The Placebo of Ernest the Life Coach

Sitting beside my friend Ernest we chatted the lazy morning away. We were in old town Saint Charles enjoying delicious coffee. Little birds scurried along begging for bread crumbs. Golden rays slipped through the fluffy cloud blankets creating kaleidoscope lightshows in the street.

Beside me was Ernest, he had a lean build halfway between a runner and a weekend warrior. His intensely bored eyes stared into the distance. He was tense and taut as a bow. “What did you think about the book I suggested?”

Watching the steam rise from my cup of coffee I placed my hand over the delightful heat of the freshly brewed deliciousness. Raising my eyes to his. “Oh yeah, the Mind Matter, You Are the Placebo book? It was boring with very little substance.”

Crossing his arms, Ernest’s face reddened as his brow furrowed.

I took a deep breath and continued speaking. “It was like four-hundred pages of pseudoscience garbage.  I get what the intent of the book is, but it’s the kind of message that can lead seriously ill people astray.”

Ernest shifted in his seat, his body movements sharpened, and began speaking faster. “I can’t fucking stand people like you. How can you just discount and dismiss what you read?” His words boiled with anger.

My eyebrow raised, I assumed he took my review as a criticism of him. I was kind of weirded out by his reaction. To ease the discomfort of the scene I raised the mug to my lips and took a sip; it was my favorite, highlander grog. Thankfully it had cooled enough for me to enjoy its exquisite flavor.

I looked at him, then back at the birds and the dark river in the distance. It took a few minutes of silence for his agitation to subside. As the air cleared his grimace lowered and his arms uncrossed.

You know I could’ve charged you when we first met?” He said with a stern face. “But, I value our time too much, so I didn’t…” Slowly he twisted his face into a half smile.  “…and I know you need our meetings.”

I shrugged and took a sip of my coffee. “I wouldn’t have hired you, so it wouldn’t have mattered.”

His half smile curled into a full fake smile.

Watching his reaction, I continued. “I’m sorry… I don’t pay for advice or for people to be my friend.” I said holding my hands on the sides of my warm mug.

A few moments passed. Ernest stretched his leg out, then sat back in his chair. The pallor of his face started to redden again as he pressed his lips together and narrowed his eyes. “So, what’s up, how are things?”

Eh, pretty rough, recovering from chemotherapy has been slow and hard.”

He stared off into space then back at me. “You know, the only reason you haven’t recovered is because you choose to stay sick. Right?”

Excuse me?” I could feel a warm anger in my stomach.

You’re choosing to be sick. As soon as you want to get better you will.” He paused for a moment. “That’s what Joe Dispenza is talking about right? This is all mind over matter.”

That’s not how it works, that’s not how chemotherapy or cancer works.” I was getting angry, but I was doing my best to remain calm.

That is how it works; if you tell your cells what to do they heal. If you chose to be sick, you stay sick. You have chosen to stay sick. Right? It is your decision; all of this is your decision. You’ve chosen to stay sick, just like you chose to get cancer.” His tone grated on my soul, like being stabbed by the splintered uneven edge of a broken spear.

My blood began to boil. How could this mother fucker actually believe this garbage? No one chooses to get cancer; no one wants to be sick.

He continued to explain. “I only get sick when I want to. I’ve been telling my wife and daughter this a long time. To prove it I told my wife I was choosing to get sick and I got sick. She used to have headaches all the time, now I’ve taught her how to choose not to have them, she doesn’t get them anymore. My daughter doesn’t listen though; she’s stuck like you and won’t accept she is in control of her health.”  Ernest’s smile and eyes became wide for a moment before continuing. “You are the placebo, if you want it hard enough, you can have anything you want.” He paused for a moment and looked at his phone. “I have an appointment, give me a hug brother, I’ll see you next week.”

I don’t like to see bridges burned, but I do like see boundaries enforced. To have a relationship with someone we must build a bridge from our island to theirs. It requires upkeep and understanding built from a foundation of empathy and respect. That day he was in the business of setting fires. There are certain things we don’t burn, just like there are certain things we don’t say. It felt like he was in the mood to set my island on fire, so I turned him toward the bridge. He first started by melting and discarding all his understanding, then set flame to empathy, and at the very end, once the bridge began to crumble and fall all my respect for him was gone. I could have stopped the conversation, told him how offensive his statements were, but why put out a flame when the arsonist is just going to set it ablaze again anyways?

