Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Spare Room

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The Spare Room

A Novel

by Helen Garner

The Spare Room by Helen Garner X
The Spare Room by Helen Garner
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 192 pages
    Feb 2010, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Beyond the Book

Print Review

Cancer is the term used to describe any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division.  A cancer is described as Stage 4 when it has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. When we first meet Nicola, she has already undergone surgery and chemotherapy. Below are some of the alternative treatments she tries during the course of the book:

Colon Therapy
The American Cancer Society has a poor view of colon therapy which involves the cleansing of the large intestine with up to 20 gallons of liquid that might include water, herbal solutions, enzymes or other substances such as coffee.  Proponents of colon therapy say that detoxifying the body through the removal of accumulated waste from the colon increases the efficiency of the body's natural healing abilities.

Coffee Enemas
Dr. Max Gerson introduced coffee enemas in the 1920's as part of a plan that emphasized a diet based on more natural foods and on detoxification of the body. The rationale is that cleansing the colon eliminates toxins, and that caffeine stimulates the liver.  Current opinions remain divided between those who support Gerson's methods and those who warn of potential effects including, but not limited to, electrolyte imbalances, death, or harm from contaminated equipment. Controversy also surrounds the scarcity of thorough research.

Ozone/Oxygen Therapy
According to the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, those in favor of ozone therapy (also referred to as oxygen therapy) "believe that microorganisms, which thrive in low-oxygen environments, cause disease, including cancer. It is believed that administration of ozone raises oxygen levels and leads to the destruction of the microorganisms." The American Cancer Society does not recommend it, citing the lack of evidence and reports of patient deaths.

Vitamin C
According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that helps the body to absorb iron and to form collagen. Although correlations have been found between those who regularly consume the vitamin in fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet and the prevention of some cancers, the benefits may come from the combination of Vitamin C with other nutrients found in these foods rather than from the vitamin alone. It has not been proven as an effective cancer therapy and very high doses can be dangerous.

Interesting Links:
The American Cancer Society's directory of non-traditional therapies makes for interesting reading.  However, it should be noted that some criticize the ACS for downplaying, even undermining, the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical treatments.  These same voices criticize the predominance of pharmaceutical insiders on the charity's board and the large sums of money donated to it by the pharmaceutical industry.  The most vocal of these is The Cancer Prevention Coalition.

Article by Karen Rigby

This article was originally published in February 2009, and has been updated for the February 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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