FOUR REASONS WHY CANCER PATIENTS ROUTINELY DIE by Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D.
(Transcribed from audio interview)
First mistake: they panic. I can give you all kinds of esoteric philosophic mystical pseudo-mystical reasons why panic is going to kill you and belief systems and you have to be calm and do the Simonton relaxation techniques and all that stuff, but actually, being a simple-minded orthodox scientist, I like to think of biological reasons. And there are simple biological reasons why panicked patients die.
If you are in a state of panic and you have cancer, you are not going to make it no matter what therapy you choose, chemo, radiation, surgery, laetrile, Burton, Gonzalez, Kelley. It doesn’t matter. If you are in a state of panic you aren’t going to make it, and there’s a simple biological reason. When you are in a state of panic, your sympathetic nervous system turns on. The sympathetic nervous system is the stress nervous system of the body, developed in the days when we had to run away from saber-tooth tigers. And the way it works is this: When you’re confronted with danger, it turns on and it shuts down blood supply to the liver, to the pancreas, to the gut, and it turns on and opens up the blood supply to the muscles, the brain and the heart; your heart rate speeds up, blood goes to the brain so you can think quickly, and blood goes to the muscles so you can run away.
That’s wonderful if you’re facing a saber-tooth tiger, but not if you’ve got a tumor in your gut or a tumor in your liver. And why is that? When the blood supply is cut down to an organ or to an organ system because of sympathetic over-discharge, you can’t get therapeutic agents to that tumor. If you have a cancer in your intestine, or in your pancreas or in your breast and your sympathetic system is turned on because of over-anxiety and panic, the blood supply to that tumor is going to be turned off, and no therapeutic agent is going to get to that tumor. It doesn’t matter if it’s chemotherapy or enzymes, it’s not going to get there. And if it doesn’t get to the tumor, it’s not going to break down, and it has nothing to do with psychological mysticism; it has to do with the sympathetic nervous system capacity to turn down and off blood supply to the major organs of the body. The last thing in the world a cancer patient needs is the blood supply to the pancreas, the intestinal tract and the liver to be shut down because, not only are you not going to get blood to the tumor, you’re not going to get the blood to the organs of detoxification. So those tumor wastes are just going to sit in the body and you’re going to die of toxicity. If you’re in a state of panic, you’re not going to make it for that reason.
There’s a second reason. Not only can you not get the therapeutic agents to the tumor, unless you have a tumor in the brain, if you’re lucky enough, nobody gets tumors in the muscles, only rarely, so having the blood supply turned on to the muscles is no great thing. There’s a second reason…if you don’t have good blood supply to the tumors or to the areas where the tumors are, you can’t get oxygen to the tumors. Normal tissues don’t do well without oxygen. Its’ a terrible thing, but tumors love the absence of oxygen, as Otto Warburg showed. Tumors operate on fermentative, non-oxidative respiration. Tumors thrive in areas where there’s no oxygen. So when you shut down the blood supply to a tumor because you’re in a state of anxiety, you’re not only not getting the therapeutic agent to the tumor, you’re not getting oxygen there, and that tumor says thank you very much, and it just grows and grows and grows and grows. If you’re in a state of panic, you’ve got to find some way to stop it, because there’s nothing I can do and there’s nothing the National Cancer Institute can do for you either.
The second mistake: Inability to make a decision. I see patients who come into my office and ask about every therapy that’s ever been developed in the history of orthodox and unorthodox medicine. And it goes along with being in a state of panic, but there’s also another aspect. It’s an inability to make a decision. If you can’t make a decision and pick a therapy and stick with it, you’re not going to make it, or your chances are going to be much, much less than they would be otherwise.
Faith in a therapy is very, very important, as Bernie Siegal says, and he’s right. It doesn’t matter to me emotionally or egotistically what therapy any cancer patient chooses, I’m not in this for the ego gratification. However, if you want to do chemotherapy, great, believe in it and do it. If you want to do my therapy, great, believe in it and do it. Believe in it and do it. But don’t start saying, boy, I should be doing this and that. A prospective patient once said something very interesting. He said, “Well what if I do your therapy and don’t make it?” I said, “Well what if you do chemo and you don’t make it?” I said, you’re trying to play every angle. Patients who play every angle don’t make it. They never develop the faith to stick with what they’re doing. They change therapies in mid-stream, they jump from therapy to therapy to therapy. They eventually end up in that state of anxiety because of their lack of faith.
