Cancer, chemo, radiation and … dandelions

Cancer chemo radiation and dandelions (header)

My initial idea was to write a cartoon titled “5 toxic beliefs about chemotherapy”. The goal was to take 5 myths about chemo and deconstruct them. In doing this, I wanted to challenge the false notions about chemotherapy that are perpetuated over the internet.

However, along the way something became obvious: it’s absolutely pointless to attack false beliefs on chemo… when the majority of people do not know what cancer really is.

Then, by pure chance, two oncologists appeared out of nowhere and proposed to help me make a comic on cancer! It’s great how things work out.

After reading this comic, you will have a better understanding of cancer, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. And you will never see dandelions the same way.

Author’s notes:

I want to thank my two great collaborators for authoring this comic! They proposed to me the dandelion analogy, and told me they didn’t know where it came from (in short, we don’t really know where it comes from)… An ENORMOUS THANK YOU to you two for your massive help in the creation, preparation and improvements on this comic!

– Marc-Émile Plourde, MD, FRCPC (Radiation Oncology)

Marc-Émile is a radiation oncologist, meaning his specialty is radiotherapy. He is also the author of the blog (in French) and he develops medical apps for mobile devices.

– Vincent Éthier, MD, FRCPC (Hematology Oncology)

Vincent is a hematologist and oncologist, meaning his specialty is chemotherapy.

– And the two generous doctors who translated this cartoon to English : Pierre-Yves McLaughlin, MD with the help of Martin Korzeniowski, MD.


* Note: This comic explains what cancer is, and how it is treated. I do not address prevention, not because it’s not important (to the contrary), but simply because it’s a very vast subject that I indirectly bring up all the time when I promote healthy living habits on this website.

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cancer03_EN cancer04_EN_01 cancer05_EN cancer06_EN cancer07_EN_01 cancer08_EN_01 cancer09_EN cancer10_EN



21 responses to “Cancer, chemo, radiation and … dandelions

  1. Why isn’t your marketing company named “Doubth & Fool Marketing”?

  2. :cough: ‘Example’, not ‘Exemple’. Just letting you know.

  3. Felipe Rodríguez

    If X-rays can’t be shaped in a batman symbol, then what is technology good for 🙁

  4. Fascinating. As an Advocate since my own cancer diagnosis Jan 1993, I have used and explored the world of natural cancer strategies. I founded Annie Appleseed Project to share the many concepts and substances I found – many of which I personally used (but it ain’t about me).

    I’ve brought up the use of complementary therapies – now called Integrative Oncology – a fairly well-accepted concept now as many of the major cancer centers have an Integrative dept for those dealing with cancer – did you forget that in your clever little cartoon story? Looks like you did, sadly.

    You also seem to ignore that pesticides are never really going out of our soil, water or even air. Could this be part of the reason cancer is on the increase worldwide? How about the fact that so many eat artificial foods – much less actual fresh fruits and veggies daily – than the NCI suggests?
    The lack of physical activity? The way we all deal (badly) with stress?

    I have personally spoken, privately AND publicly with Pharma execs about integrative oncology – contrary to your remarks above – they consistently tell me: “Ann, it can’t be patented” and walk away with no more to say. As an Advocate I deplore that $ first attitude.

    Additionally having set up that ONLY Level I trials are acceptable, and setting that bar at around $400 million, what other industry could afford such clinical trials? But the natural substances DO have a preponderance of other levels of evidence.

    Your schtick is cute, but really quite inaccurate in a variety of ways. I would welcome a dialogue on this.

    • Hi Ann!

      Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate an open dialogue too.

      My comic is focused on the treatment (not the prevention) of cancer, namely surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. One or more of these options are usually unavoidable. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things people can do to better live through cancer, such as meditation, massage, music therapy, dietary changes, etc. This is something every oncologist (and every doctor for that matter) should consider.

      Unfortunately, integrative medicine is sometimes used to promote ineffective or bogus treatments. One example is the use of herbal supplements, for which there is often evidence clearly showing no efficacy, but yet are recommended and sold at high cost. By opposition to what a lot of people think, most “alternative” treatments have been tested in several randomized placebo-controlled (level 1) trials and failed to show benefit. This is why they are not routinely used.

      This article sums up very well the problems within integrative:

      I also deplore the $ first attitude of pharma (I even have a comic specifically about that, which I hope to translate to English soon). And I do think that chemotherapy is sometimes pushed too hard on patients, especially for palliative use. And lastly, I believe that patients have a right to seek their own initiatives in the process. My role is to make sure that patients are not putting themselves at risk and that people are not trying to take advantage of them. I believe that’s also what you want to achieve as an advocate.

      Thanks again Ann! Take care.


      • I wonder what others think “Chemotherapy” is. Bark from the pacific yew tree and needles from the European yew tree is what Taxanes are made of…potent and effective chemotherapy drug! Trees are “natural” but these ones were subjected to clinical trials

        • Absolutely. Other examples include vincristine (from the Madagascar periwinkle) and anthracyclines (from Streptomyces bacteria). Thanks for pointing that out Barbara!
          There are several synthetic anticancer drugs, but they’re neither better nor worse than the ones isolated from plants or live organisms.

