Malignant Metaphor: Confronting Cancer Myths

Author: Alanna Mitchell
Book Publication: 2015

I believe that Malignant Metaphor – Confronting Cancer Myths will not only change your perception and understanding of cancer; it will give you the knowledge and confidence necessary to make an informed decision when choosing an appropriate treatment should you, or someone you love, be diagnosed with the disease.  In her book, award-winning investigative author, Alanna Mitchell, dispels widespread cancer myths, revealing many as either common misconceptions or outright misinformation. She presents factual, unbiased studies conducted on conventional and alternative cancer treatments alike, separating the effective from the ineffective.

The author illuminates the ominous subject of cancer with her ability to simplify complex scientific information and language. In her examination of conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and alternative remedies such as vitamin C, Mitchell remains objective, letting the scientific facts and data stand on their own. She also provides conclusive statistics on the causes of cancer including environmental factors, genetics, and lifestyle.

Her talent for storytelling will keep you engaged as she challenges the widely held, and varied, beliefs and myths surrounding cancer. Opinions on the illness run the full gamut from cancer being “inevitable” to “preventable” to “deserved”. Whether you believe that your healthy lifestyle protects you from cancer, or you are confident that aggressive treatments will save your life should you ever be diagnosed with the disease, you need to read this book. Whatever your stance however, be prepared to have many, if not all, of your cancer-related beliefs brought into question.

In her book, Mitchell touches on one belief that emanates from what she terms the medieval Christian culture – one that says all illness (including cancer) is a direct manifestation of sin. She links this (largely unconscious) belief to the ‘blame and shame’ game that some who find themselves challenged with cancer have to deal with. Her assertion that the last thing anyone who is already dealing with this emotional burden needs is shame (or guilt) resonates with me. In my own experience, I have found this stigma to be all too real; many of my friends and family who been afflicted with the disease have preferred to keep their cancer diagnosis private.

Mitchell shares the personal stories of her daughter and brother-in-law, and their experiences with cancer as anecdotal evidence alongside studies on both Western and alternative medical treatments. Mitchell’s daughter triumphed over cancer when she chose to undergo the conventional medical route. But her brother-in-law, when given a dismal diagnosis, opted to work with a renowned *Naturopathic doctor in Barrie rather than undergo chemotherapy. Today, he is brother-in-law is still thriving after he and his ND found the correct dosage of intravenous (IV) vitamin C for his therapy. (* the ND referred to here is Dr. Peter Papadogianis; to read comments from Dr. Papadogianis, see Resources at the end of this article.)

In addition to the cultural stigmas surrounding cancer, the allopathic medical community has its own prejudices and beliefs, which some patients can find challenging. In the book, Mitchell speaks of her own experience during a visit with her doctor. Assuming that broaching the subject of her lifestyle and diet (and how they might be linked to her incidence of cancer) would meet with resistance, if not outright derision, she remained silent and shared nothing of what she was doing with regard to diet, for example, as part of her healing protocol. Sadly, this lack of dialogue between patient and doctor is all too common.

As a science writer, it is understandable that the author leans rather heavily on proven facts and data regarding the causes of cancer. Her focus in particular is on the systemic, root causes of cancer – particularly environmental causes which she feels play a larger role than does personal lifestyle or diet. While I would have preferred a greater emphasis on the part we can personally play in staying healthy, I still highly recommend Malignant Metaphor as a small gem of a book packed with solid scientific research.

As the poignant title suggests, Mitchell hypothesizes that cancer is the malignant metaphor of our time, and one metaphor she examines is that of ‘cancer as an ecosystem’. Mitchell cites a New England Journal of Medicine article by George Annas in which he refers to … “the ecologists’ vocabulary of balance, limits, sustainability, conservation, and responsibility for future generations. Using this metaphor might help society to explore the idea of quality of life, the limits to the success of treatment, and the value of planning for the long-term and for the health of the whole population. So instead of looking merely at individual risk factors and putting the blame on individuals who get sick, this metaphor would encourage looking at systems that create illness.” As Annas puts it, rather than setting up complex methods to save people from drowning, we can look upstream to see who’s pushing them in the river in the first place. Then we can figure out how to keep people out of the water. People are starting to understand the link between our environment and illness, but the need to educate is still paramount.

Malignant Metaphor – Confronting Cancer Myths takes all the scary data and makes it approachable and easy to understand, answering such questions as: “What is cancer? Where did it come from? How did I get it?” This is a good book for the person who is blind-sided by a diagnosis and feeling confused. Mitchell has put all the data in one place – here is ‘one stop shopping’ for information on the best blood tests to take, etc. It’s a wonderful resource for cancer patients to take with them to their doctor. It will help when you want to question her or him on chemotherapy and what to expect, etc. And it will be helpful to have this book with you as backup when you talk to your doctor about your reasons for wanting to supplement your diet with Vitamin C, for example.

While cancer is one of the greatest fears of the modern human (a fear aided by the ways in which we are inundated with a multitude of ominous cancer organizations’ ads and PSAs), the incidence of cancer is actually decreasing when longer lifespans are factored in. As Mitchell, using scientific evidence, unravels some of our long-held beliefs, she addresses our fears regarding cancer, thus giving us the ability to make more informed decisions – for ourselves and for our loved ones under the care of conventional medical professionals, alternative, or both. Armed with this knowledge, perhaps we can join Mitchell in considering our experience with cancer, not as a battle to win or lose, but as a dance to explore.

Mitchell’s assertion that her book is “simply the spark to a conversation” is echoed in this endorsement by Plum Johnson, author of They Left Us Everything: “By liberating the facts, Mitchell turns the war on cancer into a hopeful dance.”


While intravenous Vitamin C is not for everyone, it can be an important adjunct to a comprehensive cancer treatment program. Such an individualized program allows people to receive the best possible, evidence-driven care for their particular cancer type. Those interested in intravenous Vitamin C therapy could consider visiting the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine Oncology Clinic ( that was established by Dr. Peter Papadogianis.

Alternatively, there are many licensed providers of intravenous Vitamin C therapy in Ontario. Please contact the College of Naturopaths of Ontario ( for a listing of Naturopathic Doctors who are providers of intravenous therapy.  – Dr. Peter Papadogianis, BSc, MSc, ND

WholeLife Naturopathic Wellness Clinic,30 Owen Street, Barrie, ON L4M 3G7, (705) 719-9339

Jean Eng is a valued Vitality contributor.

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