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Lance Armstrong Is Wrong This Time

Lance Armstrong, arguably the best athlete alive today, and justly respected for the toughness and courage he showed in beating Cancer, did his reputation a little tarnishing today. Writing for CNN and speaking in front of the Capitol as if he were the Voice of America itself, Armstrong had himself a little whine-fest, demanding that the United States government spend more money on Cancer research.

OK, normally I would be really slow to take on someone as respected as Lance Armstrong. Especially where the territory is cancer. But if there's one thing that I can say now that I could not just a couple months ago, it's that I have at least as much right as Lance Armstrong to speak about Cancer and what the government should do, since I am presently fighting my own battle, years after he won his (and God willing he will not have to fight it again). I certainly have ideas about some things the government - at all levels - can and must do better - but I also know enough to suggest that Armstrong's speech today was not altogether honest, either about what is being done or what can be expected in a reasonable effort to find a cure for Cancer.

Armstrong sounds like the stereotypical Liberal in his speech. Said Armstrong, "I patiently waited to hear a candidate for office explain to constituents what he or she planned to do about one of the leading threats to the health and well-being of all Americans -- cancer. My patience was greeted with silence." Well Lance, as important as it is to cancer patients to know what elected officials intend to do about Cancer, there has never been an indication that the voters in general demanded candidates address specific diseases or conditions. One could just as easily be outraged because no candidate for Congress mentioned Alzheimer's, Heart Disease, or Diabetes. You were not answered, I dare suggest, because the question never came up during the campaigns.


-- continued --

Armstrong's attack on the government continued: "The political ads didn't tell voters that earlier in the year funding for cancer research was cut for the first time in 30 years. Nor did they explain that a lack of funding slows the pace of scientific discovery and the development of treatments. Our candidates did not mention the decrease in funding for programs that provide information and screening to people who need these services."

Armstrong did not cite any sources to back up these claims, nor frankly am I personally interested in whether they are true or not. This might sound peculiar, but it's because I see Mr. Armstrong's suggestion that less money means less progress (also implying that more money spent will somehow create more progress, all on its own, which is a quintessentially Liberal proposition), is hopelessly poor logic. It's as if Armstrong was arguing that only the most expensive bike wins the Tour de France, or that only the best-paid employee does the best work. Armstrong's argument is emotional, at times compelling, but it hardly works on a rational level.

Armstrong claimed to speak on behalf of millions of Cancer survivors and patients, but he does not speak for me in this instance. The reason he does not, is because I find that confrontational tactics like his, while satisfying on one level, really do nothing to advance understanding or results, those very things Armstrong claims he wants most. As an example, I return to my own condition:

My cancer is a rare variant of abdominal cancer, PMP for short. Even after decades of research, not much is known about it, and while one new regimen has shown promise, technically there is no known cure for PMP and so by the book to have PMP is to have terminal cancer. Don't worry, I am hardly giving up, but I want you to understand that I am not painting the walls of my scenario with fantastic illusions.

As it happens, I am presently going through a bureacratic maze, because the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will not admit me until they have reviewed my case, which means they want to receive the medical records from every doctor I have seen and every test I have taken. The reader will note that M.D. Anderson has not offered to collect this information, but demands that I retrieve it and send it to them. In that course, I have discovered that my other doctors' offices have been very bad about dragging their feet. I was shocked to learn that unlike other states, Texas does not consider medical records to belong to the patient - the records belong to the medical provider, which in hard fact means that I cannot compel them to release my records - I have to ask them nicely and hope all my forms are filled out correctly. At least one doctor's office was actually offended that I was going to another provider to have my cancer treated, even though the cancer I have is a rare variant which the oncologist has never seen before. They "lost" my file for a week, then made me appear in person to request the files, which meant filling out a long form, which they then announced was - oops - the "wrong" form, and so I had to fill out another form instead. Despite multiple requests, by phone, in writing and in person, after two weeks neither my Primary Care Provider, my urosurgeon, nor my oncologist has sent the files to M.D. Anderson. Forgive me Mr. Armstrong, but I strongly doubt that giving more money to these sorts of people will improve the situation. If government wants to help cancer patients like me, they need to establish nationally the right of patients to receive and keep our own medical records. They need to establish nominal procedures that take burdens from patients and their families when they are already stressed and overwrought, and require that medical providers cooperate with patient requests and expedite processes where delay affects survival chances. Money is not the issue here, Mr. Armstrong.