Tell me about this book.

In the book: You are the Placebo, by Joe Dispenza he shared how he willed his vertebrae to regenerate after being crushed[1]. Where is the evidence? His followers claim things like x-rays and documentation aren’t needed to prove their prophet’s powers.

How did he heal his bones? Dispenza claims it was by becoming the placebo. In his words “The key is making your inner thoughts more real than the outer environment, because then the brain won’t know the difference between the two and will change to look as if the event has taken place. If you’re able to do this successfully enough times, you’ll transform your body and begin to signal new genes in new ways, producing epigenetic changes—just as though the imagined future event were real. And then you can walk right into that new reality and become the placebo.”[2

I have no clue what that meant, and I am sure he didn’t either. This is a common trait of followers and practitioners of pseudo-medicine, they love stringing together long unintelligible sentences.

Can we use the placebo effect to heal our body?

Harriet Hall, MD wrote: “Placebos are widely misunderstood. They don’t have any objective healing powers. Placebos have never been shown to change the course of any kind of illness; they have only been shown to temporarily improve subjective complaints like pain and nausea. You have a misconception about placebo surgery; no, it does nothing to activate the self-healing powers of the body. Placebo surgery is never used clinically for treatment. It has only been used as a placebo control in scientific studies, where it has been useful in demonstrating that a particular surgical procedure was ineffective and should be abandoned.”[3]

Harriet A. Hall is a retired family physician, former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon, and health advocate who writes about alternative medicine and quackery for Skeptic magazine, Skeptical Inquirer and Science-based Medicine.



Memes aren’t Facts

MEMEs are not Facts.  They can be informative, perhaps even insightful, but they are not good sources of information. Today I am going to show two MEMEs, address their message then apply critical thought to each.


MEMEs aren't Facts

The other day I wrote an article about hair care treatment. Why did I write this article? For two reasons: 1. I love to research and 2. I want to promote personal advocacy. To have personal advocacy we must develop our critical thinking skills. Images like the Nioxin vs. Monat vs. Rogaine are underhandedly manipulative, their marketing strategies attempt to trick and intimidate us into buying their products. They do their best to break down our ability to use critical thought. The image encourages us to make a knee jerk reaction and cast away science in favor for pseudoscience.

How does it do this specifically?

  1. It compares apples to oranges – Showcasing ingredients in one column, stating no harmful ingredients or side effects in another, then showing side effects in the final column.
  2. It manipulates our perception – by placing their product in the center of the image, surrounded by negative space it compels us to feel safer with it over the complicated and scary jargon of the other products. It tells us their product has no harmful ingredients and no side effects while presenting the others in an inferior and negative light. Finally, it scares us with bold red words and exclamation points!
  3. It unfairly represents the three products – By providing inaccurate or incomplete data on each product they stack the deck in favor of Monat.

"big pharma" stereotype

Personal advocacy requires Hope. I love Hope, she guides me every day in my struggle against the crushing weight of the world. Hope is the ATP in the muscles of Atlas as he holds the earth above his head. We need more than Hope to protect us from the harmful manipulations of others. Hope must be accompanied by critical thought, this Wisdom grants us the sight to see through lies and manipulations, to search for truth and protect ourselves from falsehoods.

The next topic I would like to discuss is the abuse of stereotypes and the danger of unchecked bias.

I had conversation on Facebook the other week about bias and stereotypes. Everyone has bias, which is fine, however when we allow our bias to interfere with treating others fairly that is when we have failed to effectively critically think.

The above MEME was discussed, the original poster asked if this quote was true: “a patient cured is a customer lost”

My reply was chemotherapy might not be right for everyone, but it has saved many lives. That we should be wary of sources that apply negative generalizations about large groups of people.

I have encountered many who are against chemotherapy and the pharmaceutical companies. When they tell me “there is no money in a cure” I ask them two questions, 1. How many kinds of cancer are there and 2.  name 5 big pharmaceutical companies and the chemotherapy drugs they manufacture.