Again, I mentioned Bernie Siegal, I may or may not have any faith in him, it’s not relevant, but the fact is that there’s a physiological reason why patients who don’t have faith don’t make it. It’s the same reason as number one. Eventually patients who can’t make a decision, patients who have no faith in themselves or in the practitioner don’t make it because they end up in a state of anxiety and go because of the reasons I’ve already described. Patients who do not have faith in themselves can’t have faith in their therapist, because they don’t believe in themselves and if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to believe in anyone else, it doesn’t work that way. And you’re not going to make it because you are going to end up in a physical state of anxiety, you’re not going to have faith. The patients who do the best are those who approach me and say, “Dr. Gonzalez, this is the therapy I want, I’m going to take my chances, I may not make it but let’s go for it.” And I will walk up on my knees, up Mount Everest backwards, for a patient like that because I know they’re going to make it. Patients who can face death with equanimity are, ironically, the ones who make it. Patients who cannot face death, end up with anxiety and don’t make it for those mundane physiological reasons I mentioned before.
Third mistake: The Myth of Authority. Dr. Kelley said the human species is very primitive spiritually, and I guess maybe he’s right. I’m just a scientist, I don’t make decisions about spiritual aspects and spiritual things like that. I don’t know anything about them. But there seems to be a wide-spread inability of human beings to take responsibility for their own lives. We are all basically children, we want some great authority to tell us what to do, to hold us, to cuddle us, to tell us it’s going to be all right, and to take charge of our lives. We are eternally looking for somebody else to take charge of our lives. It doesn’t work that way, you have to take charge of your own life, nobody can do it for you, and if you’re relegating authority for your life to somebody else, they’re not going to do it right, they’re not going to do it right, and you’re going to end up in a state of anxiety.
Now, we also like authorities — there’s a lot of criticism, especially among groups who are already open to unconventional therapies, to criticize the orthodox medical world. The orthodox medical world exists as an authoritarian mumbo-jumbo with its esoteric technologies, these white coats and huge buildings, because this is what the people want. If the people didn’t want it, it wouldn’t exist. We have the medicine that we deserve and we have asked for. And until we demand something else, we’re going to continue to have that. The thing is, what medicine is, is it really nothing more than an ‘authority,’ the way traditional religions are an authority, the way political systems are an authority. IT is a great, grand authority, it is the ultimate father-figure. Give your life to me and I will take care of it, you don’t have to think, we have our own vocabulary, you don’t have to understand it, I have this sophisticated training, you could never have it, you’re not smart enough. We even choose doctors, we choose people for medical schools who are kind of cold, distant, detached. You know who they are. We choose people to be authorities who are dictatorial, this is what we want, we want an authority figure, even if we criticize him/her. We have the medicine we deserve, and until we demand something else, we’ll continue to have it.
Yet there is a problem with authorities. Creative, original imaginative work never comes from those kinds of authorities. I like the analogy of the three greatest discoveries in the biological sciences in the 19th century. They can be easily summed up and this actually goes along with fourth mistake: Myth of Credentials.
First, there was the body of Louis Pasteur’s work. Pasteur was the most prominent thinker in medicine from the time of the Renaissance. He did an enormous amount of work, both in animal sciences, in medicine, he was the greatest medical thinker of the 19th century, he proved that living things can only come from other living things. Prior to Pasteur, scientists believed in the theory of spontaneous development, that living matter can come out of the mud. I mean, this was taught at Oxford, Cambridge and all the leading universities. That frogs could come out of mud. And all the scientists believed it. Pasteur said, that’s a lot of nonsense, and proceeded to prove it. He developed the germ theory of disease, a lot of really innovative profound concepts.
Louis Pasteur was not a physician, he was the greatest thinker in medicine, but he was not a physician, he was a wine chemist, and he was a pretty mediocre one too. He almost flunked out of his graduate studies because of boredom he said, and he barely got his Ph.D., yet turned out to be one of the greatest thinkers in medicine. He was not an authority; he was not even a physician.