I have great respect for Lance Armstrong's fight against Cancer, and his advocacy for better education and attention to Cancer in general. I would suggest that I see Armstrong's courageous and noble fight against Cancer in the same way that I see John McCain's courageous and noble service in Vietnam; extremely honorable and a great message, but it does not qualify him to speak with authority in all things or at all times. In other words, Armstrong is a heroic figurehead for all of us who fight Cancer, but he is not thereby qualified to make budget decisions, to judge the effort of Cancer research solely on one factor, nor is he qualified to speak as the sole voice for cancer patients.

Would I like more money to be available for Cancer research? Of course, but only if the researchers are accountable and specific about what they will do with additional money. There needs to be sanity about which form of Cancer needs funding the most and in what amounts, and what threats to human life and health must also be addressed. Simply giving doctors and laboratories more money, I must contradict Mr. Armstrong, will in no way advance the discovery of vaccines automatically, nor will a higher salary for doctors suddenly open the insights to prevention or curative regimens. At best, the money will provide tools which can help find advances, but without a demand for accountability it can just as easily be wasted. But more to the point, the problem with Mr. Armstrong's speech and demands, is that it focuses on the people who have always held control - the people who have money, who are in positions of power, and who will always be tempted to grandstand and play favorites. The focus should be on the needs of the patients, who all too often are objectified and their individual voices muffled because spokesmen like Armstrong are too busy playing politics to listen themselves.


Comments (17)

It's another unfortunate ex... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

It's another unfortunate example of today's tendency to regard the government as our personal caretakers. The millions upon millions already spent on medical reasearch makes no difference unless they are spending more money on *my* disease! And I don't care if you take it away from research on someone else's disease!

BTW, DJ: I admire your courage. Hang in there.

DJ Sorry to learn ... (Below threshold)

DJ

Sorry to learn of your battle with cancer.

Something that hasn't been mentioned -- where is it written in the US Constitution that the federal government is empowered to allocate our tax dollars toward ANY kind of research, medical or otherwise? Last time I looked it wasn't included in the enumerated powers of Congress.

Call me a traditionalist. We operate outside the Constitution at our peril -- a disease as fatal to the health of our country as surely as a cancer is to the human body.

Capitalism -- the unbridled enterprise that should operate without UNconstitutional governmental constraints -- will compete to find ways to treat and hopefully eradicate cancer and other disease.

Looking to an elected official to force drug companies and medical institutions to do so is -- in my view -- unconstitutional. In the words of a Scottish history professor, who in 1787, while discussing the fall of the Athenian republic some 2,000 years earlier, said this:

"A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."
----Professor Alexander Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee)

Lance Armstrong is wrong, for more reasons than stated in your post. With all due respect for his accomplishments, it might behoove him to spend less time on his bike and more time reading what our Founders put in place to guard against what Tytler has so accurately warned us about. We need do nothing more than look to history to see our future.

Andrea Shea King
Radio Patriot
Constitutional Public Radio - "CPR for the Heart of America"
www.CPRradio.com

Bravo, DJ!You've s... (Below threshold)
Bo:

Bravo, DJ!

You've struck upon the crux of the issue. The liberal philosophy is that money=progress, even if that equation is provably false over and over again.

I would argue that the conservative philosophy goes something like "money follows progress."

I would be a bit more optimistic if the former idea hadn't been so globally embraced by the populace.

Thanks for the very thoughtful and insightful post, and all my best to you in your personal fight.

The government is lousy at ... (Below threshold)
MunDane:

The government is lousy at finding things like treatments or cures for things because that is not what a government run lab is designed to do. FIrst off, if you make a money making discovery on while on the payroll of Uncle Sam, they get a portion of the royalties, so there is a disincentive to find moneymaking things like that until you are in the private sector. Second, government money is always given with strings attached. Most of the time it is the political correctness junk. What government money is good at is finding causes, because then you can blame someone and sue them.

