Farewell, well, well

Final column from Vue’s Connie Howard

Having had the privilege of representing the underrepresented while challenging the messages of the powerful in nearly 200 columns since my first in June of 2006, I've decided Well, Well, Well's time has expired; this is farewell.

The column has given me the opportunity to look through the flow of health information with a critical eye and bring context, alternatives, and the other side of sometimes grossly one-sided health reporting. It's been gratifying to challenge what often resembles corporate spin far more than health information.

But Vue is an Edmonton paper with a strong local focus, and I've long felt compelled to focus on some pretty non-local health matters, so I think it's time to move on.

Besides, beckoning from the back burner are stacks of half-read books, an overflowing office, neglected corners of my personal life, and other writing projects waiting to be tended to.

But first: a vacation. I've had an exact total of two and a half childless vacations over the past 26 years. You don't need to be a health writer to know that's not enough. And then: an indefinite and possibly somewhat extended leave from writing altogether. The truth is that freelance writing can be a lonely slog, and while rewarding in many ways, also simultaneously draining for the spirit and bad for the back.

I may even try to find a normal job that involves face-to-face contact with people. Probably not though; I'm addicted to health writing. So, some farewell messages.

To the scientists and doctors and writers who have been honest enough to talk about their dissenting work on diet, or vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, or toxic causes of diseases of all kinds: you've inspired me, and given me hope. Admitting that standard treatments often fall far short and in many causes ought to be abandoned entirely if our practice of medicine is going to be based on what works and what is safe takes courage, and I know it has cost many their careers to speak the truth.

To those who have written to let me know they have drawn comfort from realizing they're not the only ones suffering with a disease their doctors can do little for, and that they have found a measure of relief and hope and sanity looking outside the medical orthodoxy: you have re-energized me, over and over again.

To those tired of their doctors telling them not to worry their pretty little heads, when they know there is reason to worry, and who have assertively insisted they be heard and that their doctors work with them as they pursue all possible avenues: you have more courage than I.

To those tired of battling obesity, remember this: many, after a lifetime of struggle with their weight, discover they are insulin resistant and that the only solution is to reduce insulin production. Read Drs Michael and Mary Dan Eades, and leave the grain-based Canada Food Guide behind.

To my vegan readers: I appreciate your concern for our health and the health of the planet. But you haven't even begun to convince me that veganism is best for all. Nor have you convinced me that agriculture is even the tiniest bit more earth-friendly than is traditional farming that includes the raising of animals. Lierre Keith on the other hand, has convinced me that for some at least, veganism is deadly, and that, politically incorrect as it may be to say, agriculture is destroying the planet, and that when you rotate cattle on grass, you put back more than you take.
To those for whom the cure was worse than the disease, those who have almost lost their lives, or those of a loved one, to treatments for arthritis or cancer or AIDS or depression or a vaccine: keep telling your stories.

I've met dissidents of all stripes, and I admire them enormously. It takes courage to forge your own path in the face of a powerful orthodoxy. But dissidents abound. More and more of us understand that medical science and the practice of medicine has been co-opted by industry, and that achieving ever narrower and more microscopic understandings of disease often tells us little about the big picture, about what actually helps more than it harms. Existing models often remain in use for many, many years after the body of scientific literature is replete with facts that directly counter the premise upon which that model has been built.

So thanks to Scott Harris and Ron Garth for giving me the opportunity back in 2006, and for trusting me and allowing me much leeway. Thanks to my former editor Ross Moroz, who died of suicide, and whose fearless and enthusiastic support for my column I will always remember with much appreciation. And thanks to you, the reader; your feedback kept me coming back for more.

It's been gratifying, and I'm going to miss you. V

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