Lately I have not been very active, because I have found myself in an unfortunate situation. Two weeks ago I found out that my father has metastasized prostate cancer, that spread into his ribs and his leg. For a case of cancer that has progressed so far, he still looks remarkably healthy, which makes sense considering it´s probably not affecting his vital organs yet. With the exception of the general prostate issues that affect many men of his age (72), he is not directly suffering under the disease. In fact, he is still healthy enough to ride an hour with my mom to visit me.
Unfortunately, that´s not how this is going to stay. The statistics I´ve seen suggest you have a median life expectancy of two years once you´re diagnosed with prostate cancer with bone metastasis. It could be more, it could be less. Long before that time, his quality of life will dramatically decrease. The doctor plans on treating him with hormone deprivation therapy and chemotherapy. Both of these treatments have severe side-effects and no genuine hope of curing the disease.
My younger brother and me face the prospect of losing our father at a relatively young age, we´re both in our late twenties. Besides our parents, my brother and me have little contact with the rest of our family. As a family, we are to a large degree still living in denial of the reality we will have to face. There are a lot of things to be upset by, but somehow I find myself more faced with worry than grief, which I did not expect.
If you pay careful attention to someone, you notice when he´s in decline. For the past year or so, long before my father had any sort of diagnosis or even visited a doctor, I´d look at him and find myself thinking ¨my father is turning into an old man fast¨. It might be the rapid greying that I noticed, but in general your brain picks up on subtle signals when someone is changing rapidly.
When I say my father has metastasized prostate cancer, smart acquaintances who have some understanding of the medical system will point out to me that the therapies the doctors suggest for his condition won´t cure him and will instead dramatically reduce his quality of life. If your hormonal system is suddenly ¨shut down¨, there are generally dramatic effects on your mood. Chemotherapy tends to directly cause brain damage.
None of this is shocking news to me. The nerds on Reddit will tell you that doctors prescribe the therapies they prescribe, because those therapies have gone through ¨randomized controlled trials¨, as they warn you that ¨Facebook moms¨ who suggest ¨essential oils¨ are uneducated quacks. What they don´t want to mention is that the famed ¨randomized controlled trials¨ are very expensive to produce. It´s also very difficult to find a proper study group for such studies. This means that companies will only tend to fund such studies if they have an opportunity to profit from the product. What sort of product is profitable? A product they can get a patent on.
So, if it were hypothetically the case that some mother on Facebook genuinely stumbled upon some alternative herbal oil treatment that works as well as chemotherapy, we would never find out. The medical system is subject to the pursuit of profit, so we end up in a situation where everyone is chronically dependent upon medicines that can only be produced by a select few companies at exorbitant costs. This is not a conspiracy so much as it is a structural problem related to the nature of our economic system.
I won´t suggest that Cuba or some other nation has a perfect medical system, but there are therapies you´ll find there that date back to the era of their state-controlled medical system. In some former Soviet states, you can be treated with bacteriophages, for infections that we here in the Western world can´t treat. Why don´t we have such treatments available here? Because only a medical sector that benefits from having a healthy population has an incentive to develop such therapies, the therapies in and of themselves are not particularly profitable.
Similarly, it´s an extremely inconvenient fact that Cuba, despite being subject to an economic blockade, has a higher life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate than the United States, with a fraction of the healthcare expenses. These are all things that Reddit nerds, who somehow (astroturfing!) have a mysterious passion for genetic engineering, nuclear energy and expensive medical treatments, don´t want you to think about. You would think that Americans would start asking serious questions about the incentive structure of their medical system when people are dropping dead like flies from opioids prescribed by doctors subject to manipulation by industry salespeople working for billionaires, but it´s still taboo in polite company to ask whether the entire American healthcare sector has a fundamental problem.
If you want to descend from cynicism into outright paranoia however, you should look into how pharmaceutical companies responded when they figured out the blood products they sold were probably contaminated with HIV. There are a lot of things out there that nobody genuinely disputes happened, that make you want to wear a tinfoil hat and sit with your loaded shotgun in your basement on top of a pile of stored food while listening to reruns of the Alex Jones show. As a young adult I made the decision to generally stop thinking about those subjects, but ultimately I am deeply distrustful of every appeal to authority.
