Image of herbs like those discussed in blog by DC widow Marjorie Brimley
Things That Suck

Asparagus Cures Cancer

A few weeks ago, I got a private message on my blog. It was a letter from a reader who wanted me to know that she had used a special herbal remedy to cure her sister’s cancer, and it had worked. She implored me to spread the word about this herbal remedy since my own husband had died of cancer.

Well, DAMN, I thought. Why didn’t I think of that? Herbs! I even have my own garden. And I actually grow herbs! Why didn’t I get Shawn to eat more of them?

I posted this to Twitter and got a lot of responses. Oh, yes, there are many things other people have heard about: specific fruits and vegetables that cure cancer (asparagus being the favorite), drugs like marijuana that cure incurable diseases like ALS, prayer that brings a patient back from total heart failure. Who needs science? We have HOME REMEDIES!

I decided to see what would come up if I Googled “things that cure cancer.” Yes, articles from the National Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan Kettering come up. But the first few articles are from bogus websites promoting non-scientific research and many others from the first page of Google are ones that recommend things like “juicing” as the best way to cure cancer.

I’m not saying that eating well can’t help someone going through cancer. I know that healthier people are less likely to get cancer. But let me tell you this – Shawn had the best diet of anyone I knew. He still got cancer. I made him smoothie after smoothie with lots and lots of kale.

He still died.

So this shit just makes me crazy.

But you know what’s worse? The idea that Shawn didn’t try hard enough, and that’s why he died. As someone commented on my Twitter feed that day, “This is akin to my issue with using the verb ‘fought’ when it involves cancer. Yes, I think a fighting spirit helps. But what does it say about a loved one who dies — they didn’t ‘fight’ hard enough? That’s insulting.”

Amen. Shawn tried everything to beat his cancer. We even met with an oncologist to go on a clinical trial (though he didn’t live long enough to start it.) He never gave up.

But we also accepted his death when the doctors said that there was nothing left they could do. It allowed him to say goodbye to his friends, his family and to me. He didn’t die because he gave up or didn’t fight hard enough. He died because he had incurable cancer.

If I’m being charitable, I think that people promote these ideas (that cancer can be cured by veggies, God or a fighting spirit) because they provide comfort that if cancer was to hit his/her family, it would all be okay because asparagus/will/God is easily accessible. The difficult process of navigating the medical system, figuring out what 5-FU means and watching a loved one suffer could all go away through herbs, prayer and a will-full spirit.

But life isn’t that easy, of course. Asparagus doesn’t cure cancer. Prayer doesn’t make someone on the edge of death come back to life. A fighting spirit is no match for a cancer that’s spiraling out of control.

These things don’t hurt (and in some instances can help ease side-effects), and Shawn and I tried them all. But let’s give the medical profession some credit here – if they did cure cancer, I’m pretty sure we’d be implementing them instead of pumping poison into the bodies of people like Shawn.


  • Melissa

    I’ve encountered somewhat the same thing when people ask “what kind of cancer” my husband had. I can see the gears turning in their minds as they prepare to calculate their risk factors and whether they’re eating/doing the “right” thing to prevent it. Lately I’ve just said that it’s complicated and leave it at that. I can tell it’s an unsatisfying answer for them, but I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

    I’m sorry you have to be exposed to crap like that. It’s hard enough living the day to day reality.

    • Marjorie

      Yes – lots of people want to know if cancer ran in Shawn’s family, and then are even more horrified when I answer “no.” It means bad things could happen to anyone at any point in time. Which of course is true.

  • Anne

    Ugh I can relate…the one I heard so many times is “God’s Plan”, for both my husband and myself. All these years later, I still don’t know what the plan is lol. It’s been easier for me to accept the idea that life is random including the time of our death.

    • Marjorie

      Agreed. I mean, really, God’s plan? I’m not sure all I believe in regards to religion, but a just and true God wouldn’t take Shawn, that I know.

  • Steph

    On the weekend I heard an acquaintance has a stage 1 bowel cancer diagnosis. He’s set up a go fund me page for his natural therapies way he’d prefer to do to avoid operation and chemo. I’m just so angry- he has a chance to live! My husband was diagnosed at stage 4 lung cancer. I simply don’t get it. People are so relieved not to be in our situation that even when it looks like happening to them, they cling to fairytales.

