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For the last 20 years of my father's life, my mother chided, bitched, asserted, and otherwise impelled my old man to ingest products displaying the above-captioned label. I had, since age 16, refused mother's encouragement to "discover the wonder of alternative medicine." You see, I was not sick. Nor was my father, until 1999.

The most bittersweet moment relevant to this came shortly after his death; when I cleaned out his car, his desk, and some of his personal papers. Amidst all of this "stuff" of a person's existence were secreted dozens of the tiny baggies in which mother used to give dad his daily "prescription." Of course, dad had no intention of taking them.

After dad succumbed to his second bout of cancer, my brother and I put mother in a "Senior Independent Living Facility". Of course, mother wanted all of her precious pills and potions, therefore I had to clean out the cabinets in their home and box up all of the bottles of pills (an amazing amount bearing the same disclaimer).

Now, some did not, indeed, contain this disclaimer because they were approved by the F.D.A. to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. However most bore the disclaimer. Some were naturopathic remedies, some were "food supplements," and one, to my dismay, was called "cat's claw."

There is not a stitch of clinical evidence to support that "cat's claw" (Uncaria tomentosa) prevents nor cures cancer. Nonetheless, my father was being nearly force-fed this substance by mom. I asked mother, after dad's passing, if she needed the "cat's claw" for herself. Her answer left me nonplussed: "oh, of course I need it, so I don't die of cancer like your father did."

All health cases are different. I am certain that there are folks who use alternative medicines and are quite fit as a result. In fact, I, personally, was convinced by my doctor, who usually errs on the side of caution with regard to use of medicines, to take Arnica Montana, a homeopathic preparation, for headache. It works.

The saddest part of the warning hereinabove is that people are doing harm by ingesting amounts of substances so labeled. In my mother's case, even a case of multiple-mineral toxicity (or that's what the doctors told me) - that vested itself in a nasty set of kidney stones, failed to get her to heed myriad warnings. Not having suffered kidney stones myself, all I can say is that anecdotal experience tells me that the pain's up there on the scale of childbirth before the stones are either removed, blasted, dislodged, or just passed.

The last doctor's appointment I took my mother to was to a urologist (a friend of mine). She was concerned that her kidney stones would re-appear. I haven't spoken to my mother since then. It turns out that she'd revealed none - none - of the various dietary herbs, supplements nor homeopathic medicines she takes to this physician. The only reason I found out was that one of her other doctors and he had spoken about my mother's case and the truth came out.

I'm spending Thanksgiving this year in the company of healthy people. It'll be enough without having dad there for the first time without hearing my mother's sick utterances about how I could have "saved him if only you had followed my advice and taken him to Dr. Burzynski in Texas." Dr. Burzynski has plea-bargained to Federal charges ranging from medical misrepresentation to mail fraud. He still practices, despite being under indictment in several states.

Many extremely kind-hearted, well-meaning readers might reel in horror at my decision not to spend Thanksgiving with mom and brother. It's a simple matter. I try to avoid toxic substances whenever I can.

You see, it wasn't cancer that killed my father. It was 59 years of marriage to my mother.