I was invited to give a keynote address on the Role of the Media in Cancer Awareness and Control in Nigeria at a cancer awareness forum at the Medical Compound, Yaba in July 2005. There were many medical doctors there, but I was not there to be part of a debate. It was obvious that most of the participants at that forum were not prepared for what I had to say. Are you ready for it?
Let me express my appreciation for this privilege to address you on a topic that is straightforward but which for me has provided an opportunity to raise questions to which those familiar with the field must have to provide answers. Or to be more accommodating, the experts will have to refocus what they are doing if we will not continue to grope for solutions. The problem is not the media or the role which it must play in society to inform, educate, entertain and moderate the conclusions which those who have enlightened media guidance may draw on any issue. The problem is not even the inadequacy of media to attend to an area of this import so that our people wherever they may be can have access to what to do about a disease which they know little or nothing about. To many, any ailment that persists and grounds anyone must have its origin among witches. But are they wrong to draw these conclusions when the environment has not been created for them to be better informed?
The problem is that we have not worked hard enough to put a finger on what cancer is, what causes it, and how very cheaply indeed we can tame this scourge at minimum cost to us as a developing country, that is if we concentrate on areas we are in control of. My presentation here will therefore raise questions on the worth of what the media should be pushing out to people whose worldview about life transcends the physical, but which we who say we are educated are impatient to examine. I can only plead with you to accommodate my incursions into areas you may think have nothing to do with what we are here for, but which will, in our circumstance, pay off handsomely since, as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, just last week, I was privileged to look at the package sent across to me by the Bloom Cancer Care and Support Centre which provides information, support and counseling to those living with cancer, their relations and care-givers. It aims at creating a positive awareness of the disease in the community. I read them, being strengthened by the advice that I be enlightened, not frightened.
The truth is that I have a personal experience of living with a cancer patient for one year. She was my elder brother’s wife, and she came over to Lagos and had to go to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH. It was there that, after investigations which took almost three months, she was told that she had to live with only one breast. For a woman six feet tall, huge and complete with what makes women women , you can think of what she was being told about a distortion which would hang over the chest area, if she must live. She chose life,
After this woman had lost her breast, the next port of call was the radiotherapy department. The whole place was full and there was this very lively man in charge who may not have been aware that people who claimed to be his agents were collecting money before intimating him of their presence. But it was not the corruption that was the main concern. It was the fact that the two radiotherapy machines were not functioning. The promise was made every time you went there that the machine would soon be operational! And people were right there, groaning, waiting for a machine to wake up and lessen the pains they were going through; waiting to take the next step to adjust to life after they had lost a breast. But here was a woman on my hands, confident that the necessary follow-up to the surgery she had undergone would soon provide an opportunity to adjust to a life without a breast. And the hospital where there ought to have been everything you needed to assure recovery from your ailment had no facility to save the life of a woman who had lost her breast to cancer. The woman died.
I wrote a letter to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Shehu Musa. This was the time of Shehu Shagari. He sent me a reply which documented how much had been spent on that particular department and accused those working there of fraud. I was so upset that I asked where the nearest place was that patients could receive radiation treatment. Not that it mattered any more. But I just wanted to know. How could my country which had the experts to man most of the gadgets that would make the difference between life and death be lukewarm if not insensitive about whether such commonplace gadgets were there or functioning. I was to be told later that after the operation had been done in Nigeria, people found their way to Monrovia, Liberia for the radiation treatment! The war in Liberia had not given it the ugly scars it was to bear in future.
So, Lanke, that was her name, died because this country’s radiation treatment machine was faulty. I do not know how many died before she came, and how many followed after her. I do not know if improvements have been made, but it was unfortunate that a specialist hospital which was supposed to have everything in place had not the basic things needed to attend to a woman whose breast had been cut off so that she could have relief from the pain she was going through. Believe me when I say that I was happy she passed on, not because I was celebrating death or was tired of going to hospital every day for nine months, but that the body which was so much in pain had been pulled back to the soil where it came from in the first place. You need no lecture on the fact, because it is a fact, that the soul suffers no physical pain, be in cancer, madness of broken limbs.
The need to let people know all there is to cancers and their care cannot be overemphasized but who tells the story that the media will publish? Where are the research centres where information can be accessed, and where are the places that care for those who are in pain, and waiting to die? In other words, if we want the media to play a role in cancer awareness, where is the central body to relate to, a body which may have material on cancer research in Nigeria, like say the American Cancer Society which is dedicated to helping everyone who faces cancer through research, patient service, early detection, treatment and education. Where is Nigeria’s National Cancer Institute, if there is one. Give me the address and I will visit the website today.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the media in Nigeria has a national brief in the Constitution, section 17(3)(d)of which says that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are medical and health facilities for all persons. It is true that section 17 which is part of chapter two of the Constitution is not justiceable, but non-justiceability has to do with precluding the courts from what the media has been assigned to do on behalf of the people. In the light of the fact that chapter two documents the duties which those in government must perform in the political, economic, social, educational, cultural, environmental and foreign policy areas, journalists are discovering that beats or areas of specialization emerge the more there is activity in the area. For instance, we have National Assembly correspondents because we have re-established the law-making body with the return and restoration of due process. When the military were in power, there were no such correspondents because the first victim of the presence of the military is the lawmaking body which is suspended.