    • Marjorie

      Oh WOW – this is maddening. I guess each person gets to make their own decisions….but like you, I just WISH Shawn could have had that choice. Because he would have chosen science that was proven to help him live!

  • JustDad

    Preach! To this day a co-parent in my middle son’s class claims that my wife would still be with us today if I’d only taken her to South America to see a particular healer. Guess I got what I deserved! Welcome to Bad Cancer Spouses Anonymous.

    • Marjorie

      OMG. Someone actually says that to you? That is INSANE. People like that – well, again, I’ll say this: I just can’t even.

  • Melissa

    A close family member is friends with a woman who’s married to a pastor. When she was pregnant with her fifth or sixth child, a suspicious area was discovered on one of her ovaries during ultrasound. The only way to determine if it was benign or malignant was to do a surgical biopsy, which she refused because of her pregnancy. And yet, based just on the ultrasound, they told their friends that she had ovarian cancer and called for everyone to pray for them. Then, lo and behold, after she had the baby the “cancer” was gone! The miracle of prayer. This really cheesed me off because she never was diagnosed with cancer in the first place (biopsy=diagnosis=staging) and in all likelihood it was a cyst that resolved itself. So I’m sure there are other women who really did have ovarian cancer who heard about this and felt like failures because they didn’t pray hard enough.

    • Marjorie

      Oh no. This is the sort of thing that gives religion a really bad name. There are so many wonderful people I know, in my church and in other churches and other places of worship, who are so GOOD and so pure in their offers of comfort to me and my family. This one, however, seems like a story that uses religion for other purposes (like discouraging people from seeking medical help!) – and I really don’t like that. I’m so sorry this happened.

  • Melanie

    Right on, Marjorie. I hate that phrase in obituaries, “…[insert name] lost his/her battle with cancer.” I’ve also heard the questions, “Did he smoke? Overweight? Was he a healthy eater?” I guess it was all his fault if he did any of those things, so oh, well. Cancer happens to anybody. So do heart attacks…how many athletes have died at the finish line of a marathon or during a game? It just happens. Prayers? Didn’t work. God’s plan? What a cruel God.

    • Marjorie

      It just happens. That’s what no one wants to hear…but that’s the truth. God doesn’t do it to us, and often we don’t do it to ourselves, either. It just happens.

  • Francine

    I’ve battled cancer 2 times now and wow the suggestion that I’m not doing enough always amazed me. People don’t know what to say and I get that but geez…….
    Best advice I got was to say “thank you” and move on…..🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

    • Marjorie

      Though if you’d like, next time you can subtly post this blog in your Facebook feed for them to see 😉

  • Henry

    After my wife died of cancer two years ago, I don’t think I heard anyone actually say it was “God’s plan,” but I do have friends who use euphemisms like “God took her home” or say such “comforting” things as “she’s in Heaven now.” (My reaction is to feel more acutely the loss of connection – she’s there and I’m here.) Cancer is scary partly because it is so random; known causes – heredity, personal habits, environmental factors – account for less than half of all cancers. Asparagus and a fighting spirit aren’t much help against the unknown, and I don’t think God’s plan has much to do with physical healing – or lack thereof. Rather, it is to love and support each other through the pain, loss and grief. (The text of an anthem we are preparing for Sunday says that God has no hands but ours.) There are other kinds of healing than physical.

    • Marjorie

      Yes – exactly. This is how I like to think of it – that it’s God’s plan that we love and support each other.

  • MaryBeth Gaige

    My personal favorite was the Lyft driver who told me lemons prevent cancer! …then followed up that I shouldn’t worry because I’m young and attractive so I’ll be just fine. I was hating that I’d told him anything… But the conversation started with how important it is to have a “whole” family and I couldn’t bite my tongue.

    • Marjorie

      Oh YES….I can never bite my tongue when that sort of things happens. I wish I could but….the rage builds inside of me and I feel the need to let people know a perspective that they may not have thought about previously. And Lemons – geez!!

  • Julie Martella

    Amen sister. I get upset with the “pray hard enough and a miracle will happen” people. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. But when it’s your time, it’s your time.