Why I Left A Cancer Network

Sunday, June 10, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 2 Comments

Last 2011, I joined several cancer networks in the Philippines to get in touch with cancer warriors and to invite them to a Christmas bash for cancer patients that I was holding. Over the months after the Christmas party, I continued to share cancer updates through these networks. But one morning, something happened that made me decide to leave a specific cancer network for good.

I then published a blog post, revealing why I decided to leave. In the blog post, I didn’t mention the name of the cancer network nor its members. But a few hours after I left the network (which I did silently, without provoking anyone or answering back), I was shocked to see that a couple of the network’s members are trolling my Facebook page – and worse, I’ve been receiving threats, both subtle and explicit. I felt afraid, bullied, and unfairly targeted. I decided to take down the blog post, in fear that it will attract even more threats.

But after a few days, I realized that no bully deserves to get what he or she wants. We all have our own opinions – and my blog is my space, a place where I can share what I believe to be good and true. Below, I share the blog post I deleted before, with updates in relation to recent events. Here, I reveal the reasons behind my leaving the cancer network.

Reasons For Leaving The Cancer Network

This morning, when I checked the cancer network’s page (I won’t mention the name of the cancer network nor the names of those who acted like trolls on my page), I saw a lot of hostile messages. Some of the points raised in those comments would merit looking into – it would have made for an interesting discussion. However, the overall message was something that hit way below the belt. Here are the reasons why, with a saddened heart, I chose to leave that cancer network.

  • The cancer network disapproves of mammograms. The president of the said network explicitly said that doctors are simply fooling their patients into taking mammograms. He said, “Poison is poison,” and the radiation from mammograms will still poison people. This statement is dangerous. Mammograms have detected many cases of breast cancer and are thus a great diagnostic tool. It is saddening that the president of a cancer network discourages its members from getting a mammogram. (Research has allowed us to come up with findings that correct outdated views, but these are better shared with a scholarly desire to get the truth out there – not with a smear campaign.)
  • The attack on me was personal – I saw words like “rage”, “lies”, and “puppet”. Researching facts before making conclusions would have been the fair thing to do. But judging me without getting the facts straight – and calling me names – was uncalled for. I was accused of uttering “subtle lies” that were “very dangerous”. In a situation where hatred was overwhelming, I knew it was better to back off - I had the feeling they were not willing to listen. And it was a classic example of cyberbullying, something I was not willing to participate in. (Some people are not even aware that they are acting like bullies. Read this article on bullying and see if you are one, too – you might be surprised.)
  • Moving As One, a cancer organization that promotes unity of public and private sectors, was bashed unfairly by the network. I have personally dealt with Moving As One and to the best of my knowledge, they have done nothing but promote cancer awareness and encourage unity among public and private sectors in achieving better cancer control. But the cancer network in question has published a blog post on their website claiming that Movine As One had dirty motives.

    Read on for more of what I experienced in the said cancer network.
  • The intentions of the Cancer Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting were unfairly questioned. The meeting - which presented unscreened opinions from cancer patients, hospitals, government bureaus, and private corporations – was being branded, in not so many words, as one that merely follows what pharmaceutical sponsors had to say.

    Cancer Stakeholders Meeting
    Even the sponsors of the meeting were dragged through the mud. Contrary to the accusations, the meeting presented objective data from different sectors regardless of their differing opinions. And I saw no manipulation by the sponsors.
  • The lack of research on a specific alternative drug was being pinned down on me. I was asked why a specific herbal drug was not being researched by pharmaceutical companies. I honestly am not personally acquainted with pharmaceutical companies. Even if I were, I certainly can’t answer for them, obviously. It is not my fault that the cancer network’s pet drug isn’t being researched.
  • My self-promotion was met with raised brows. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I hate being in the limelight but if that’s what it takes to get people to listen about cancer, so be it. I will continue to promote my articles; I will continue to evoke emotion and provoke thought. I will always keep trying to get more people to accept the fact that cancer is the third most common cause of death. I will not stay quiet – I just can’t. Shine the limelight on me if you must; I will shiver in my shoes, but I will conquer my fear.
  • My “cancer writing services” were being questioned. Just to clarify, I am NOT being paid to write about Moving As One, the Cancer Stakeholders’ Meeting, or any other organization mentioned in this blog. I write these articles about them WITHOUT ANY KIND OF RENUMERATION.