What I am trying to say with some pain in my heart is that many areas that should help life worth living in our polity are the areas most easily compromised. The outcome of joblessness, hunger, denials and deprivations is poor health and what state will be more punishing than the knowledge that your days are numbered because of a ravaging disease that no one is seriously ready to tackle.
The development of beats in journalism is a slow process. Their success is closely tied to the volume of activity in the area of focus. In our own case here, cancer belongs in the health sector. Media houses may well depend on a reporter to cover the whole health sector. This is conceding a lot because many of the media houses cannot afford to put a reporter on a beat that is not continuously active. For example, the National Assembly correspondent goes to the National Assembly everyday because they are busy in plenary or at committees or in one public hearing or the other. The Sports beat has the sports reporter who moves from place to place covering football matches, athletics, cricket. If the establishment is big enough, like the Daily Times of old (I was editor from 1976 to 1980) there would be a group sports editor who would be responsible not only for reporters in the different departments of sports but also for providing material for all the publications. We had a total of 14 in the Daily Times stable.
The health correspondent has found himself moving into some areas like HIV-AIDS which is threatening humanity. I do not know how many NGOs are operating in the Health sector, but the most vocal area is HIV-AIDS. Everyone seems to be pushing for checkmating this deadly curse on humanity and it is as well because a lot of aid, local and international, has poured in.
But what of cancer? I do not know how fair or correct someone was when he said that the American Cancer Society was more interested in accumulating wealth. Unfair as this statement may be, what can we say of the efforts we are supposed to be making here at home? Where is the Who is Who publication that shows those groups that are involved in cancer work, be they government or private? The Federal Ministry of Health must have a section that attends to people in this sector. I have it on good authority that it had more important areas to attend to than cancer. But what of the different independent groups themselves? What package is there that will tell the Cancer Beat reporter all there is to know about cancer, its awareness promotion plan, its funding et al?
Without anything right there for the monitor of the cancer beat to build his story on, he will look for something to write on. The first casualty would be those who may have secured research grants but do not seem to have done anything for people to see. Let us remind ourselves that the media practitioner has no permanent friends, but permanent interests. He is in a beat because there is something to report in that beat. He does his research and may have come to the conclusion that the NGOs in the Health sector are just pushing for money. You may know the proprietor who has the constitutional right to own, establish and operate a medium to impart information, opinion and ideas to those who are willing to receive them. You may call him up and say his boy, as press men are often referred to, is harassing you and could he call him to order! Some proprietors may cover up for you. Others will tell you that they do not interfere in the editorial work of the journalist.
True, the journalist who monitors you is a professional who knows a good story when he sees one. He can be as sweet as honey today, and as bitter as gall tomorrow. It all depends on what’s on. If he comes close and informs people about the wonderful job you are doing helping cancer patients, he is the same person who will go to town where money was collected for use in this area of desperate need, but the moneys are traceable to other areas of interest to those who ought to be giving a service. A scandal has burst, and if one journalist is forced to keep quiet, he will quietly pass the material to another whose paper is more enterprising.
A summary of the point I am making is that work on cancer must be organized at more than the personal level of a kind-hearted philanthropist wanting to help people in need. There must be an elaborate structure that is right there on the ground to cater for all departments of need to fight this terrible human scourge. There must be government involvement to encourage those who are ready and willing to give of themselves in alleviating the suffering of those who are waiting to die. If cancer is as widespread as the few documents I have seen show, then I must say that we are not moving fast enough to tackle the main area which is to create the environment where cancer will not even have a foothold.
This is the area I would like to address from a dimension beyond the scope of science. I would like to make these observations without elaboration:
1) Man is not a native of this earth. The earth is part of the Material World. Man is a native of the Spiritual World which we refer to as Paradise.
2) The make-up of man is not water and bones and all that and no more. These are no more and no less than the material for your agbada and sokoto. But what of the wearer of the clothes?
3) We now know from the Holy Books that man is a spirit, that outside his home in Paradise, he wears different cloaks of the spheres through which he journeys in Creation. So from above to this earth, he has all the cloaks of the spheres which he passed through on his way here and will drop them on his way back after maturing in the world of matter.
4) Each of the cloaks man wears sends out radiations, and so also is his core, the spirit. A combination of the radiations form the aura which seeing ones can look at and detect distortions which are caused by the way man has lived his life or the influences which he permits to flow through him in the environment in which he finds himself.
5) The physical body is nourished from the environment and is weakened where the stuff of the environment is not part of his upkeep.
6) Man can do nothing of himself without cooperation from everything else in the cosmos which is a family that works with laws to which he must willy nilly adjust. Non-adjustment results in distortions which manifest as illnesses.
7) Only the physical body can suffer sickness, not soul, not spirit.
8) Cancer or any other illness for that matter disappears when man passes on.
