I've got an op-ed in today's LA Times about the Abraham Cherrix case. (You can read it below by scrolling past the explanatory pre- or post-text and clicking on the post-continuation).
It was an honor to write, but I should reiterate and/or expand upon a few things where I have the space.
1. I do, of course, realize that the Hoxsey Herbal method has been proven ineffective by many. Still, I view the issues in this case--that any government can control how a family treats a mature, young man's body, and that said young man may be forced to call the county his parent--absolutely worth serious discussion. Having gone through chemo, I do not, as a rule, view Cherrix's parents as trying to help their son euthanize himself. And neglect? Well, I definitely believe in many of the chemotherapeutical treatments available--and certainly, the main Hodgkins protocols have proven themselves time and again--but once more, we are all allowed to make choices. And with parental consent, an articulate 16-year-old may certainly choose another path without governmental intervention. This is America.
2. I did, in fact, receive a stem-cell bone marrow transplant, and this treatment, along with radiation, did send my Hodgkins into what I hope will be a permanent remission (so far, so good after nearly 10 years). However, the stem-cell transplant I received is what's called an "autologous" stem-cell bone marrow transplant. What that means is that my doctor extracted baby cells from my blood in a process called aphoresis, and then infused them after high-dose chemo knocked my blood cell counts down to zero. The important fact being that these were my stem cells, and that this isn't the sort of stem-cell therapy that may be available if we can help overturn George Bush's very stupid recent decision.
That said, transplants like mine are solid proof that keeping those controversial stem-cells alive will likely cure many diseases. I'm a walking piece of evidence.
Now you may be thinking: Great, Adam, but how then can you make a case for Mr. Cherrix and his family? Well, here's how: I didn't say that chemo wouldn't or doesn't work. All I said is that the Cherrixes should be able to choose the therapies they believe in. And hell, the kid already went through chemo. It's not like the people called Western medicine stupid from the get-go and asked their kid to munch on basil, singin' everything's gonna be alright. Telling a young adult what medicine (s)he needs need to take, and then legally disowning him or her (even 50%) from his or her parents, is inane -- and no less serious than telling a woman she doesn't have the right to choose.
3. I love my parents, and do not harbor any resentment about medical choices made in my past. But it needed to be mentioned that these decisions were made for me as a young man with Hodgkins. And that the treatments chosen come with some of their own long-term effects. Just like the disease. Just like marijuana. Hell, just like tomato sauce.
4. To answer some reader and friend/colleague questions: I am gettin' by in spite of all the doctor visits and strange effects. I am aware of probiotics, enzymes, etc. And I am behind mind-body and Eastern medicine. I actually treat myself with many alternative therapies--including exercise and healthy eating-- in concert with Western medicine. Just in case that wasn't clear.
5. My long-time oncologist is a wonderful man and doctor, and the original version of my article contained a line about how he's become a friend and mentor I trust deeply. I also value many other doctors who have helped me and continue to try to help me.
6. Thanks for reading, and if you're new to this blog, please stay tuned for more opinions on health, politics, culture, as well as personal tales of comedy, irony, triumph, self-discovery, and ocassionally, a little hardship.