So, if I know this sort of stuff, you might expect me to encourage my parents to look elsewhere. The thing is, I haven´t had much success persuading my parents to take care of their health before this situation, so I did not expect anything to drastically change after the diagnosis. There are alternative treatment options that have evidence suggesting they can work well in a situation like this. Cannabidiol is known to be effective against prostate cancer and many other types of cancer. Iodine and vitamin K2 in particular are known to be effective against prostate cancer.
Vitamin D in general is known to help the immune system cope with cancer. The reason elderly people develop cancer is not so much because of accumulating mutations, but mainly because the immune system declines with age and begins to struggle to clean up precancerous cells. As surprising as it might sound, there is also convincing evidence that the harmalas and DMT found in Ayahuasca are effective against cancer. Something that has strong effects on your mind generally also has strong effects on the rest of your body, as it binds to the same receptors.
I could endlessly try to push my parents to look into such treatments, but I don´t think anyone benefits from that. My parents are part of a generation who grew up with more faith in authoritarian societal structures. They benefit from having the idea that an expert is delivering them the most effective treatment that is available to us, just as most people once had the benefit of a religious narrative around death that was credible to them. We are all faced with a unique process of grief and I made the decision to refrain from interfering in theirs.
What worries me far more, is the realization that we face a process of severe suffering. We´re going to watch my father suffer the horrific side-effects of his treatment and I will find myself wondering if I should have tried to convince him to avoid it, in light of the fact that nobody even believes it would cure it. We´re going to face my parents looking for alternative options, once they figure out the options prescribed by the doctor won´t cure the disease, but merely delay its progression at a severe cost to my father´s quality of life. At that point, I´ll be stuck with the grief that they waited far too long with these alternatives to have a good chance.
Most importantly, it pains me to see my parents afraid of the prospect of death. Over the years I have exposed myself to a wide variety of psychedelics. I have experienced ego death on a high dose of Psilocybe truffles, I have taken LSD, taken San Pedro cactuses alone and in combination with truffles, I have smoked Salvia extract and even recently smoked Changa, a combination of DMT and Ayahuasca. I don´t really approach death in the same manner as other people do, because I have experienced a mystical state in which it felt as if I my sense of self is simply a surface layer over my fundamental identity.
All of this is a secret from my parents, they´re very afraid of what they see as ¨drugs¨. In an ideal world I would be able to suggest to my father to take a high dose of Psilocybe mushrooms and have a sense of understanding in regards to what lies behind the veil. I don´t live in that world, I live in a world where people have collectively made a series of mistakes that gave birth to a society of miserable materialistic people that slowly eradicates the biosphere on which we all depend for our survival.
British medical journals first reported on Psilocybe mushrooms and their effects in the 18th century, it took until the 1950´s for Western civilization to begin taking this phenomenon seriously, then after the 1960´s we elected governments that sought to eradicate the phenomenon from society. That historical outcome and its consequences is ultimately the fault of regular human beings.
I was part of a generation that was slow to mature. At age 29, it still tends to feel like I’m LARPing adulthood. Some of that is due to how our society is designed. By making college a mandatory rite of passage, you’re ensuring people become adults at a later age. I can generally take care of myself, live by myself and work a steady job, yet I struggle to think of myself as an adult. My younger brother still lives with my parents, but he spends little time at home, he tends to be at his girlfriend’s place.
In practice, I find that I don’t know how to give this a proper place. It doesn’t “feel” real at a gutteral level to me, it feels like an intellectual abstraction that’s theoretically possible, but somehow mistakenly slipped into this world. It leaves me feeling with a responsibility to get my act together too, as I don’t like the idea that my father might be left worrying what will become of me.
My father has always been kind to me and very loyal and devoted to me, my mother and my brother. I would like to see a miracle happen, but death is ultimately an inevitable outcome of life and I hope when it is my father´s time to leave he does not have to suffer in the process. We all end up returning to what we once were, as the layers of experience that ground us in this physical realm as individual beings are stripped away from us and we are once again exposed to a timeless state of being without the experience of individuality. For people who have never experienced it, I think it is best explained in Andy Weir´s The Egg.
I don´t really have a lot of time and energy to share anything interesting right now. I am however working on something I can almost guarantee you´d like, if I get around to finishing it. For now, my thoughts are elsewhere, so it may take a while before I make a new post.