Chapter 17: The Ladybird Book of Extremely Tedious Oncological Platitudes

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
Terry Pratchett

Special thanks to:
Peter Jago for the original artwork
David Allen Green for the inspiration


  1. Good one, worth sharing widely. One correction: Page 4, Line 7 should be "they're" not "their"

  2. That was quick! This was the first I'd read but it seems you're doing people a very valuable service. Keep up the good work.

  3. Excellent. Calmly yet firmly rational. And no one gets beaten with a big, dirty stick.-)

  4. Thanks for this and I can think of a few other word for the 'certain doctor in America' but they would probably get me in trouble.

  5. Great post. Page 4 "effect the drug sales profits" should be "affect..."

  6. If Ladybird books don't option this there is no justice ;)

  7. Those illustrations are amazing (as you are for sharing).

  8. Terribly sorry to hear of your illness and best wishes for your treatment. I have to say that this is a brilliant piece and one of the calmest and most rational approaches to these issues I've ever read. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Thank you. I was just dx with bladder cancer. My mom will not discuss it with me; after all, I had surgery so I don't have cancer anymore, right? I am therefore confused; my treatments for the cancer I don't have begin in 2 weeks and will likely continue for 3 years.
    It's not Beetlejuice. It won't come back if I say the word "cancer" 3X.

  10. This is Crispian. Crispian is a wise and sensible man.

    This is John. John hopes Crispian will get better. He tells Crispian to keep listening to reputable doctors and following their advice. John wishes there was some magical way he could cure Crispian but knows there isn't. So, instead, John will wish Crispian well and remember him and the lessons he teaches us all.

  11. Dear Crispian.
    This was the most funny and sad story about cancer I've read. I'll hope your treatment gives you enough time to make us laugh more. Wishing you the best.

  12. Thank you, this hits close to home for me. Recently I was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia, and the woo peddlers came out fast. Like you, I stick to real medical science. Luckily my type of cancer isn't very malignant, and I will most likely go for years without feeling any symptoms and resulting treatment.
    Still, the cancer keeps lurking in my thoughts.
    @Nancy Yeah denial will help so much /sarcasm... Good luck for your treatment

  13. Thank you so much for this. I was diagnosed with cancer of the piriform fossa (a small organ in the throat) in 2013, and those reactions are so familiar!

    I think it's well-meaning, in that people want to try to say something helpful but don't know what to say, but I had to struggle to be patient with some friends.

    I found the sites you mentioned, Cancer Research UK, NHS Direct and (particularly) the Macmillan advice forums really helpful. Thanks for recommending them.

    I hope the treatment goes well. Best of luck.

  14. I'm ashamed to say that when I was about 20 a good friend's father was diagnosed with cancer. Being into 'Health Foods' at the time I made him some terrible wholemeal, sugar free, anything-nice-free sort of cake things, hoping they would help.
    I later learned he had thrown them in the bin amid his family's horrified laughter, though I'm not certain whether even industrial waste-disposal equipment could really have crushed them, because they were like rocks.
    I was glad to hear they gave him some pleasure and that he never ate them, having realised how completely stupid I had been. Amazingly, his wife and I are still friends.
    I wish you all the very best.

  15. Crispian, I've just clicked on your post.
    Not going to give you the run of platidudes, because that most likely not what you want to hear, but what you have written is good. (I could even feel myself smiling at some of the comments the "kindly" people made about your diagnosis.
    I've never had cancer, but I have a son with learning disabilities, autism and a rare chromosome abnormality. He's 27,has a love of all things Disney, but when he was younger, I disliked the comments of poor soul, or maybe he'll get better, or have you thought of........ (Insert whatever quack remedy has been in the news).
    I now smile sweetly, while muttering oh, ffs so often, I almost expect my almost 2 year old grandson to say it to his dad as he comes to collect him of an evening!!

  16. Good luck Crispian and thanks for sharing. I wish and you loved ones all the best.

  17. Crispian, I've always admired your skeptical work, and I've only just heard about your diagnosis. I'm very sorry. I see the next chapter is clinical trial, so I feel justified in looking ahead with hope as well a deep appreciation for all you've done.

  18. Dear Crispian,

    I would just like to say thank you for your original, witty and give-them-a-good-kicking-cos-they-desrve-it skeptical work. I have been following your cancer writing for the last month, and I find it very sad and courageous.

    I hope you make the best of the time you have left.

  19. Page 4 is the only one that made me pause.. I fear it's bundling two things together; the rejection of chemo or aggressive interventions doesn't necessarily go along with the dietary woo peddling.

    Having lost a fair few of my family to various forms of Cancer, and witnessed their own progress, my conversations with family have come around to the position that, faced with a lot of interventions to extend life by a few months I would rather look for a palliative care plan that sought to maximise quality of remaining life, rather than duration.

    still, it's easy to say that from here, isn't it? I hope your remaining life, however long that is, is as rich and joyous as possible.

  20. Crispian
    I can't give you diet or Deity advice but from your writing you are clearly loved. I hope you keep on going for as long as possible, the world is obviously richer with you in it.

    Your story touched & informed me and I would like to thank you.

    I lost my mum to cancer when I was young, my Father & father in law are both suffering though thankfully in remission, it is dreadful and I wish you & your family well.


    1. Crispian, I just found your site. I was sent here by PZ Myers. He says that facing death you have the very stiffest of upper lips and attributes it to your being British. I know he is incorrect; I am a medical oncologist and have cared for many people before they passed from this earth. It is not that you are British; it is because you live a good life and are well loved. I will read every word of this blog in the next few months. And I will share it widely, among friends and colleagues and patients. This chapter especially. Thank you. Dr Raucous Indignation

    2. Thanks, I think you're right.

  21. Many thanks for all the comments and good wishes this week. I will continue to post weekly chapters as this blog is currently about 10 months behind current events and I've had a few ups and down on my first line chemotherapy. You can follow me on Twitter @Crispian_Jago to get notifications of updates to this blog.

    Thanks you

  22. Thanks so much for your wit and your honesty, Crispian. I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis and I wish you the best. I'm an atheistic molecular biologist with breast cancer so I can relate to a lot of your posts. Looking forward to the next one but no pressure! Take care. S

    1. Thaks. I've written a few more in advance, but I do need to get on and write some more.

  23. Brilliant; I think I will share it with all my cancer patients!!
    Sending Best Wishes

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