As Sam Gamgee said at the very end of The Lord of the Rings, “Well, I’m back.”

I’m starting this post this way because some of you might not realize that I was on vacation the last couple of weeks. The post from two weeks ago was written before I left, and last week’s post was a reworking of a post from my not-so-super-secret other blog. This week, in order to ease myself back into the swing of things after a long flight home from Europe (and partially because the wifi was very slow on the flight), I thought I’d recount a case. It’s a case that I can’t believe I’ve never discussed in detail here on Science-Based Medicine before, but a search of the archives demonstrates conclusively that, although I’ve mentioned her name in passing while discussing the case of Sarah Hershberger, I’ve never really discussed the case of Cassandra Callender, and I really should have. Another reason is that right before I left two weeks ago on what for me is the longest vacation I’ve taken in many a year, I became aware of a development in her case that gave me hope.

The reason I mentioned Cassandra Callender in the context of discussing Sarah Hershberger is that, unfortunately, they both share something in common. Both are minors who refused chemotherapy for life-threatening cancers in favor of “natural” healing. There the similarities (mostly) end. Sarah Hershberger, for example, was only 12 years old when she was diagnosed and belonged to an Amish community in Ohio near Akron meaning that cultural issues played a heavy role in her parents’ decision to stop her chemotherapy prematurely. Callender, on the other hand, was 17 when she was diagnosed in 2015, thus making her case more complicated given how close she was to being an adult and able to make her own medical decisions. About a year ago, I thought Callender’s case, like so many of the cases of minors whose parents are chemotherapy refuseniks or who have enough of a “natural therapy” mindset that they don’t have the parenting wherewithal to tell chemo-averse teen that she needs it and is going to get it—period, end of conversation—and then enforce that decision, was hopeless. Now I don’t. The reason is simple. Just before I left on vacation, I became aware that Callender now has a GoFundMe page, and this is what it says:

This page has been set up to help raise money for Cassandra’s 2nd battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2014 she was diagnosed and pronounced in remission after 6 months of chemotherapy in 2015. 9 months later in 2016 Cassandra had found out she relapsed with a mass in her left lung and surrounding neck/chest. She spent the whole year using alternative treatments/cannabis oils but unfortunately the cancer became more aggressive. In January of 2017 cassandra [sic] discovered that now both of her lungs are full of masses along with her surrounding lungs , chest , surrounding heart and neck. Cassandra now has to go through a very intensive 6-9 months of chemotherapy, again in hopes that things clear up. Her life expectancy doesn’t look well at the moment and it’s going to be quite the battle . She no longer has a normal breathing capacity and struggles with daily life functions that the sickness brings. She is unable to work, is now behind on bills and overall the financial struggle of going through this process yet again is taking a financial toll on her and her family . Any donations would be appreciated at this time . All donations will go directly to Cassandra. After going through this battle once already, Cassandra looks at life as everyday a gift especially when the next day is not promised.

She even includes a most excellent image illustrating her attitude towards cancer:

Cassandra Callender, March 2017, from her GoFundMe page.

Cassandra Callender, March 2017, from her GoFundMe page.

The basic story is all too common, but with a twist. The synopsis is that Callender was forced to undergo chemotherapy under court order when she was 17, but didn’t complete it after she turned 18. Instead, she fell in with cancer quack Ty Bollinger, who featured her case in an episode of his incredibly misleading, pseudoscience-packed, quackery-promoting video series, The Truth About Cancer. Unfortunately, she relapsed, after which she continued with alternative therapies for several months until the progression of her tumor disabused her of any notion that what she was doing was effective. Now, happily, she’s undergoing chemotherapy and has a fighting chance. Her story is worth telling in more detail, though, because it brings up many thorny issues, some ethical, and some involving how quacks exploit young people like her. It all began back in 2014.

A diagnosis, a refusal, and a court ruling

In September 2014, Cassandra Callender, then referred to as “Cassandra C” because she was 17 and still a minor, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Another thing that makes her case different from that of Sarah Hershberger is that she refused chemotherapy before having received a single dose. Remember that Hershberger underwent two cycles before deciding she couldn’t take it anymore and refusing further treatment. In November 2014, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) petitioned the court for temporary custody and ordered Callender’s mother to cooperate with her daughter’s medical care. The court ruled in DCF’s favor, and Cassandra underwent two doses of chemotherapy. Then Cassandra ran away from home on November 18 and was missing for a week. She ultimately returned but then completely refused any further chemotherapy. There was another hearing on December 9, and the trial court ordered that Cassandra be removed from her home and remain in DCF’s care and custody. The court also authorized DCF to make all medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf. So Cassandra and her mother appealed, and in early January 2015 that appeal was heard.