The information given and the sources they cite is an important indication to the amount of time they have researched and how effective they utilize critical thought. For example, someone using Wikipedia or a MEME as source for information may lack critical researching skills. Perhaps they know how to research but they are not concerned with using evidence-based data, maybe they embrace pseudoscience or simply make judgements based on feelings.

Critical thought teaches us to acknowledge our bias, to set it aside, to be fair and treat others for their qualities, rather than the actions of people unrelated to them. It is unfair to apply blanket opinions on other groups of people. When these blanket opinions are applied they create a stereotype which creates an atmosphere of unfairness.

Each pharmaceutical company is an organization comprised of dozens, hundreds even thousands of employees. There are dozens of pharmaceutical companies, how fair is it to say these people are concerned only with making money? Not all people are the same, not all companies are the same.

Instead of making blanket statements about groups of people you don’t know, research each company and judge them individually. Just like people, the ideology of one pharmaceutical company will change, one to the next.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the next time we read a MEME and feel strongly about its message, we should consider spending some time to research its validity.

Nioxin vs Monat vs Rogaine

Nioxon vs Monat vs Rogaine

While perusing the land of Facebook I was drawn to an image (shown below) illustrating the advantages of one product over two others. With my interest piqued I spent the better part of an evening researching it’s claims. I believe we all fall victim to the whirlwind of information flashed before our eyes. There is so much knowledge at our fingers tips it can be challenging to decipher fact from fiction.

Errors and Clarifications

The first error the author made was when they classified Nioxin, a company as a product. I am assuming the author intended to compare Nioxin’s Hair Regrowth Treatment for Men and Rogaine to the Monat product: Intense Repair Treatment.

The second error was when it compared the three products unfairly. No attempt was made to compare each item in a like manner, essentially the author was comparing apples to oranges.

The next error was that the active and inactive ingredients were inaccurately listed. If you consult the following data you will see that Acetamide MEA, Cocamide MEA, PEG-150 distearate, Tocopherol, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Diazolidinyl, Sodium Laureth sulfate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben PEG-150 distearate and Propylparaben are not on the ingredient list for Nioxin’s Hair Regrowth Treatment.
The active ingredient of Nioxin’s Hair Regrowth Treatment for Men is 5% Minoxidil. The inactive ingredients are Alcohol, Propylene Glycol and Purified Water. [3]

The active ingredient of Rogaine is Minoxidil 5%. The inactive ingredients of Rogaine are butane, butylated hydroxytoluene, cetyl alcohol, citric acid, glycerin, isobutane, lactic acid, polysorbate 60, propane, purified water, SD alcohol 40-B, stearyl alcohol.

The product I assume the author wishes to compare from Monat is their Intense Repair Treatment, which claims to be a patented biometric peptide formula, that has “higher proven results than other leading hair loss brands” and its “clinical results prove significant results in just 90 days” [1]

The Intense Repair Treatment does not use the terms active and inactive ingredients, instead the terms ‘key ingredient’ and ‘ingredients’ are used. The key ingredient is Capixyl [1]. However on the main Monat website this ingredient is not mentioned. On the main Monat website it states that the product’s ingredients are water, butylene glycol, acetyl tetrapeptide-3, Trifolium Pratense Flower Extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, dextran, xanthan gum, pvp, cocamidopropyl-pg-dimonium, chloride, benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, fragrance.

According to another source the ingredient list of Capixyl is: Butylene Glycol, water, Dextran, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3, Trifolium Pratense Flower Extract which matches up with most of the ingredients within the Intense Repair Treatment. [2]

How are the terms key, active and inactive ingredients defined?
According to the World Health Organization the term active ingredient is defined as:

“active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) Any substance or combination of substances used in a finished pharmaceutical product (FPP), intended to furnish pharmacological activity or to otherwise have direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or to have direct effect in restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions in human beings.”

An inactive ingredient or vehicle is an inactive substance mixed with an active ingredient to give bulk to a medicine. [4]

I have found no pharmaceutical definitions for key ingredients.

What do these three products do?

Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for men and Rogaine have identical active ingredients.
Active Ingredient: Minoxidil 5%.

