possible to stop the disease in its tracks by ordering a kale salad and some green tea on the way home from being diagnosed, then the thousands of people who die from cancer every year would be instead relaxing on a beach reading a book or sitting in a carpool line waiting to pick up their kids from school.

The challenge with leaning on the logic is that when you are told you have an incurable disease that will end your life, the rational part of your brain starts being picked at by the much-needed hope that moves in for the long haul. And when you’re told by the traditional medical community that there is nothing more that they can do, that hope can eventually turn into desperation, which is when the vultures leap into action.

I have had a lifelong struggle understanding man’s inhumanity to man, but when it comes to reaping profits off of someone else’s misery I just get…angry. I don’t know how a person’s mind must work if they can go to sleep at night knowing that they have taken someone’s last dime to sell them false hope. I have never been put in a position where I was chasing a cure, either for myself or for a loved one, and I am not sure that I could maintain my rationality enough to not mortgage my house to give my child one more chance at life. It’s a scary thought, but I know I could just as easily be a victim of this type of manipulation as others I have seen who have lost everything.

There ought to be a law that takes into consideration the complete and utter immorality and wrongness of being able tooffer a cure that will not work, without consequences, to people who are willing to go to the ends of the earth to find one. We need to do much better for the mothers and fathers who are watching their children wither away, for the husbands and wives who are trying to hold on for one more anniversary, for the parents who want to hold their first grandchild or applaud at a graduation. For all of those who are struggling because, sadly, sometimes there just isn’t an answer.

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