The court ruled:

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state may continue to force a teenager to undergo chemotherapy treatments that could save her life.

The court said that attorneys for the girl — who is 17 and therefore still a minor — failed to prove that she is mature enough to make her own medical decisions.

The teen, identified in court documents as “Cassandra C,” was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September. Medical experts have testified that Cassandra has an 85% chance of survival if treated with chemotherapy. Without it, doctors say, she likely will die within two years.

And, indeed, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is very treatable, particularly in young adults and children. An 85% chance of long term survival is a typical number cited in these cases. At the time there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between what Cassandra’s mother and her lawyer were saying:

After the court’s ruling Thursday, Fortin [Jackie Fortin, Cassandra’s mother] told reporters “she should be home with me, her family, her friends, going through a horrible thing with all this and she’s not, she’s been taken away.”

Fortin who was in court alongside her attorney Michael Taylor, also said “this is (my daughter’s) decision, not mine and she’s not making a decision to die.”

And what Cassandra herself was saying:

Cassandra told The Associated Press in an exclusive text interview from her hospital it disgusts her to have “such toxic harmful drugs” in her body and she’d like to explore alternative treatments. She said she understands “death is the outcome of refusing chemo” but believes in “the quality of my life, not the quantity.”

“Being forced into the surgery and chemo has traumatized me,” Cassandra wrote. “I do believe I am mature enough to make the decision to refuse the chemo, but it shouldn’t be about maturity, it should be a given human right to decide what you want and don’t want for your own body.”

There is a myth about cancer that I like to refer to as the myth of the “beautiful death.” Basically, it’s the idea that it’s the chemotherapy that makes the course of the disease so miserable and death from cancer so unpleasant. Although I have only my anecdotal experience here, this misconception appears most common among teenagers and young adults, who haven’t yet started to experience the physical decline of their bodies. Indeed, another such teen, Abraham Cherrix, expressed this myth rather eloquently when interviewed by the ever-irresponsible Sean Hannity. Unfortunately, as I’ve written before, with few exceptions, death from untreated cancer is anything but pleasant or painless.

I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand that Cassandra and her mother appealed based on the “mature minor” doctrine, which exists in many states including Connecticut, that allows minors deemed to be mature enough to make their own medical decisions, even if they conflict with their parents or, in this case, with the court. A good explanation of these issues can be found in this article, which explains that Cassandra and her mother’s case rested on three arguments:

  • Their constitutional rights were violated when Connecticut overrode their demands to cease treatment.
  • Cassandra and her mother also want Connecticut to acknowledge the mature minor doctrine, meaning that the court must decide if Cassandra is mature enough to make her own decisions before forcing her to receive medical care against her will.
  • Common law in Connecticut says a patient can’t be forced to receive care over knowing and informed objection.

The state countered that when all the medical experts agree that chemotherapy is needed to save the life of a minor, then the state has an obligation to step in and make sure that it is administered, just as it has an obligation to step in to stop abuse or neglect. In the end, the court sided with the state, noting a pattern of not going to treatment and bad faith, with promises to see doctors and seek second opinions made, but Cassandra nonetheless missing multiple doctor’s appointments. Also, the fact that Cassandra had run away after having promised under oath to be treated was taken as evidence of immaturity. (This latter one puzzled me; you don’t have to be immature to lie and plot, promising to do one thing and then doing another. Adults do this all the time.) The court also noted that Cassandra was very deferential to her mother and rarely spoke up for herself, in essence letting her mother do all the talking.

An ethical conundrum

Regular readers know that I very predictably come down—and come down very strongly—on the side of making sure that children in these situations obtain treatment. I take a back seat to no one in terms of being a fierce advocate of making sure that minors with cancer get the best chance of living to be happy, healthy adults, regardless of what their woo-prone parents or even they themselves want. Regular readers should also know that I’ve always said that competent adults should be able to choose whatever treatment they want or no treatment at all, even if it will result in their death. That’s why at the time I was very much torn about this case. The reason was simple. Cassandra was 17 and was going to be 18 in September 2015, eight months after the appeal. She was very close to being an adult legally. I have no problem—and never have had a problem—accepting that children are too immature to make such momentous decisions and that parents who refuse to treat children with cancer with appropriate therapy are guilty of medical neglect. Such certainty is easy for 10, 11, 12, 13, and even 14 year olds. Heck it’s easy for 15 and even 16 year olds. But as a child hits 17 and gets closer to being a legal adult, it becomes harder for me to be quite so certain.

