Hugo Chavez pronounced himself cured of cancer in July of 2012, was re-elected 3 months later and died of his disease 5 March 2013. It was obvious that he was very ill with cancer very early on.
The following are excerpts from two posts in August 2011, two months after Chavez first let the world know he was being treated for cancer.
My opinion of docs who diagnose over the phone, or who render opinions on people they’ve never seen is not high, although we all indulge in this from time to time. The worst example is that of the
1,189 PSYCHIATRISTS SAY GOLDWATER IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNFIT TO BE PRESIDENT! That determinedly flamboyant headline dressed the cover of Fact magazine one month before the presidential election of 1964. The entire issue was an examination of the “unconscious of a conservative,” based largely on answers to a questionnaire sent to the 12,356 psychiatrists listed by the American Medical Association. Of the 2,417 who replied, 657 said Barry Goldwater was fit for the presidency, 571 declined to take a position, and 1,189 called him unfit—the latter in no uncertain terms. Some of their opinions: “emotionally unstable,” “immature,” “cowardly,” “grossly psychotic,” “paranoid,” “mass murderer,” “amoral and immoral,” “chronic schizophrenic” and “dangerous lunatic.” One psychiatrist even felt that a proposed Goldwater visit to Hitler’s Berchtesgaden “is enough to convince me of his strong identification with the authoritarianism of Hitler, if not identification with Hitler himself.”
The unprofessional—not to say unbalanced—nature of such remarks brought immediate condemnation from the A.M.A. and the American Psychiatric Association. It said more about the state of American Psychiatry at the time than it did about Goldwater.For more details see: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,838361,00.html#ixzz1WemleKVu
But here I am, about to indulge in the same thing concerning a very public figure. Why? Because what I’m about to say has received absolutely no attention in the press that I can find. First, look at these 3 pictures of Hugo Chavez.
What’s the point? The rather remarkable change in his facial appearance over this short period of time. In just 6 weeks or so he has developed the classic face of someone receiving very high doses of corticosteroids (Cushingoid facies). The loss of hair due to his chemotherapy is irrelevant — it happens to most and is reversible when the chemo stops.
It also implies either that his docs are grossly overtreating him or that he is a very sick man. Doses of corticosteroids high enough to produce such massive facial change should never be used lightly. Back in the day, this was all I had for the flareups of multiple sclerosis, and it was never easy on patients.
We do not know what sort of cancer he has, if it has spread, and if so, how far. If his cancer was curable don’t you think it would have been trumpeted in one of his nearly daily press releases?
More worrisome for Chavez, is the fact that high doses of corticosteroids, invariably produce side effects. One you are seeing — the change in facial appearance. Two others are the invariable worsening of diabetes (should he have it) and the much increased possibility of stomach ulcers and bleeding. Both are fairly easily managed, particularly ulcers — none of my MS patients ever got ulcers because I began treating them as if they already had one (e.g. milk and maalox) when I started the corticosteroids. This was long before we know about Helicobacter and ulcers
High doses of corticosteroids usually produce a sense of euphoria. Cognitive processes aren’t as good, and they are one of the few known causes of reversible cerebral atrophy.
Far more worrisome for Venezuela and the rest of us, is the psychosis occasionally seen with high doses of corticosteroids. He is a man of enormous power, and hopefully no one has given him nuclear weapons.
So like my Cuban friend’s mother who prays for Castro’s health because her mother (who played cards with him when they were both young) is determined to outlive him, we must hope for a peaceful conclusion to Hugo’s illness.
From another post in August 2011
Also if he had a curable form of cancer, don’t you think he’d have told us exactly what it is? More likely, he’s putting on a front so his regime doesn’t collapse. Years and years ago I was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in a western town. Various speakers were brought in — General Maxwell Taylor, etc. etc. The most interesting was the current Egyptian ambassador (or an attache). He said that the governments in the mideast were all ‘one bullet governments’ — which was all it would take to change their direction radically –all were run by one man at the top — this before the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
At least we see Chavez. Recall the last hospitalization of Yasser Arafat in France. We were told that everything was going well. What we were not told until very late, was that all this information was from the family and not from the people taking care of him. The investigative press was nowhere to be found.
This is unlikely to change. The powerful will always be able to warp the medical system to their desires. Think Michael Jackson, or even president Woodrow Wilson (incapacitated by a variety of strokes in his last years in office).
Now on to the present.
We are told by Chavez or someone permitted to speak for him, that he has a 2 centimeter lesion, either at the site of the old surgery or near it. Assume, for better or worse, that this is true. What does it mean? Well, one of three things:
1. Stop calling this a lesion. Only tumors act like this. No one gives chemotherapy enough to make your hair fall out for ‘lesions’ that aren’t tumors.
2. They couldn’t get the whole tumor out (meaning it’s incurable), and despite the high doses of steroids he’s on (recent pictures of him show his face even more Cushingoid than the 3 cited above) the tumor has grown further and needs to be removed (for any of several reasons, none of which is good).
3. At the time of the initial surgery, they thought they had removed the tumor, and the present 2 centimeter lesion has grown from something they didn’t see, because it was too small. Assume that what they missed was 1 milliMeter in diameter. Anything larger wouldn’t have been missed (assuming the people operating on him were competent — but ask Fidel about that — he’s still recovering years later from whatever they did). Since the lesion now 2 centimeters, this means that its volume in milliMeters is 4188 cubic milliMeters (4/3 pi r cubed, with r = 10). This is roughly 12 doublings of the tumor, or around 1 doubling every 17 days. The chances of a benign tumor growing this fast are remote (although my late mother had exactly that in her pelvis and lived another 40 years).