At least he's not beating t... (Below threshold)
Joe:

At least he's not beating the AIDS drum.

Lance should be happier tha... (Below threshold)
michael:

Lance should be happier that the Dems won the House and Senate. They're voting on federal funding for ESC today and it'll overwhlmingly pass the House. Arlen Spector had an impromptu press conference stating that he's got a VETOproof majority vote and they'll override Bush's veto. FINALLY! If that's all the Dems do in 2 years, it's worth it.

DJ-As it happens, ... (Below threshold)
Rory:

DJ-

As it happens, I am presently going through a bureacratic maze, because the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will not admit me until they have reviewed my case, which means they want to receive the medical records from every doctor I have seen and every test I have taken. The reader will note that M.D. Anderson has not offered to collect this information, but demands that I retrieve it and send it to them. In that course, I have discovered that my other doctors' offices have been very bad about dragging their feet. I was shocked to learn that unlike other states, Texas does not consider medical records to belong to the patient - the records belong to the medical provider, which in hard fact means that I cannot compel them to release my records - I have to ask them nicely and hope all my forms are filled out correctly. At least one doctor's office was actually offended that I was going to another provider to have my cancer treated, even though the cancer I have is a rare variant which the oncologist has never seen before. They "lost" my file for a week, then made me appear in person to request the files, which meant filling out a long form, which they then announced was - oops - the "wrong" form, and so I had to fill out another form instead. Despite multiple requests, by phone, in writing and in person, after two weeks neither my Primary Care Provider, my urosurgeon, nor my oncologist has sent the files to M.D. Anderson.

Ugh-never go to that doctor again.

I can't believe you have to go through this admin crap at a time like this.....

Anyways I have read you for years now and followed you here till I got banned-or caught up in the spam filter and the place no longer let's me postbut maybe you guys can still read the attempts-

Anyhoo DJ-if anyone can beat this thing YOU can.

I've read somewhere that doctors will do more for patients that have a positive attitiude and fighting spirit-because they believe that those patients have a better chance. It's been hypothesized that it is some sort of self fufilling prophecy for the doctor's that is...

Well DJ you have both of those qaulities in spades.

I wish you all the best.

I admire your integrity in ... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

I admire your integrity in writing this.

My thoughts are that different advocates and points of view work themselves out in the democratic process, sometimes an advocate has to ask for more than his or her group is reasonably entitled to, in order to begin the compromising process.

Excellent piece. Good luck ... (Below threshold)
The Exposer:

Excellent piece. Good luck in your cancer fight, Mr. Drummond ! Prayers for a full recovery.

I saw the Spector/Cardin pr... (Below threshold)
linda:

I saw the Spector/Cardin presser about ESCR and was totally thrilled. It's about time. Where I live it's about785 for ESCR. Alot of religious people spread misinformation and expect people with brains to believe it. I'm an ARNP at an IVF clinic and personally destroy embryos every month. There's no reason they shouldn't be used for research. You'd think if people of faith are against ESCR they'd be against IVF clinics where we destroy about 400 embryos a year. Their logic is so flawed that the majority of Americans see right through it. At least the Dems have the guts to get it passed. Good for them!

According to the Texas Medi... (Below threshold)
Cheryl:

According to the Texas Medical Board's website:

State law [Medical Practice Act, Section 5.08(K)] allows a patient to obtain a copy of his records, or ask that a copy be sent to a new doctor or someone else, such as an insurance company. This law requires a physician to release copies of a patient's medical records (or a narrative summary) if the physician receives written consent from the patient or the minor patient's parent or legal guardian.

More at http://www.tmb.state.tx.us/consumers/faq/mrec.php

DJMay I suggest th... (Below threshold)
Dallas:

DJ

May I suggest that you go to Winston-Salem and the Wake Forest Medical School to get the most up to date treatment.

I know you don't remember...there have been thousands of posts since mine about your illness...but they found my cancer as a child way back in the 50's and today I am 60 years old. OK...a few blips along the way... but they helped me deal with them.

I was a child when I had cancer. These folks are smart.

