Australia, cancer and the rough end of the pineapple

rough end of the pineapple: Australian slang: a bad deal, or a raw deal; the worst part of a bargain

As if a cancer diagnosis isn’t bad enough, we also know that the rigours of treatment are often physically and emotionally scarring, painful, and debilitating.

We also know that with medical advances, more and more people now live with cancer as a chronic illness.

Unfortunately, modern treatments leave many folk with relentless, treatment-induced pain.

In my own work, I’ve seen enough people to know just how difficult and pervasive this type of pain can be.

I’ve also observed that unlike fellow survivors in the USA, Canada and Europe, Australian cancer survivors often struggle with disjointed, poorly diagnosed and poorly managed pain and debility.

I also know that many Australians dealing with cancer are set adrift, unsupported, confused, and unable to receive the benefit of cohesive, clinically sound, complementary therapies of the kind provided at prestigious medical institutions such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and others.

In 2009 as a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology, I attended the annual congress in the USA, shared inspiring and informative  conversations with health professionals working in the most  prestigious institutions there, and left with a thorough understanding of the many programs of integrative care available in America.

Visit the Society for Integrative Oncology here, and wander through page after page of programs and services available to many Americans.

It really is time Australian Oncologists, Medical Administrators and Health Ministers took a good hard look at what they don’t offer Australians.

Comprehensive, nurturing, supportive, clinically effective, holistic care is still an impossible dream in this country.

We are at least a decade behind other first world countries.



Image: Queen Pineapple Sir William Jackson Hooker 1785-1865

Related post: here



4 thoughts on “Australia, cancer and the rough end of the pineapple

Add yours

  1. Hi Margi,
    I have to admit that this topic is one of trepidation for me.
    I have no faith in any cancer treatment, conventional or otherwise and I have no faith in diagnostics that show you are cancer free. I have watched many people die, including friends. Right now 2 close friends are under treament. I support them of course and all I do is pray for healing. They don’t know that it scares the shit out of me. No one does……except you!
    So your interest in this work has given me hope and brought some light to these dark thoughts of mine.
    I hope you don’t become discouraged in your efforts…this is incredible work and service. The value is immeasurable.
    I see you gathering your forces and plowing through the mire of conventional Australian tx. It will be huge…be strong my friend.
    Keep it going.

    1. I’m always in awe of the people living with cancer who come to me for help.
      Many are young- in their thirties.
      Most found me when they were in the later months of their lives.
      A spiriited, beautiful woman who had exceeded all expectations said to me a few weeks before she died “it’s only cancer”.
      I wish we could wind back time, and start all over again with this thing called ‘cancer’, and approach this mystifying condition without the fear, dread, and history of truly destructive treatment.
      Thankfully, biomedicine today offers increasingly specific, targeted therapies which are less destructive than the treatments of last century.
      How wonderful if will be, when people with cancer routinely receive treatment with few side-effects, in a therapeutic mileu which seeks at all times, to provide life-enhancing, supportive therapies and activities.
      I’m glad you came by and shared your experiences Ragna.

  2. Why?

    Well, the answer probably lies somewhere in the cultural ethos of this country surrounding philanthropy.

    Of the three centres you mention in your post, two are founded in corporate philanthropy. MD Anderson was the head of a cotton merchant business (and formerly a banker) and Alfred Sloan and Charles Kettering were both GM execs. A quick visit to this website paints a clearer picture about Australian philanthropy. Individual Australians give to one-off events (floods, fires, tsunami), but philanthropy of the scale seen in these centres relies on corporate giving – not something we are good at in this country.

    The other organization you mention, H Lee Moffitt Centre, was named in honour of the Florida politician who lead the charge for the Cancer Centre. Visionary politicians are also a rare breed in this country.

    Maybe the answer lies in the fact the we sometimes let government get in the way of good, creative ideas….?

    1. I think too, that in the US health system, centres such as these naturally arise and prosper due to philanthropic generosity, and on-going consumer demand.
      From there, these centres are able to conduct objective research into the benefits of CAM [ Complementary and Alternative Medicine ]

      In the Australian context, where most funding for health care arises from the State, it’s not unreasonable to hope that State-funded Integrative Care- which afterall, is a very inexpensive option, compared to biomedical treatment – migh one day be part of mainstream care. Canada – with a sytem not unlike ours- now has some oncology centres which provide CAM, and conduct research.

      I’m trying very hard to understand and hope that the reason people with cancer get a raw deal in Australia, isn’t due to an endemic form of conservative thinking, unique to the Australian biomedical culture.

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