Today, it’s not uncommon to see a human speeding down the road in an electric wheelchair while breathing on a portable oxygen tank. As a society, we have now grown accustomed to seeing portions of the population in a state of ill health. But it wasn’t always this way.
Growing up in England during the the 1970s, things were a little different. Even though our schools were full of germs, it was still possible to count the number of sickly kids on one hand. Back then, I don’t recall a single kid having allergies, and none (as in zero) needed medication to get through the day. So what changed?
If the health of our great nation were mirrored in the animal kingdom, it would seem quite shocking. For just a moment, let’s take a look at our health from this perspective. In the following scenario, humans are played by cows and we can think of the vet as our well-meaning doctor. Here’s where the story gets interesting.
Early one morning, a Farmer by the name of Fred sets off to feed his cows. He suddenly notices something odd and picks up his pace. On closer inspection, his cows look lifeless, tired, and show little interest in their food. The farmer eagerly rattles their food bucket in a bid to grab their attention
“Don’t you want your feed today?” he asks.
A pool of large, vacant eyes stares back at him. Adding a spackle of enthusiasm to his voice he offers it a second time. “Come on girls, it’s your favorite, soy and corn.” (I know, right? Cows used to eat grass.)
The next morning Fred telephones the vet to explain that his cows just don’t seem themselves. “They probably have CFS,” says the vet.
Fred’s silence prompts the vet to continue.
“I’ll come take a look this afternoon.”
Fred’s cows are an important commodity to him; they are his livelihood. As he anxiously waits for the vet to arrive, his mind becomes preoccupied with tracing back his steps. He knows for sure his cows weren’t ill yesterday, and logically he’s thinking something must have changed. But what?
Before he has time to identify the problem, the vet arrives and Fred loses his train of thought. The vet examines the whole herd and confirms that Fred’s cows do indeed have a form of CFS (Cow Fatigue Syndrome).
“Is it serious?” Fred asks.
“Totally,” says the vet.
Fred presses for more details, “What causes it?”
“Not sure,” the vet replies.
“Well, then how do you fix it?”
The vet opens his brown leather medical bag and begins to inject each of the cows. By the end of the day, Fred has a bill to pay and illness continues to sweep through his herd.
For the cows, feeling ill becomes their new “normal,” and by the end of summer, Fred has again noticed something very odd. A third of his cows have become obese.
Fred’s wife asks, “Did you think to maybe change their feed?”
Fred reminds her that he is the head farmer and she is not a vet.
Again the vet is called out and this time he declares an outbreak of cow diabetes. “Not much we can do Fred, diabetes rates are climbing.”
Due to the complications of advanced diabetes, some of the cows had to have their limbs amputated. But neither Fred or his wife wanted to eat steak chops for dinner.
As the autumn winds begin to blow, Fred again finds himself pressing his vet for answers. This time, the cows shiver in the cold and Fred suspects it has something to do with the town water.
“Hmm, looks like a real nasty case of Cow-pothyroidism,” says the vet. Neither of the men thinks to check the water for halogens and the vet leaves with the words, “See you soon, Fred,” hanging ominously in the air.
As winter rolls around, Fred’s situation goes from bad to worse. Sadly, some of his cows are now dying. Without flinching, the vet delivers another blow. “Fred, I hate to tell you, but your herd now has cow cancer and eventually it will affect one out of every two cows.”
The vet proceeds to cut, burn, and poison all the cancerous areas, the same way his father did it, and his father before him. As he leaves the farm, the vet thanks the farmer for his payment and tips his hat to bid the farmer good day.
A month later Fred telephones to confirm that the vet’s math was indeed correct and 50% of his herd has now been wiped out. Sensing Fred’s disappointment the, the vet quietly utters the words, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” and hangs up the phone.
Shortly before retiring to bed, Fred breaks the devastating news to his wife. “In all my years of farming I’ve never managed such a toxic herd.” This time his wife remains silent and allows Fred’s incompetence to run free. Perhaps she has been conditioned not to question.
Winter arrives, there is snow on the ground, and Fred diligently closes his books for the year. Despite heavy losses, Fred takes some comfort when he notes that his grain bill for the year was much lower than usual. Fred’s wife, who is looking over his shoulder, notes that the grain bill is only lower because they were using inferior grain. Despite having fewer cows to feed their vet bill was dramatically higher for the year. Once again she quietly accepts that it’s not her responsibility and leaves it to the “experts” to figure out.
As winter turns to spring, Fred shrugs off his losses and adopts a positive, upbeat attitude. It’s spring, the season for new life and new beginnings! But Fred’s optimism is short-lived as each new calf is born. Both he and his wife know that their weakened herd is not sustainable. Eventually, everything they have worked so hard for will be lost.
Fortunately, Fred and his sickly cows are fictitious. And when we hear this story, it sounds absurd. But if we analyze the numbers from this imagined story, they are not too far from our own
We, humans, are now facing an epidemic of chronic fatigue, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Imagine driving through the rolling English countryside and stumbling upon a large sign that reflects human diabetes rates.
A hundred years ago, cancer was likely to affect three people out of every hundred. Today it is estimated that cancer will affect one out of every two men and one in three women (Cancer.org).
Yup, cancer is now wiping out large sections of the human population, just like Fred’s cows. Despite the astonishing amounts of money being spent every day, we are actually no closer to a cure than we were a hundred years ago. Wait a second — did you catch that? Can that be right?
Over the last twelve months, just think how far technology has come. That phone in your pocket isn’t just a phone, it’s now a camera, a personal computer, even a live streaming video recorder! Forty years ago it would have been a struggle to fit even a calculator in your pocket! Hold that thought for a second and then ask how far we have come with cancer?
A little over a hundred years ago, aviation wasn’t much more than a man flapping around with paper wings. And yet today we can jet across continents in just a few hours. In every other field, technology has moved forward at breakneck speed. But when it comes to advancements in cancer treatment, we are still using the same questionable techniques. Cancer is actually no closer to a cure than it was when the Wright brothers were doing their thing.
The twisted irony is anyone claiming to have found an inexpensive cure can expect to be ridiculed. Ensuring stagnant progress for generations to come.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something,
when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
– Upton Sinclair
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) newly approved cancer drugs can average as much as $10,000 a month. Some cut, burn and poison therapies can even top $30,000 a month! Wait a second, are you absorbing these astronomical figures?
Sadly, waving cash at cancer offers little comfort to those whom it visits and this problem looks set to continue for another hundred years.
For now, let’s stick with the cow comparison. According to the CDC’s own website, it’s estimated that by 2050 diabetes will affect one in four of us. Some sources believe we are already past this point. The damaging effects of diabetes on business are huge. Just in the U.S. alone, the economy takes an approximate annual hit of $245 billion through medical costs and loss of wages. The human cost of amputation is incalculable.
A worrisome uptrend in autoimmune conditions has become an omnipresent part of our bold new world. Everything from food allergies to ALS has its roots deeply embedded in the immune system. But the immune system is far from dumb, so what are we doing to make the immune system so confused that it turns against us and attacks us? I have my own theory on this issue but open debate and free speech aren’t always in favor of the truth.
In our story, a third of Fred’s cows were labeled obese. According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), this is also true of a third of U.S. adults. We could continue with these startling numbers all day long but the point has already been made.
The moral of Fred’s story is clear: if we do not want to become like his cows, then we must stop acting like sheep. Learn to question every diagnosis and look at your situation subjectively. Had Fred paused and looked at his situation a little more closely and carefully, maybe a better solution would have presented itself.
What did we learn from this?
Capitalism is alive and well in the pharmaceutical industry.
Homework: Check out this book