WFU Medical School is the place where we just found out that ambiotic stem cells may cure disease.

I live in Texas. I know many people who have had incredible results from MDAnderson...they are terrific...however...since you are on a time table...please consider WFU Medical School at the Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC.

DJ...we (I) need your sanity...your intellect and your ideas. We have to have a way to treat you and to get you totally well.

You are respected and loved.

Dallas

Lance Armstrong was behind ... (Below threshold)

Lance Armstrong was behind the recent Austin, TX smoking ban. (See http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A261154 or http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.statesman.com%2Fmetrostate%2Fcontent%2Fmetro%2Fstories%2F03%2F1smoking.html&ei=sKCmRZKwHJTSgwTkvMHoDQ&usg=__gsCya1wWM4YPy1fmQBvqZ9xukgA=&sig2=9sDpKhPSjKogHjcPM9J3DA)
The ban passed by a razor-thing margin, and is currently being fought in court for being too vague, unenforcable, and un-constitutional. I voted against the ban, and believe that in a free-market society, the market should decide. If there is really that big of a demand for non-smoking bars, open one, and cash in. The truth is, before the ban, only 63 of the 250+ bars allowed smoking. Remind me again why we needed the ban?

Just a quick glance at the reported campaign contributions:

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/ce_2005.htm

According to the SPAC forms filed by Onward Austin, the American Cancer Society dumped $225k into the Austin smoking ban. That's $225k that I would guess most people thought would go to Cancer research ... I guess not ... Compare that to the grand total of $80k that Keep Austin Free collected from small businesses and individual contributors, and you can see how they won.

This is just one example of how these groups waste money that people donate to "fight cancer."

DJ:1) Your problem... (Below threshold)
epador:

DJ:

1) Your problem with records is a good example of why one should keep a copy of their own medical record as the information becomes available - ask for copies of every report and office visit note as they are created. Then you can offer it to any new treating provider TO COPY for their use. Always keep your copy and never leave it out of your sight at a medical office.

2) MDA is an excellent source of treatment for difficult problems, however expect to find actual treatment to be strangely efficient and impersonal (production line approach) due to the volume of patients they see. Make sure to keep a good Primary Care Provider or a local oncologist you trust in the loop (see #1 above) at all times. You'll need this backup at home each time you return from MDA. Hopefully they;ll also provide you with perspective when reviewing the options MDA presents to you.

3) Any provider that projects an aura of offense at you for seeking a second opinion or treatment at a major cancer center needs counseling. I'd drop them like a hot potato. Though it could be a waste of time, you might consider having your Primary Care Provider informed of this, and perhaps they could communicate either with the offender or at least warn their colleagues away from this arrogant individual.

4) Back to the thread topic: Cancer research is big business. It's ripe with politics and turf wars that sadly affect the nature and results of US cancer rsearch. As any realist would expect who understands human nature. Lance has injected himself into the process. He's demonstrated he has business sense, so I doubt he's not aware of all of this. Which sadly makes him just another person tweaking the heartstrings of America. Its amazing that the same kind of folks who vilify Halliburton think the NCI and American Cancer Society walk on water.

I am always the first who w... (Below threshold)

I am always the first who wishes wants and hopes they are working towards a cure for cancer. I have lost too many I love to the awful disease. I do have to say though, that is sounds like Lance Armstrong has a touch of an entitlement mentality. He is the last I would have expected it from.

They are working overtime t... (Below threshold)
914:

They are working overtime to find more ways to charge you for the sicknesses We all suffer from.. bas tards

"Lance Armstrong is wrong this time."

And every other time as well!

I appreciate DJ's honesty a... (Below threshold)
Bret:

I appreciate DJ's honesty about talking about some very good points. But much of these posts sound like bitterness towards Lance and liberal politics to me. The bottom line is that we know that 1/3 of all cancer deaths (that's a little under 200K Americans a year) can be prevented if they had access to care and screening. I don't personally believe in big government, but I do believe that something that is killing 1500 people a day, is the #1 killer of Americans under 85, and will occur in 1 of every 2 men in our lifetimes had ought to get some attention in the political realm.




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