Then there are practical matters. Let’s go back to a post I wrote about a similar case of a chemotherapy “refusenik,” in which I noted that, while it may be possible to physically restrain a teen in order to place permanent intravenous access and then, every so often, to give her chemotherapy, it would be very difficult, and there would be nothing to stop her from trying to rip the intravenous access out to prevent further doses, potentially hurting herself, unless she were kept under constant surveillance and possibly even put under anesthesia for her chemotherapy dose. In other words, she would in essence need to be imprisoned for therapy. Then there was the issue of radiation therapy, which requires the cooperation of the patient, who must lie still on the table and do so every day for 30-40 days, depending on the radiation therapy regimen. Sure, Cassandra could have been sedated for each session, but there’s nothing good about sedating someone five days a week for six weeks or so. As I pointed out before, oncologists have a real problem doing this, and for good reason.

In any case, part of the above was basically what happened to Cassandra, although fortunately anesthesia wasn’t necessary except for her port placement, for which a combination of local and IV sedation are routinely used. She was locked away in a hospital and is not allowed to see her mother more than once a week, and then only under supervision. DCF took away her cell phone, and the hospital removed her room’s land line. Fortunately, she was cooperative, but imagine if she hadn’t been.

Exploitation by quacks

Months passed with little or no information that I could glean about what was going on with Callender’s case. Ultimately, she was released from the hospital in April 2015, her cancer reportedly in remission. By August, she was willingly in the clutches of cancer quack Ty Bollinger. Presumably her mother was on board as well, because Cassandra was still 17 at the time; her 18th birthday a few weeks away.

Of course the cancer quackery brigade wanted to interview her, and they did! Also not surprisingly, Bollinger interviewed her for his quack website The Truth About Cancer under the predictably histrionic title “The Medical Kidnapping of Cassandra C (Finally The Truth Revealed) – The Truth About Cancer Exclusive Interview.” Also not surprisingly, the same video was hosted at NaturalNews.com:

It’s disturbing to view.

The first thing I learned from the video was that Cassandra’s diagnosis was delayed, perhaps because of an atypical presentation. She had had severe abdominal pain that was worked up, but, according to her, the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Then her primary care doctor felt a very enlarged lymph node “the size of a golf ball” and treated it with antibiotics. It didn’t go away. So what happened next sounded like a series of needle biopsies, which apparently didn’t provide enough tissue for diagnosis. Ultimately a surgical biopsy was performed, which, according to Cassandra, “looked like” Hodgkin’s lymphoma but that they weren’t sure.

As we already knew, Cassandra didn’t want chemotherapy. In the interview, she justified her decision based on the long term effects of chemotherapy:

I was reading into it. They were saying possible organ failures and difficulty doing physical activity the rest of my life, and I didn’t want that when I knew that there was homeopathic and natural ways of treating cancer.

Sadly, this is a very common rationale, fear of long term chemotherapy side effects. It’s not an unreasonable fear. However, when the alternative is death, the possibility of such long term side effects is not as unreasonable as it would be for a disease that was not so immediately life-threatening. It’s also a false equivalency. Sure, homeopathic treatments for cancer will be a hell of a lot less toxic. They also won’t do anything to treat the cancer. Cassandra would have felt much better for a while taking homeopathy than taking five months of chemotherapy; that is, until her cancer progressed.

There was also an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come in this video, as Cassandra revealed that her cancer might not have been completely eradicated. She referred to a PET scan she had in the month before that “didn’t look good” and how she was waiting for new scans. Not surprisingly, this led Bollinger and Cassandra—but particularly Bollinger—to express disgust that “they” forced Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy and yet there might be some cancer left. Well, as far as the chemotherapy goes, Bollinger needs to get over it. No treatment is 100% successful, and sometimes the first cycle doesn’t completely eradicate the disease. Cassandra related that a few months ago they thought she was in remission but in July her scan “wasn’t clear” and there was something that lit up. The doctors weren’t sure what it is. That, of course, is why chemotherapy for lymphoma requires so many cycles. We found out the hard way decades ago that just one cycle leaves the patient with an unacceptably high risk of recurrence. It takes multiple courses, including initiation, consolidation, and maintenance therapy, to reduce the risk of recurrence as much as possible.

