Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Big C

The papers are full of cricketer Yuvraj Singh and his fight with the Big C. I have also known many folks who have battled the same scourge, and come out successful, because of the amazing specific treatments that are available today, across a range of impressive technologies and pharmaceuticals.

One of the reasons, that we have reached this stage, is because , we have a perfectly detailed map of how things are functioning  inside our bodies . Not only that,  but whenever , there have been new advances in the body maps,  pharmaceutics, or even diagnostic tools,  concerned people have made exhaustive documentation, and made it  freely available.

It was not always so. (You can tell I am reading Emperor of Maladies.....).

 Hippocrates, who postulated stuff around 400 BC, defined the human body to be composed of 4 humors or fluids. Blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. In balance, they defined good health. Out of balance , you were sick.   Claudius Galen, a Greek doctor (AD 160) who treated Romans, defined various illnesses specifically ; like inflammations were related to blood, pus stuff was  related to phlegm, jaundice was related to yellow bile.  Dr Galen specifically  dedicated "trapped" black bile to define cancer, and depression, a perceptive combination. Till about 1533, cancer treatment was all about gory surgeries, hacking of infected body parts, deaths by infection and so on.  Andreas Vesalius , a medical student ,came to Paris from Brussels to study anatomy in the steps of Galen, was aghast at the absence of a "body" map to guide those doctors performing these surgeries, and set about actually "mapping the human body, muscles, nerves, bones, blood vessels et al. He sourced bodies from graveyards, prisons, and such places, and exhaustively mapped and publish his detailed drawings of normal anatomy. More than 200 years later, Matthew Bailie in London, created a similar atlas of a diseased body. Somewhere between 1846 and 1875 anesthesia came into the picture, along with an ability to control wound infections (sepsis), and this formed a very sturdy base on which all kinds of cancer surgeries were done.

Today , amazing nano technologies and pharmaceutical treatment at the genetic marker level are at the forefront of cancer treatment, and many cancers, hitherto considered uncurable,  are now treatable. At the root of all these advances, is clearly, the landmark mapping work done by people like Vesalius and Bailie. You no longer did approximate cuts and hacks.  They laid down the rules of how you approached the body and the diseased section.

Our society today, is afflicted buy one of the biggest cancers one can think of.


It was not always so.

About 50 years ago,  corruption, like cancer was  not so common or prevalent; possibly , it existed, but was not recognized. Unlike cancer, it was never a matter of life and death, and so it progressed,  step by shameless step,  eating into minds weakened by lack of idols, lack of morals and lack of scruples, but dazzled by prospects, like cancer, of limitless expansion.  Money and power was an excellent DNA.

There has never been an effort to seriously eradicate this cancer; simply because  system maps created to handle this, always have left a loophole. There has been an effort at piecemeal eradication, like in a specific office or department or ministry or section.  It's like concentrating only or eradicating , say breast cancer, without worrying about its possible spread elsewhere.

There has been no  Hippocrates, no Dr Galen, no  Andreas Vesalius, no Matthew Bailie.  The anesthesia has been all about deadening and  repressing the opinions of a discerning and angry public,  under the guise of appointed committees. , whose reports are summarily dismissed. The sepsis continues unabated in society, infecting all sections.  The cancers in society not only spread in numbers, but they have an uncanny ability to pull towards them, sections of society, at higher and higher levels.

We desperately need to have an overall map for handling this, and a set of surgeons and doctors, who will ruthlessly perform radical surgeries, unconcerned with the presumed importance of a particular organ in society. 

Until then, welcome to a world where, society cancers puffed in their malignant selves, proudly move around, destroying a small brave muscle here, an unwilling-to-lie nerve there.   Watch them, hoodwinking powers of "law" radiation,  and countering the chemotherapy discomfort with some "anticipatory "  arrangements.  

Sometimes,  the proverbial  "shoe" thrown by fate,   hits in the form  of a temporary arrest in a jail.  But this "arrest"  of this cancer, is more in the nature of covering it up, malignancies and all, so as to hopefully fade from the public eye.

We keep hearing of candidates in elections having criminal antecedents. Parties have hundreds of such candidates.

If and when they get elected, can we  ever expect them to make rules for the eradication of the Corruption Cancer ?

Can a surgeon with a diseased hand ever operate on a  cancer  and remove it ?   Can money ever rain from the skies ?  Will Mumbai ever be free of potholes, and flooded monsoon roads ?  Will we ever get over our craze for fairness of skin ?    Will money meant for child welfare ever reach those it is meant for ?   Will we ever learn to provide for storage of grains, that currently rot in the rains, while the centre and states point their carcinomic fingers at each other ?

There are no answers. For the above. One may only hope.


But I am glad that real cancer research progresses by leaps and bounds; that we have excellent doctors who practice and  translate that into individual therapy regimens for patients,  and that folks like Yuvraj Singh and many other folks of various ages ,  can now have a good prognosis, and return to their active useful lives again ....




  1. Gappa, you make such sense to me.

    In the U.S., we fight the same problems, ours exacerbated by religious ferver and cronyism.

    The world over, Gappa, people take what they can, because they can...


  2. in context to indian politics the answer is NO.. thats never going to happen what we want .. they are worse then cancer.. for some cancers nowadays can be cured ..
    but our dirty politicians are such they will never get cured ..

    God bless yuvraj singh and hope he gets well soon.. looking at the way indian cricket team is doing we do need him back in action very soon ..