From what I have just said, it is possible to know the cause of any distortion in health and tackle it from the source. The truth about cancer is that we still do not know the cause. But it does have a cause. I must at this stage call for help from research based on the intimation given in 1929 when someone asked Abd-rushin, author of the Grail Message In the Light of Truth, a question on cancer research. This is what he said,
“Any cancerous growth is conditioned by the incapacity and insufficient activity of the liver! This must be borne in mind. A healthy liver with a really normal activity does not permit any kind of cancer to develop. Therefore, among young people a correspondingly sensible way of living should already be strictly observed. Even among those already ill, the emphasis should be placed mainly on that! With the recovery of the liver the power of the illness is broken, no matter where it is located.” (Abd-ru-shin, Questions and Answers, p 225).
In a lecture he gave in 1935, entitled The Destroyed Bridge, he again mentioned the importance of the liver:
“Quite apart from the smokers themselves , having to breathe in such tobacco smoke hampers the normal development of many an organ in infants and children, especially the necessary firmness and strengthening of the liver, which is particularly important for every person, because when functioning in the right and healthy manner it can prevent the establishment of a cancerous centre as the surest and best means of resistance to this plague” (Vol 3 of the Grail Message, composite volume, page 943).
What is being said here is that the liver is the most important organ in cancer-resistance. In his The Gate Opens, Herbert Vollmann documents researches which point to the liver as the centre of investigation in looking for the cause of cancer. Here are a few of the material he cited:
(1) The liver is the most important barrier in the fight against cancer. As long as this miraculous laboratory is functioning well, a cancerous degeneration of the cells cannot take place. Since the liver thereby occupies a key position in the fight against cancer, we should seek to maintain it for ourselves as an efficient barrier because, as has been stated before, cancer will then be given no opportunity to develop. (D. A. Vogel, The Little Doctor, cited on page 262 of The Gate Opens).
(2) It should be borne in mind that in every case of cancer the liver is damaged and its performance greatly impaired. For this reason alone, the food-intake must be limited. The restoration of a normal liver function is one of the most important objectives of the dietetic treatment of cancer. (Dr. H. Anemueller, Health through Sensible nutrition and Diet cited on page 263 of The Gate Opens).
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. You can see clearly that our problem can be solved in that area of caring which we can conveniently be in control of. We have a large country with six ecological zones, from the rain forest of the south to the savannah in the North. We even can grow crops under temperate conditions because of the highlands in Jos, Obudu and Mambilla Plateau.. We have some of the best fruits on earth and we do not know where the new discoveries on cassava will lead to in health management. Is it not becoming clear that management of cancer through life styles is one area that would cost next to nothing, if we are serious in giving of ourselves to alleviating the damage the cancer scourge has brought to man?
But we have a problem. What do we know about food? We seem to think that we know more than the Creator when it comes to what is good for His creatures. Can we say that what the Bible says about the food we should eat belongs in an era that is past or that what the Quran advises is the best food for you is a suggestion and not what was downloaded to smoothen man’s path in these distant veils in the World of Matter?
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to draw your attention to the fact that there is a price you pay to be healthy. This oughtn’t to have been so, but we have withdrawn from on High to down below, from the spiritual to the material. We do not know that we are aliens on this earth and that we must go back to our temporary home in the Beyond, which is not yet paradise. We tend therefore to fail to do the simple things that will sustain health. Let me give you an example. When my children were to get married, I told them in a letter what they must start doing if they do not want to download problem children on the earth plane. I told them that their mother fed them on breast milk for one year. Their wives must do the same. I quote, “I decided to let you know that minor illnesses are prevented through bringing up the young ones on the mother’s breast milk, NOT on cow-milk or any of the highly advertised formulas that have over time turned out to be killers”.
I told them, “I must emphasize the need to scheme routine exercises into your daily outings, and the place of fruits and vegetables in the management of health. I have come a long way to know that overcooked foods and animal fats are more dangerous to our health than we have ever thought.”
There were three other things I told them. I gave them two passages from the Bible which point to what should be eaten, and quoted the harm to health which certain foods we have been brought up on have caused. You can read for yourself what the Bible says in Genesis chapter 1, verse 29, and Daniel chapter 1 verses 12-15. But what do doctors now tell us about cow milk which over the years we were told was the perfect food for us? Michael Dye says in an article entitled Cow’s Milk is the perfect food for baby calves but many doctors agree: It is not healthy for humans, he says. Hear him:
“Doctors say cow’s milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia, allergies, diarrhea, heart disease, colic, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, sinusitis, skin rashes, acne, increased frequency of colds and flu, arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more, possibly even lung cancer, multiple sclerosis and non-Hodkin’s lymphoma…”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, what I have done in this presentation is part of the work of the media which is asked to monitor governance under section 22 of the Constitution. It is to hold government responsible and accountable to the people and it is itself to uphold the dream anchored in the chapter. In the light of its own responsibility to be part of evolving a programme of sustainable development, what better contribution can it make than point to where we can be most effective and active in the cancer awareness campaign – the area of prevention through drawing attention to our lifestyles?
Let me thank you for this opportunity to be present at this forum. I wish you fruitful deliberations.