One particularly despicable aspect of this video comes at the 19:20 mark, when Bollinger promised Cassandra that he could help her and show her ways to remain cancer-free, offering to help to get her to September 30 (her 18th birthday) without having to take chemotherapy. Indeed, she and Bollinger discussed how she could engage in a delaying action, pushing tests, appointments, and scans back as far as possible, so that there would be less time for her to receive any treatment again. Cassandra even noted that if it were only three weeks before her 18th birthday no judge would be likely to order her to undergo treatment when the treatment would stop in three weeks anyway. Basically, the two discussed how Cassandra could “run out the clock” and then go to Ty Bollinger, who will hook her up with practitioners who would “detox” her, give her laetrile and/or sodium bicarbonate and/or medical marijuana, put her on an alkaline diet, and subject her to whatever cancer quackery sounds most appealing.

Elsewhere, Bollinger stated that he thinks the “right” to choose natural healing is a fundamental human right, to which Cassandra responded:

I think it’s true. Either way I’m still doing something for my health. A lot of people in media have misinterpreted, saying that I wanted to die of cancer instead of treatment, but that’s not true. I simply didn’t want the chemotherapy, something that was less harmful to your body. Cancer is harmful enough to your body. Why would you want to add more to that?

Later, she said:

I never wanted to die. I wanted another way to live.

One notes that this directly contradicts what she said to AP News in the interview quoted above.

Cassandra also had a fundamental misunderstanding of chemotherapy and cancer:

Your statistics drop if you do chemo and then have to do it for a second time. I had an 85% survival and that won’t be the same if I have to do it a second time. And if they couldn’t cure me at 85, I don’t have any hope that they could do it for anything lower with chemotherapy.

Notice how she attributed the lower survival rate in patients who relapse after treatment to the second cycle of chemotherapy, rather than to having disease that was too resistant to be eradicated by the first course of chemotherapy. I can understand lacking faith that a second round of chemotherapy could cure her after the first one failed; that’s understandable even in patients who accept conventional therapy. In actuality, though, her relapse was an indication of bad disease with a bad prognosis. It’s not the chemotherapy that made it that way. It’s the fact that she had stage III-IV Hodgkin’s disease. Here Cassandra continued to demonstrate magical thinking at every level. She thought that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer “naturally” or with homeopathy. There isn’t. Would that there were! I mean, seriously. If there were such treatments, doctors would be falling all over themselves to use them, because we don’t like having to give patients drugs that cause severe toxicity and then dealing with that toxicity and watching our patients suffer.

Relapse and revelation

Eight months after her interview with Ty Bollinger, I learned that Callender’s cancer had relapsed:

A teenager who was forced by the courts to undergo chemotherapy for her cancer says a new mass has been found in her lungs.

Cassandra Callender, of Windsor Locks, disclosed the news Saturday on her Facebook page, posting an image of a CT scan dated Friday.

“This is the mass that is now inside of my lung,” she wrote. “I’ve known about this for a while, but it’s been hard going public with it. But this is why I fought so hard against chemotherapy. I am so sick of being treated like number and how everything is based off of statistics. I am a patient not a number.”

As bad as this news was, her life was still salvageable. To accomplish this would have required a difficult and arduous treatment, however. In general, the treatment of choice for relapsed or refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma is salvage chemotherapy followed by autologous stem cell transplantation. In other words, the patient’s bone marrow is harvested for stem cells, after which the patient undergoes high-dose chemotherapy that wipes out her bone marrow and then has her bone marrow reconstituted by the harvested stem cells. It’s hard to predict the likelihood of success because I don’t know enough about Callender’s clinical situation, but salvage therapy of this type yields five year overall survival rates in the range of 40-60%.

That’s admittedly not great. It’s horrible indeed to be 18 years old and facing a future of high dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant whose chance of letting her live five years is probably around 50-50 and of rendering her cancer-free for that time is around one in three, one in two at best. After she turned 18, Callender chose woo until sometime around March, which was when her GoFundMe page was posted. I’ll discuss more of what that woo entailed in a moment, but for now it suffices to know that the woo didn’t work and Callender’s disease is progressing alarmingly. Cannabis oils didn’t stop the cancer because cannabis does not cure cancer. Sadly, none of this is a surprise; untreated relapsed Hodgkin’s lymphoma is incredibly unlikely to go away, spontaneous remissions being quite rare, and that’s basically what would have had to have happened for Callender to get better: a spontaneous remission. At least she is finally getting potentially life-saving treatment again.