    The cancer network I left was accusing me of having been paid by pharmaceutical companies to publish articles on my blog. Up until now, all the articles on this blog have been written for free. The features and articles I write here have never been compensated for, either in cash or kind. My giveaways, which I host also on Facebook, are stuff that I buy with my own money, samples from conferences and conventions, freebies, plus gift certificates from restaurants and other establishments.

    And if I so decide to take sponsors for this blog in the future, I will still give my honest, untarnished opinion and back up facts with research. I have never agreed to have my blog articles manipulated by sponsors in the past (I refused offers from a company abroad to endorse their drugs and pharmaceutical products) nor shall I be dictated in the future.
  • The value of cancer conventions was questioned by the cancer network. They said that writers shouldn’t be attending conventions but researching alternative approaches to cancer. First of all, not all writers are researchers – not all writers have the resources to start a full-blown randomized control trial, something that can cost thousands or even millions.

    Secondly, I believe in cancer prevention as much as the cancer network members do, but it is imprudent to say that conventions don’t have any value. It was actually through a convention that I realized the importance of the Sin Tax Bill in effectively preventing deaths due to lung cancer. Conventions and conferences bring different people together, opening minds to facts and different opinions. It was also through a convention that I learned about how health education efforts might actually be useless in preventing heart disease (unless you are teaching high-risk groups). And through conferences/ conventions, teachings are backed by evidence. Conventions are far from useless.
  • UPDATE: After I left the network, I have been receiving threats on my Facebook page. Perhaps doing the right thing is dangerous – those who are threatened will try and stop you. And even if I were to give the cancer network the benefit of the doubt - even if I was to assume that they think they’re doing the right thing - the way they forced their beliefs down my throat was unacceptable. If they think pharmaceutical companies are just bullies, then they need a long, hard look in the mirror.

Anger and Grief in Cancer

After having the left the group, I wondered what would have happened if I stayed. Would I have opened their eyes? Would I have asked them to speak with less hostility? Would I have started a wonderful dialogue where different ideas are shared? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing was for sure: my efforts – and that of many other cancer organizations – were not welcome in the said cancer network.

With that, I decided to part ways. I have made up my mind: it was a battle I shall not fight. Perhaps their bitterness came from a place of grief; maybe their pleas for help fell on deaf ears, or maybe they were manifesting anger because of their loss. In any case, I knew I should leave without another word. I can only hope that even if my efforts were not welcome there, my writing will continue to help many others who bravely fight cancer.

I will not be deterred. I will continue to fight alongside cancer warriors. I will continue to write about cancer. And in my next article, I shall write about how anger is actually a normal part of grief (but only to a certain extent). I will also share personal accounts from cancer warriors and survivors who felt angry, too.

Stef dela Cruz

Hopefully, with their stories, those who feel like lashing out in anger will learn to open their hearts and minds to the people around them who are more than willing to help. I would also like to thank the many cancer survivors and warriors who have opened their doors to me – I appreciate all the warmth, and you are all heroes! Laughing out loud

Do you think mammograms are useless? Do you think I was wrong to leave the cancer network? What would you have done if you were in my shoes? Share your thoughts; leave a comment.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and a cat welfare column in The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene. Add her to your circles.

2 comments:

  1. hi stef! it is really brave of you to come out and do this. i also commend you for thinking about what it means for them to be lashing out in anger. they say cancer is a sickness that comes from anger, rage...springing from the philosophy that our bodies respond to our mental, emotional wellness. isipin mo na lang that these people need our understanding and hopefully someday mabuksan mata nila sa katotohanan. i only hope it won't be too late for them. brave brave stef! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Laya, thanks for your comment. I learned recently that the people involved were not cancer patients, but loved ones of cancer patients who already passed away. I also learned from a cancer patient that it is usually those left behind by those who passed away that usually carry around this bitterness in their heart.

    In fairness, I have yet to see an actual cancer patient who carries this bitterness, too. All the cancer patients I've met thus far are good and kind. :) It's as if cancer has given them a new lease in life!

    In any case, it is best not to feed the anger of grieving people, so I decided to stay away. But I also hope they would open their hearts to the good things happening around them. :)

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