How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat The Odds
In his book, "Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds" Rick Shapiro shines a bright ray of hope into the dark world of cancer through the words of those who have emerged onto the other side alive. He interviewed 20 cancer survivors with both late-stage and terminal diagnoses and compiled their stories to show the world that a cancer diagnosis doesn't have to be a death sentence because these patients beat the odds.
Medicine needs a new approach to cancer and both the patients and the doctors in this book believe the answer is a personalized approach and a personalized standard of care. Rick Shapiro, a former practicing attorney, is a researcher, educator, and leading consultant in the field of evidence-based, integrative and alternative cancer treatments. He is not a callous bystander on the subject of cancer, but an individual whose experience with cancer is up close and personal. Rick Shapiro lost his father to aggressive lymphoma and had a cancer scare himself.
“It is not my intention to stoke the flames of medical controversy, in fact quite the opposite. I fully acknowledge that there are many conventional treatments regarding all kinds of health conditions--including cancer--which save lives on a daily basis. This book, however, is intended to provide hope, inform and encourage you to ask important questions; to spur you to consider the importance of potential integrative and alternative treatments and therapies.”
- Rick Shapiro, Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the, Author's Note xvii
Slow Progress in Cancer Treatment
The methods of cancer treatment have experienced slow growth and slow progress. For treatments to be accepted and approved by the FDA, they must go through an extensive process of protracted, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled “Phase 3” studies. These studies come at a high price with some costing upwards of one billion dollars. According to Tufts University Medical School, the average pre-tax cost per new prescription drug approval is approximately $2.5 billion. This process often takes 10-15 years to complete and for many cancer patients in need of treatment now it will be too late.
Marcia Angell, M.D, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, contends:
“Conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs and devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published or rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion.”
Rick Shapiro interviewed Keith Block, M.D., a renowned cancer specialist about this issue and others:
“The actual change in cancer mortality over the past 65 years has been less than five percent. Contrast this 5 percent with other major diseases such as cardiovascular disease and stroke. There's been an approximate 64 percent decrease in deaths from cardiovascular disease and a 74 percent decrease in the number of deaths from strokes over this same period of time.”
– Keith Block, M.D., Hope Never Dies pages 166-167
Hope Never Dies encourages us to open our mind to fresh possibilities and approaches in medicine for cancer. Rick Shapiro is positive in his attempts to persuade us to embrace any and all methods that have proven results even if they are outside the lines of convention. He recognizes the role that both conventional and alternative physicians can play if they harmonize in an attempt to rid the world of this modern plague we call cancer.
Survivors Offer Healing Hope
Why do we read about holocaust survivors? Because we are inspired by their tenacity and their death-defying grip on life. In this book, Rick Shapiro gives us a glimpse, a taste, and a vision through the eyes of cancer survivors.
I could not put this book down. The very mention of cancer has always depressed me, but this book thrilled me to the core of my humanity. I cried, I laughed, but above all, I lived these survivors' lives one brief but beautiful chapter at a time.
In sharing their stories, each survivor offers us a second chance at living life the way were meant to live it. A second chance to view life as a gift to be enjoyed and not a ladder to be climbed.
The treatments, both conventional and alternative, that the cancer survivors underwent on their journeys ranged from chronotherapy to acupuncture. Metastatic lung cancer survivor and nurse manager, Janet Vitt Sommer, says on page 41: “I never would have tried integrative or alternative therapies, but my doctor suggested it.”
One of Rick Shapiro's biggest points is beautifully illustrated as the story of each cancer survivor unfolds. No two people have the same fingerprint and no two survivors were treated the same way. That is why he believes that an individualized approach to cancer will take us far. Like one survivor said: “I am not a statistic”.
The Mind-Body Connection
Another major point he strives to emphasize and masterfully succeeds at is the connection between the body and the mind in a cancer diagnosis. Every single one of the 20 patients chronicled in this book was told by their doctors that they were going to die, but they had the bravery to make the choice to fight for their life. They didn't give up on their bodies, and their bodies didn't give up on them.
“When the mind gives up, the body follows. This relationship is critical. Calm your fears. I decided to fill my mind with positive thoughts.”
– Cheryl Clark, Brain Cancer Glioblastoma survivor, Hope Never Dies page 62
Dr. Keith Block confirmed the necessity of positivity from his years of experience as a renowned cancer specialist on page 184:
“A terminal mindset can have terminal consequences. A patient may inadvertently develop the psychophysiology needed to fulfill the prediction.”
Common messages that all survivors shared included: Life is a gift. Look outside the box. Don't be defined by a disease. Don't ever lose hope. Be your own advocate. It is easier to follow the herd, but you must forge your own path to healing. Don't ever give up.
Hope Never Dies raises many questions. Even the title may suggest an irony to some who have lost a brave loved one to cancer. However, it answers many questions. It forces us to look at cancer through an entirely different perspective as it defies the essence of what the word cancer has become and asks us to define it afresh. We are asked to look beyond the death-sentence because hope never dies and there is hope even for cancer patients.
Hope Never Dies is so much more than a book. It is a vision for the future of cancer as it sheds light and hope. I would highly recommend this book. The world needs to know that hope never dies even when facing a diagnosis of cancer.
Check out these other book reviews by EMaxHealth: "How to Fight Cancer and Win", Teen Girl Chronicles Her Valiant Struggle with Leukemia, and Cancer Specialist Offers Fresh Insight into Disease Prevention