In actuality, this outcome is not uncommon among those who choose quackery instead of medicine. When it becomes mind-numbingly obvious even to them that the quackery isn’t stopping the relentless growth and spread of their cancer, they go back to the chemotherapy. Unfortunately, by then it is often too late, or they have to undergo a much more rigorous and unpleasant treatment with less chance of success than they had before. But at least now Callender has a real shot at surviving, and I truly hope that she does.

As sad and yet now hopeful her case is, it does illustrate one more thing, specifically the exploitation of young women like Callender and children whose parents also pursue alternative cures for cancer, which I address in the final section.

The exploitation of Cassandra Callender by Ty Bollinger and Hope4Cancer

It’s hard for me to imagine a person more vile and despicable than Ty Bollinger, with the possible exception of Mike Adams. What he did “for” Cassandra Callender was to lead her down a path of quackery that almost kept her from pursuing the salvage therapy that can still save her life, after having used her as a poster child for his quackery in his deceptive pseudodocumentary series The Truth About Cancer.

I strongly suspect that Callender’s choice to return to using conventional medicine in a last ditch effort to save her life explains a puzzling thing I noticed on Facebook while researching this post. In March 2016, about a month before Callender’s relapse made the news, Bollinger posted this on his “Truth About Cancer” Facebook page:

Here’s the interesting thing. The Vimeo link to the video above is dead. Similarly, the link to a similar earlier video from Callender from August 2016 that Ty Bollinger had posted to Facebook is also dead:

So Callender appeared, with Bollinger’s help, to have gone to Tony and Marcy Jimenez’s Hope 4 Cancer Institute in—where else?—Mexico. And, sadly, Hope4Cancer is quacky indeed. Just take a look at what it offers:

Rule of thumb: Any place that offers coffee enemas to treat cancer is a quack clinic par excellence.

Coffee enemas are such common quackery, though, that it’s hard for me to get too worked up about it being offered by Hope4Cancer. Rather, perhaps my favorite is this treatment, which is not like most of what I’ve seen before:

At Hope4Cancer Institute we require that the patients watch an Immuno-Imagery program, a health imaging video and audio series that promotes health from within. This unique self-imaging system combines the scientific discoveries of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of the interaction between the mind and the immune system) with the latest professional guided imagery and deep relaxation techniques of Emmett E. Miller, M.D., a nationally acclaimed physician specializing in Psychophysiological Medicine.

This comprehensive program contains time-lapse motion picture photography through a microscope of actual immune cells. It reveals captivating animation, coupled with an inspiring narration that describes just how the body defends itself. These images guide the patient through a visualization process that helps activate their immune system. The audio provides relaxation and visualization guidance with soothing music and calming sounds of nature. Dr. Miller comments, “IMMUNO-IMAGERY provides a crucial element in any program designed to support the healing process in a most beneficial way, providing clear, vivid images of healthy functioning immune cells doing exactly what you want them to do within your body.”

Yes, the Jimenezes sell their marks a bunch of videos of animations of how the immune system works with a soundtrack of soothing nature sounds as a method of showing patients how to tell their immune system to attack the cancer. Yeah, that’ll work. (That’s sarcasm, people.) I particularly like the woo babble (like Star Trek technobabble but with woo) about psychoneuroimmunology, proving once again that quacks can co-opt any scientific term in the service of selling stuff.

Then there’s this, which sounds scientific but really isn’t:

At Hope4Cancer Institute we have the technology and know-how to extract, from urine, the proteins that are produced by the cancer cells and develop a vaccine “Autologous Antigen Receptor Specific Oncogenic Target Acquisition” (AARSOTA). This vaccine is administered intramuscularly at specific intervals to promote an antigen-antibody response and provide immunological information to the antibodies. The immunological response enhances specific cancer fighting ability by the body’s defense system.

Tumor markers are measurable biochemicals that are associated with a malignancy. They are either produced by tumor cells (tumor-derived) or by the body in response to tumor cells (tumor-associated). They are typically substances that are released into the circulation and thus measured in the blood. There are a few exceptions to this, such as tissue-bound receptors that must be measured in a biopsy from the solid tumor or proteins that are secreted into the urine.