  5. What about medicinal marijuana

    • Excellent question. Marijuana is not a cure for cancer, but is rather used to alleviate some symptoms, such as lack of appetite and nausea due to chemo.

  6. I would suggest reading the The Truth about Cancer by Ty Bollinger. Funnily enough one of the things that inhibit cancer cells is crushed dandelion root. Perhaps there is more than one way to skin a cat. We are still using 1960’s medical knowledge – why haven’t we advanced. Because natural methods are cheaper and don’t have the side effects of chemo and radiation. Cancer is a multi money making business which is cruel beyond belief. When you see someone on chemo and they don’t want to face one more treatment they would rather not wake up in the morning and they break down in the process of telling you. Cancer survives on gluten and sugar. On Ty’s videos there is one treatment suggested that means taking Selenium, Chromium and I am not quite sure of the third supplement – something like cellaca and it stops the cancer cells only from absorbing gluten and sugar. Chemo only does a fraction of that and has horrific side effects and effects normal cells and the cancer cell is not killed and soon just goes around the chemo.

    • Hi Jean!

      Thank you for your comment. You are correct about how difficult chemotherapy is. As a pharmacist, I see people going through chemo on a daily basis.

      Dandelion root may in fact kill cancer cells in a test tube, like many other things including water. While it can be tempting to interpret these in vitro studies in a clinical perspective, they are not meant to. The substances that have been found effective we’re thoroughly researched. In fact, did you know that several chemotherapy agents come from plants?

      Medical knowledge regarding cancer has actually progressed a lot, so much in fact that many types of cancer once thought to be incurable aren’t anymore.

      Be careful with the info found all around the web: cancer cells do not feed on sugar, gluten or anything else. As I’ve mentioned in the comic, they’re normal cells that have gone haywire.

      While it’s true that the monetary aspects of chemotherapy (or any medication for that matter) need to be examined, patients come first when it comes to the doctors treating them.

      I see that you have a lot of doubts about cancer treatment and you are certainly entitled to those. However I strongly suggest that you read one of these articles for better insight on the potential cures you mentioned:

      Thanks again and take care,


  7. I love this! I was just diagnosed with cervical cancer and started chemo and radiation. This is a perfect explanation without all the medical terminology! This is perfect for explaining to people who have no idea how it works or if I had children I would want to explain it this way! Does this come in book form? I think this would be a great children’s explanation book of cancer!

    • thepharmafist

      Thanks so much for sharing your story Erica! And for the nice words about the comic. I hoped it could be used with loved ones and children to explain what cancer is and how it’s treated.
      No book so far, but that’s a great idea 🙂
      I wish you all the best and I wish for good news for you very soon!
      Take care,

  8. I would love to see you do a comic debunking some of the most common myths about what “causes” and “cures” cancer. I have a form of cancer called GIST What I hate is when people share what they think they know about cancer… about how they think I might have “gotten” it or what they heard/read about how to cure it. I actually had a dental hygienist explain how she read that milk causes cancer… using the example that Asians do not use dairy and they don’t get as much cancer. Then she proceeded to tell me that sugar feeds cancer and so I should cut out any form of sugar. Not only would it cure my cancer, but I would lose weight too (the Gleevec that saves my life, also causes weight gain, along with a myriad of other side effects). All of this helpful information was delivered while I was in the dental chair, with her hands in my mouth. I would love something to share with these, I suppose, well-meaning people (when their hands are not in my mouth) That would tell them politely and with humor, that they have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about and should keep their stupidly ill-formed opinions to themselves. Actually, It would be great to print out a great cartoon and be able to hand it to these helpful people…. even if they did have their hands in my mouth!

    • Thanks do much for your comment Ruth!

      These kind of ill-advised comments are so common, unfortunately… And for some reason, they don’t realize how arrongant it is to tell someone who actually has cancer how they should behave – or should have behaved beforehand. I guess it’s just harder to put them in their place whe they have their hands in your mouth!

      I have several other comics about these so-called causes and cures for cancer, which I hope to translate soon.

      Take care,


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  10. I just found you on accident. I have gone through a few of your comics and thank you so much for maki g things clearer. I have been fighting Cancer for over 3 years and at the moment I am cancer free. I have had lung surgeries, brain surgeries, radiation, chemo 3 separate times and now I am on immunotherapy. I will do this treatment every three weeks for the rest of my life. I am very thankful for the treatments and the Drs and nurses and healthcare professionals that have helped to bring me through this. I have a disability now due to the cancer in my brain messing with left leg and foot motor skills I am still here and right now my lab numbers are all normal. my Point is I am still here because of these treatments. What were my alternatives when fighting such a horrific disease. I am very aware of all the stuff out there and never would have given it a second thought. Unfortunately a part of life is death and we all leave here. It is sad that people are making so much money on fads. What is even sadder is people believe all of it. There is an old saying “If it is to good to be true it probably isn’t true” Thank you for what you do. Please continue.

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