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article imageChemotherapy may not be as terrible as you have been told

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Jan 15, 2010 in Health
Chemotherapy, a standard form of cancer treatment, has a bad reputation. So bad, that quite a few people prefer to forgo it. But is it really that bad? The indomitable world-renowned James Randi talks about his experiences in a video clip on YouTube.
James Randi, a Toronto native who now lives in Florida, is a world-famous magician and one of the most influential skeptics of our time. Feared and hated by psychics, homoeopaths and other con-artists, such as Uri Geller and Peter Popoff; respected and sometimes even loved by scientists of the highest calibre, such as the late Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman, he is considered by many as the master skeptic who taught the world how to think critically, regardless of whether one is a layperson or a scientist.
Born in 1928, James Randi is no longer a spring chicken, but that doesn't prevent him from being as active as ever, in spite of his health problems. He has had coronary bypass surgery a few years ago, and he is now battling an intestinal cancer. True to himself, he made a short video clip about his experiences with cancer treatment.
In the video, he explains how he ended up with three navels (laparoscopic surgery). This was followed by 12 chemotherapy sessions, one per fortnight. He says that he discovered to his "delight" that chemotherapy is not necessarily as awful as it is often claimed.
When he went to the hospital for his chemotherapy, on Tuesdays, he would check into the infusion lab where they would first "flush" him with all sorts of products to prepare him for the chemotherapy proper. For this, they hooked him up for two days to a small bottle (containing the chemotherapy drugs) via a thin tube to a port in his chest. He put the bottle in his pocket and went back to work, or home, feeling just fine.
When the chemotherapy session was over, he started to tire, feeling weak by Friday morning, so weak that he sometimes didn't even want to get out of bed. This lasted through the weekend. He felt better by Monday, and he then enjoyed ten days of good health before his next infusion.
He made the video, he says, because some people he knows chose not to undergo chemotherapy. He worries that they are risking their lives needlessly.
Yes, he says, chemotherapy does cause hair to fall out, but it grows back. Yes, he says, chemotherapy does tire you out, but you can always take a nap. Yes, he says, chemotherapy is unpleasant, but none of this is insurmountable.
"Please do yourself a favour", Randi says, "if your physician says you need chemotherapy, get it. Don't risk your life, and definitely don't risk your life over the bogeyman of "the ravages of chemo" or the silly words of TV stars with no expertise whatsoever."
Randi closes his talk with:
Medical science improves by the month, and the experience of a cancer patient in the hands of a good oncologist is very different from what it was 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. Don't be afraid of medicine. Medicine you can handle. Be afraid of going without it.
More about Chemotherapy, Cancer treatment, James randi
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