“Minoxidil applied to the scalp is used to stimulate hair growth in adult men and women with a certain type of baldness. The exact way that this medicine works is not known. If hair growth is going to occur with the use of minoxidil, it usually occurs after the medicine has been used for several months and lasts only as long as the medicine continues to be used. Hair loss will begin again within a few months after minoxidil treatment is stopped. In the U.S., this medicine is available without a prescription.” [5]

Monat Intense Repair Treatment
Key Ingredient: Capixyl (not listed as an active ingredient, see above)

There is no information on Pubmed about Capixyl. [6]

There appears to be no evidence-based data to suggest Capixyl or the Monat Intense Repair Treatment has any affect on the regrowth of hair.


According to my research Minoxidil is the only drug proven to regrow hair. Monat’s claim that Capixyl (or Monat’s Intense Repair Treatment) can regrow hair is anecdotal at best.

[1] “Intense Repair Treatment” Monat Intense Repair Treatment. Hair Canada. Web. 8 December 2017. <
[2] “Capixyl TM” Propspector. UL. Web. 8 December 2017 <>
[3] ”Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for Men” JC Penney. Web. 8 December 2017. <>
[4] “Defintion of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient” WHO. World Health Organization, July 2011. Web. 8 December 2017. <>>.
[5] “Minoxidil (on the skin)” Minoxidil. NCBI. 1 November 2017. Web. 8 December 2017. <>
[6] “No result found for Capixl” <>

Palliative treatment What does this mean? Part 3

Palliative Treatment

Palliative treatment is a term used to represent the care or therapy of a patient. More specifically it focuses on the their symptoms by addressing them directly and building a treatment plan that focuses on their needs.

The care plan aims to improve their quality of life through medical, emotional and spiritual support.  It’s a treatment that helps the patient live their life to its fullest, whereas hospice aims to make a dying patient’s final days peaceful.

I believe that palliative care should begin at the onset of a cancer diagnosis.  A team of experts and specialists should be brought together to assist in the patient’s treatment plan.  Nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, psychologists and other members should be on a cancer patient’s super team.

The cancer experience often leaves you feeling like a child, overwhelmed and frightened.  It is at these scary moments that having someone educated, experienced and empathetic at your side can be the difference between a life of hell and one well lived.


Palliative Care

Palliative Care Video

Follow this fancy link if you would like to follow me as I discover my own personal health advocacy.


Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, What does this mean? Part 2

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

Sources for Comprehensive Metabolic Panel can be found here at The Free Dictionary, and Lab Tests Online.

Blood Test


Glucose GlucoseBlood Sugar
BUN blood urea nitrogen Kidney Function Test
Creatinine Creatinine Kidney Function Test


Glomerular Filtration Rate


Kidney Function Test





thyroid-stimulating hormone

Thyroid Function Test

Thyroid Function Test

Sodium Sodium Electrolyte levels
Potassium Potassium Electrolyte levels
Chloride Chloride Electrolyte levels
CO2 carbon dioxide blood bicarbonate level
Calcium Calcium 1,  bones, heart, nerves, kidneys, and teeth
Protein Protein Liver test
Albumin Albumin Liver test
Bili Total bilebilirubin, Total Bilirubin; TBIL; Neonatal Bilirubin; Direct Bilirubin; Conjugated Bilirubin; Indirect Bilirubin; Unconjugated Bilirubin Liver Test
Alk Phos, ALKP Alkaline Phosphatase Liver inflammation and damage test


aspartate amino transferase

Serum Glutamic-OxaloaceticTransaminase

Liver inflammation and damage test



alanine amino transferase

Serum Glutamate PyruvateTransaminase

Liver inflammation and damage test

The following video explains in great detail about the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel.


What does this mean? Part 1 (Introduction)

What does this mean, what does that mean, these are questions I found myself asking along the way.  Often I would see lists of abbreviations and acronyms that represented critical bits of information that did not exist within my vernacular. There is so much information in the medical world, it is easy for anyone to get lost in its sea of vast knowledge.

This series focuses on the abbreviations, acronyms and terms found on the different documents we see through our cancer journey.  This series is less entertaining and more informative, each post will have the subject matter after the part number in parenthesis.  My goal is to provide a comprehensive and easy to locate list to help you understand the difficult road ahead of you.

I want to leave off saying that I am not a doctor or a physician.  These definitions and explanations reflect my own personal research on the topic.  You should consult your health care provider when deciding your medical needs.  My goal is to give you some frame work to help facilitate those conversations.