The second great thinker in the 19th century, and I don’t want to get into a religious controversy, but even approaching him as an objective biologist, was Charles Darwin. Forget the theory of evolution, he probably did more writing in ecosystems analysis and nutrient cycling than anyone ever will, and he was the first really great ecologist. He was a profound biologist. Even if you discount his evolutionary work, he was an absolutely profound biologist.
Darwin came from a very prominent family. His grandfather was a very eminent physiologist and his father was a very eminent London surgeon. But little Charles Darwin was a bit of a disappointment. Charles almost flunked out of prep school, and there’s a letter in the British Museum which I have read, a wonderful letter from Charles’ father to little Charles: “Charles, you are so stupid and an insult to this family that I must believe you were changed at the time of your birth and you are not our child.” A wonderful letter to write to your Holden Calfield flunking out of prep school.
So Charles, through his father’s intervention, got accepted to the University of Edinburgh Medical School, an eminent medical center at that time, but Charles didn’t make it. After about six months, he dropped out. He rarely attended class and dropped out before he flunked out to avoid embarrassment. His father, again using his connections, then got Charles admitted to Cambridge University, again one of the eminent European University. Again, Charles didn’t do well. He never went to class, almost flunked out, and again to avoid embarrassment after a year and a half, dropped out. His father, in desperation, said, we’ve got to get this kid out of England. So he arranged, through his connections, to get him on the Beagle, and you know the rest. Charles Darwin, after four and a half years on the Beagle, became probably the most profound thinker in the biological sciences that our civilization will ever produce. He had no credentials, he never had an appointment at a university, and he never even had a college degree. Charles Darwin–and again, this is little known–never even had a bachelor’s degree.
The third great thinker in the biological sciences was Gregor Mendel. Now all of you know from your high school biology classes that he developed the theory of genetics. Now, it’s not just the theory of genetics. The theory of genetics underlies all of modern molecular biology: DNA, RNA, genetics, molecular biology immunology, all comes out of the theory of genetics. Gregor Mendel was a monk working in an isolated monastery, he had no access to universities, no access to libraries, no communication with other scientists, no laboratories other than a pea-pod patch. He had tried to become a teacher but flunked the exam and couldn’t make it as a secondary school teacher. He had no college degrees, no university appointment. Working with a six-foot by six-foot pea-pod patch he developed the theory of genetics which is the basis and the underpinning of all modern molecular biology.
My point is not that people with credentials are dumb, or that people without credentials are the ones with. If you judge the veracity of a situation in nature based on credentials or based on authority, you are headed for serious trouble, because whoever designed the universe had a wicked sense of humor, and sometimes the smartest people come in the least likely packages. I always thought Dr. Kelley was an example of that. A lot of people say,” I met that guy Kelley, he wasn’t very impressive” and they’re right, he wasn’t impressive until you started asking him the right questions. Charles Darwin wasn’t impressive either, until you started asking him the right questions, and neither was Gregor Mendel.
Going back to my prospective patient, he made the mistake of the Myth of Authority, and he fell into the trap of the Myth of Credentials. Now, I have good credentials. I’m Ivy-League trained; I have a Phi Beta Kappa key which my mother’s very proud of and shows to her neighbors. I went to Brown and I went to Cornell Medical School, and I did post-graduate work at Columbia and I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Good who is the preeminent immunologist of our time, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a liar and that I’m honest and that I’m not an incompetent physician. And if I went to lesser medical schools that would not mean that I was a lesser scientist, and that I was dishonest and that I was not capable of doing original research.
In fact, I’ve been asked a hundred times to print out a resume for prospective patients. I finally said, I’m not going to print up a resume. If patients are asking for a resume, they’re asking the wrong questions. That’s not the point. If you asked Charles Darwin for a resume, you’d have gotten nothing, you’d have gotten one nasty letter from his father. So, I’m not saying that you should look for untrained practitioners or that trained practitioners don’t know what they’re doing, but don’t fall into the Myth of Authority and don’t fall into the Myth of Credentials or you’re running into problems.
If you approach your cancer with immaturity, frustration, lack of faith and inability to take responsibility for your life, you’re not going to do well and you’re not going to do well on my therapy or anyone else’s.
If you can approach your cancer with equanimity, with faith, with devotion, with calm clear-headedness, if you can get over your fear and take your chances and look death in the eye with equanimity and not be frightened, you’ve got a good chance to make it, and those are the kind of patients I’m looking for.