It all sounds pretty impressive; that is, if you don’t know anything about cancer. What amazed me even more is that the Jimenezes basically admit that what they are doing is complete BS:

As tumor cells grow and multiply, some of their substances can increase and leak into the bloodstream or other fluids. Depending upon the tumor marker, it can be measured in blood, urine, stool or tissue. Some widely used tumor markers include: AFP, beta-HCG, CA 15-3, CA 19-9, CA 27.29, CA 125, CEA, and PSA. Some tumor markers are associated with many types of cancer; others, with as few as one. Some tumor markers are always elevated in specific cancers; most are less predictable. However, no tumor marker is specific for cancer and most are found in low levels in healthy persons, or can be associated with non-neoplastic diseases as well as cancer. Also, no tumor marker test is free of false negatives or false positives.

If you know anything about cancer, you’ll quickly figure out that the above passage basically tells you that trying to make a vaccine out of all these tumor markers isolated from the urine is doomed to failure. In the slideshow that accompanies this woo babble, slide 6 shows a list of cancer vaccines in development by other companies without noting that the antigens being targeted are far more specific to the tumors being treated. The presentation also includes a slide about how whole cell extracts are good sources of cancer antigens, as though this justifies the approach of extracting them from urine. In particular, I note that not a single scientific paper or clinical trial is presented to justify the AARSOTA treatment.

I could go on—and maybe one day will. Let’s just say that the Hope4Cancer website is—shall we say?—a “target-rich” environment for a blogger like me. I’ve just presented enough to give you the idea of what sort of quacks exploited Callender and then dropped her when her recurrent cancer progressed while she was being treated at Hope4Cancer and especially after she decided to actually try to save her life with science-based oncologic treatment.

Discarding “inconvenient” testimonials, or: Heads I win, tails you lose

The case of Cassandra Callender saddens me but at the same time gives me hope. Certainly, there’s no doubt that she got a raw deal, first being diagnosed with cancer and then being on the wrong end of the 85% survival rate for Hodgkin’s lymphoma when her cancer relapsed. However, she still had a decent shot to salvage the situation. It would have been a hard and painful road. The high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell rescue still had about a 50-50 chance of failing. But the flip side of that is it also had a 50-50 chance of succeeding. By choosing quackery, unfortunately Cassandra Callender unwittingly or not chose death, even as she later claimed she was choosing life. Her tumor progressed. Fortunately she appears to have realized her mistake, and I’m overjoyed that she’s finally fallen back on real medicine. I really do hope it’s not too late and that a bone marrow transplant can save her life. Unfortunately, delay is the enemy in cancer, and that’s what quackery did; it delayed the definitive treatment of her relapse by at least a year.

If Callender thinks that the quacks at Hope4Cancer and Ty Bollinger don’t know that, she should ask them why they’ve scrubbed the two videos about her “journey” at Hope4Cancer from Vimeo. (Certainly I couldn’t find them, either using the links in the Facebook posts—of which I’ve taken screenshots, by the way, in case Bollinger tries to flush them down the memory hole too) or through searching Google and Vimeo.

The reason is simple. While Cassandra looked healthy and vibrant and could say her relapsed Hodgkin’s lymphoma wasn’t progressing, here was an excellent testimonial that Bollinger and Hope4Cancer could use to sell their quackery. Once it became very clear that her cancer was progressing, despite all the cannabis oil and other quackery that the Jimenezes could throw at it, her testimonial became much less useful. Indeed, notice how the later one doesn’t say much about the state of her cancer but how she was continuing “to grow in beauty, wisdom, grace, love, and health,” whatever that means in the context of treating a life-threatening disease. Once she decided to undergo bone marrow transplantation to try to save her life, her testimonial then became utterly useless to them, particularly if, as I fervently hope, the treatment is successful and Cassandra survives to live a long, full life.

Unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, if Callender dies of her disease relapse despite maximal therapy, her testimonial will become useful to Bollinger again. He and other quacks will point to her story and oh-so-sadly and piously say it was because poor, dear, deluded Cassandra was tempted by the evil cancer-chemo-pharma cartel and therefore didn’t stay the course with the Hope4Cancer treatment that she died. The chemotherapy, they will falsely claim, is what killed her, not the cancer. Then they’ll use that story to scare the other marks whose faith might be wavering.

That’s how cancer quacks operate.

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.