February 2013 Filmmakers of the Month: Valerie McCaffrey and Cindy Pruitt

FOMFebFilmmakers Valerie McCaffrey and Cindy Pruitt are turning an idea into a movement with their documentary Tumor, It’s In the System. Green Lifestyles spoke with them about the film in preparation for the upcoming screening Feb 24 as part of the EcoSalon series. Still curious?

McCaffrey and Pruitt will be on hand for a Q&A session following the screening. For more information about the event, click here.

GL: Tell me about Tumor, It’s In The System.

CP: Tumor, It’s In The System explores why we do not have better treatment options for cancer after 100 years of research and fundraising. It takes you on a journey through the lives of survivors, doctors, institutions and alternative practitioners to address how cancer is currently dealt with in the medical community, and reveals that any cancer treatment that is approved by the FDA costs $1 billion. So essentially, if you have a cure for cancer, and you don’t have access to $1 billion to fund the approval process, that cure will never be made available to the general public.

GL: What inspired you to create this film?

VM: Thirteen years ago my directing and producing partner and I traveled to Braisebridge, Canada, to interview the person Mary McPherson who helped Rene Caisse make the Essiac formula after we read an article about her and how she cured 2,000 documented terminally ill patients with cancer. It is there that we recognized that there was a potential cancer treatment
that had been suppressed and that prompted our research into the world of other treatments
and cures.

CP: In the late nineties, my mother gave me an article about nurse Rene Caisse from Canada, who claimed to have cured thousands of people from cancer with an herbal formula that she was given by one of her patients. I have always had a passion for “the underdog” and stories involving injustice, so I went to Canada to find the family of Rene Caisse, and they introduced
me to Mary McPherson, the only person that Rene Caisse taught how to make her formula. After two trips to Canada, I obtained permission to film Mary McPherson making the formula, and I asked my friend Valerie McCaffrey to meet me in Canada to interview Mary McPherson while I shot the footage. Over the years, we could not stop questioning why the Rene Caisse
formula was never approved as a viable treatment for cancer, and our research resulted in this film.

GL: Have you or someone close to you been affected by cancer?

CP: Yes, ironically, many years later my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation were the only medical treatments recommended to her, and in the face of death, she did not want to pursue other treatments.

VM: Many years ago, my 30-year-old cousin, pregnant with her third child, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The only treatment that was available to her was chemo and radiation, which she could not take because of the pregnancy. By the time they could take the child, it was too late.

GL: When you started doing research for Tumor, what information did you find most surprising?

CP: One of the most surprising discoveries was that historically (over the past 70 years) there have been quite a few doctors and/or practitioners who have testified that they have successfully developed treatments for cancer, yet not one of the treatments has been approved by the FDA. Further, many of these people were discredited, threatened with imprisonment and had their professional lives destroyed. The most shocking discovery was, in my opinion, it is the approval system that is stopping us from having access to cures and better treatments for cancer, not that cures and better treatments for cancer cannot be found.

GL: Did you encounter any challenges while creating Tumor? What were they?

VM: The challenge with Tumor was getting politicians to speak to us. We spent at least six months waiting for Obama’s administration to respond, which never did. We also could not truly reveal our full intention when asking for an interview. The money trail with cancer is enormous. I am sure that is why many film festivals were scared to show our film because of
their sponsorship ties.

CP: There were many challenges with this film. There was a real fear to speak the truth by many professionals, and a lot of refusal by large institutions and publicly elected officials to speak with us. One of the biggest personal challenges was interviewing children with cancer who were being destroyed by their treatment. This is one of the reasons why we kept thinking, after 100 years of dealing with this disease, no one in the world can come up with a better way to treat cancer? It doesn’t seem possible.

GL: What do you think is the most important step to changing current perspectives on cancer treatment?

VM: We must look at all options to us in the treatment of cancer, not just through the pharmaceutical eyes. After 40 years, to have the same survival rate is criminal! The torture and the financial burden that cancer puts on families is inexcusable. We must empower patients to research their options before taking treatments that cause side effects that ultimately kill you.

CP: The most important step to changing current perspectives on cancer treatment is to rally people to change the drug/cure approval system. Until that happens, we will never have access to all of the options that are out there, because it is illegal to say that something cures cancer if it is not approved by the FDA, and it costs $1 billion to get that approval. We need to revise the approval system so that it is more efficient, costs less money, and all treatments that show promise can be eligible for that FDA approval, not just the treatments that have billion-dollar investors behind them.

GL: Tell me about Essiac.

CP: Essiac is an herbal formula that was given to nurse Rene Caisse by one of her patients.  Rene kept it “just in case” and then successfully used it on her aunt when she was diagnosed with cancer. Seeing that it worked, she further developed the formula and treated many other terminal patients with it. There is a wealth of information about Rene Caisse on the internet, and many versions of her formula online as well. The footage that we shot of Mary McPherson is the only footage that we know of that reveals exactly how Rene Caisse made her formula.  This footage is available on our website at BecomeARevolution.com.

GL: What do you want people to take away from this film?

VM: We MUST CHANGE THE LAWS. I am planning a march in the summer to the White House. I hope to get everyone to join along. There are alternative treatments – we as American citizens should be able to explore all treatments available!

CP: We want people to be moved to action to change the approval system, so that we can all benefit from better treatments for cancer. We don’t accept that what is “currently available” in the medical system (chemo, radiation, surgery) is the best that we can do. We can go to the moon but we can’t find a better option than poisoning ourselves to deal with cancer? We want people to realize that there are other options out there, but they need “approval” so that the general public can have access to them.

GL: What has been the public’s response to the film? Was it what you expected?

VM: The public’s response to the film has been across the board positive. Many cried during the screening. Everyone has lost someone to cancer, so I guess it’s a film that hits home with everyone. I expected the response to be positive but did not expect the emotional impact it has. It is truly a balance between being informative and not forgetting the humanistic element of cancer. Families are never the same if they lose someone to cancer.

CP: The public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. The film seems to create a change in perspective in people, not only in what the problems are in the approval system, but it seems to inspire people to make changes in their personal lifestyles for cancer revention, or at the very least to start thinking differently about what they put in their bodies, and how nutrition can fight disease. We are very grateful for that response.

GL: What is your ultimate goal for this film?

VM: The goal of the film is to awaken the public so that we can ALL start saying no to poison and force change within the system.

CP: My ultimate goal for this film is inspire people to raise their voice to change the system so that we all have better options for treating cancer, and to embrace nutrition as a method for disease prevention.

GL: How can viewers get involved in changing the current state of cancer treatment?

CP: One of our goals with this film is to organize people to create change. If you would like to be a part of this process, you can email us through our web site, BecomeARevoution.com.

In the meantime, write your congressional representatives and senators and question why it takes $1 billion to get any cancer treatment approved, and demand a more cost-effective system that will provide the opportunity for more cancer treatments to be approved by the FDA.

Valerie Cooper

Valerie Cooper

Valerie graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in journalism and has years of experience writing for magazines, newspapers and public relations. She completed three years with the Peace Corps in Mozambique, where she taught English and communications at a high school and university. In the fall, she will pursue her master’s degree in communication for development in the UK.

Valerie Cooper

Author: Valerie Cooper

Valerie graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in journalism and has years of experience writing for magazines, newspapers and public relations. She completed three years with the Peace Corps in Mozambique, where she taught English and communications at a high school and university. In the fall, she will pursue her master's degree in communication for development in the UK.

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