Purveyors of False Hope
This article is a follow-up to one written in March 2019.
Last week I received the sad news that Kendra Soucie, wife of Liberty University assistant basketball coach, Brad Soucie, had died. She succumbed to an aggressive form of breast cancer called “Triple Negative Breast Cancer” (TNBC) after a two-year battle with the disease. By all accounts, Kendra was a gracious and talented Christian woman, who served Christ, her family, and her community well. Her friends and relatives testify to her faithful witness in the face of death and of the power and presence of God in her passing. She was just shy of her 50th birthday when she died. She leaves behind a husband and three children.
I wrote about Kendra back in 2019 because I heard about her battle with breast cancer being discussed by the sports broadcasters covering a Liberty game during the annual March Madness event. It was a bittersweet time for Liberty. On the one hand, they had just won their first NCAA Tournament game and on the other hand, one of their beloved family members was fighting for her life. The reason I thought it was important to write about Kendra’s case back then was because I was so alarmed to hear that she was foregoing traditional treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for “holistic” treatments like a special diet and supplements. There is no way to know what would have happened in Kendra’s case had she taken her doctor’s advice and pursued a medically tested approach to her treatment. She had a very aggressive form of breast cancer that does not respond to the newer hormone therapies that have revolutionized breast cancer treatment in the last 20 years. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy have their own risks and create their own kind of suffering. Still, the 5-year survival rate for this form of breast cancer – even if it is detected after it gets into the lymph nodes – can be as high as 65-70% with proper treatment. Newer approaches to treating TNBC are in development and various clinical trials are underway which should raise survival rates in the coming years. In the absence of treatment or if treatment is delayed, this form of cancer is highly lethal.
Without speculating on all the reasons a person might forego treatments that have demonstrated efficacy for treatments which do not, it is a sad reality that the marketplace abounds with peddlers of false hopes promising “cures without poisons” and methods to “stimulate the body to heal itself.” I’ve been battling leukemia for over seven years. I’ve been there. I know the challenges of endless needles and blood draws and scans and drugs with side-effects. Someone offering a cure that requires no harsh treatments but, instead, asks me to alter my diet, adjust my exercise routine, and take some supplements is going to sound very appealing. We all are so prone to believing the person telling us what we want to hear. The internet tempts us to believe that we can all be experts on any topic we decide to study. The problem is that the information on the internet is only as good as its source, and the sources are all over the map in terms of their reliability.
My purpose in writing is simply to warn you about those peddling false hopes. They prey on the vulnerable, often using the opportunity of a medical crisis to extract significant amounts of money from unsuspecting and desperate people. When Kendra Soucie’s situation worsened, she sought help from one such place called “Hope4Cancer Treatment Centers.” Because they offer treatment options with no basis in medical science (like treatment with lasers and sound waves), they cannot legally operate in our country. With several centers in Mexico, they attract American patients who have exhausted other options or who are looking for an alternative approach. For a fee that can approach six-figures (all paid up-front), they will provide a “holistic” approach for your cancer. You can find a patient testimonial on Hope4Cancer’s website called “Kendra Soucie’s Breast Cancer Survivor Story.” Despite the fact that Kendra gained no benefit from their “non-toxic therapies” and despite the fact that she is not a “cancer survivor,” Hope4Cancer continues to use her as an advertisement.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray for this grieving family of believers, but let us also learn to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Whenever anyone is offering you something that sounds too good to be true, assume that it IS too good to be true. Please seek medical advice from the best experts you can find. There are legitimate cancer centers that utilize the best scientific medicine but which also attempt to treat the whole person. The Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson are two places you should investigate.
When I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, my wife went online and searched for the top doctors in the world for my particular cancer. By God’s grace, one name that came up again and again was that of John C. Byrd at The James Cancer Center at The Ohio State University in (relatively) nearby Columbus, OH. Dr. Byrd’s team runs an active research lab. They’ve developed new drugs. They regularly supervise clinical trials. I was treated with conventional chemo when I was first diagnosed because I did not qualify for a trial at that time. When I relapsed two years later, I was able to get into a trial. After another 18 months of treatment with three new drugs, I’ve been in remission for nearly three years. If I had tried to treat myself or if I had opted for an alternative therapy, I would not be here today. I would not have seen my two oldest daughters get married last year. My heart breaks for any family who loses a loved one to cancer, and it breaks even more for those who have been duped by the merchants of false hope to forego treatments that have a high likelihood of succeeding for those that do not.
Jesus came to a weary world, looking for answers and offered one, true and abiding hope: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV). In Him we have the only “sure thing.” Our ultimate hope must not be in anything in the world. But let us seek His guidance in being discerning about where we go for help while we are here.