Daredevil stunt performer Robbie Knievel died on early Friday morning at the age of 60. He was in a hospice in Reno, Nevada, battling pancreatic cancer, which accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers but around 7% of all cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often delayed because the pancreas is tucked deep inside your abdomen where you can’t see it on selfies. Therefore, the sad news of Knievel’s passing is an opportunity to raise more awareness of this awful cancer that will probably kill over 50,000 people again in 2023. After all, greater awareness could end up saving lives by getting more people diagnosed earlier and raising more funding for research to find new ways to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. Yet, take a wild guess as to what various anti-vaccination social media accounts have been trying to do instead? Yes, you got it, blame Covid-19 vaccines.
That’s quite a stunt to try to exploit the fame of Knievel in such a manner. Robbie Knievel, the son of legendary stuntman Robert “Evel” Knievel, certainly jumped into the whole daredevil thing early on in his life. He began jumping his bicycle at the ripe old age of four and riding motorcycles at seven. Yeah, seven-year-old on a motorcycle isn’t something that you see every day. That clearly foretold a stuntman career in which he would use motorcycles to jump a wide variety of things, ranging from fountains to limousines to the Grand Canyon, setting 20 world records in the process. Robbie Knievel began touring with his famous father at age twelve before eventually embarking on a solo career. You may have seen him wearing his trademark red-white-and-blue jumpsuits, reminiscent of the leather jumpsuits that his father used to wear.
While Robbie Knievel’s life wasn’t common, pancreatic cancer unfortunately is all to common. The American Cancer Society reports that about one in 64 of all Americans will at some point in their lives be diagnosed with this cancer. That’s a pretty high number if you think about it. So, if you were to throw a “People who Believe Space Lasers Caused California Wildfires” wine and cheese party with 64 people, on average at least one of those attendees will eventually be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The problem is such diagnoses don’t tend to occur at the early stages of pancreatic cancer since you don’t tend to think about and look at your pancreas in the mirror every day. Of course, if you do happen to see your pancreas in the mirror, get medical care as soon as possible. Diagnosis usually occurs via seeing it on an ultrasound, an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Definitive diagnosis requires a biopsy of any abnormality seen in the pancreas. These aren’t things that you can do every day. You probably can’t install a CT scan around your bed or try to biopsy your pancreas while plucking your nose hairs. There is a blood test for a tumor marker called CA19-9. But this is not a very reliable screening tool for pancreatic cancer as you can have pancreatic cancer without have elevated CA19-9 levels at all.
People may use the phrase “silent but deadly” to describe farts. But it really applies to pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer can silently grow and spread for a while. By the time you notice symptoms such as abdominal pain radiating to your back, loss of appetite, fatigue, unintended weight loss, yellowing of your skin, or changes in the color of your stools or urine, the cancer has often spread beyond the pancreas and reached its advanced stages. That can make it impossible to surgically remove all of the cancer.
Even when the cancer is still confined to the pancreas, surgery can be challenging. Your pancreas is not like your nose. It is not located in a convenient, easy-to-access location. Instead, it is tucked deep inside your abdomen, nestled besides, your small intestine, your gallbladder, and a bunch of major blood vessels. Only very skilled surgeons can successfully complete the complex procedures required to remove the cancer and parts of the adjoining structures and reconnect everything. Therefore, don’t believe health systems when they claim that all docs are the same. That would be like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saying that all quarterbacks are the same and starting Tom Cruise or Wayne Brady as their signal caller rather than Tom Brady.
Therefore, if social media accounts were to post any awareness to help people after Knievel’s death, it should be to raise awareness of this often deadly cancer. It would be to advocate for more funding and research to develop new ways to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. Even though so many people succumbed to this cancer each year, so much more money continues to go towards finding new ways to take and share selfies and making movies like “Mars Needs Moms.”
Yet, once again, anti-vaccination accounts are trying to hijack valuable discussions of real health issues by tossing out unfounded claims. For example, one Twitter account with a blue verified check mark claimed, “Very possible vaccines/boosters damaged his pancreas and brought on cancer.” Yeah, it’s very possible that this claim is full of bleep. Another account asked about Knievel, “Was he yet another victim of the #Covid #Vaccine aka #DeathJab ???” Umm, if over 262 million people in the U.S. have already received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, how can you call the vaccine a #DeathJab?
Yep, it’s the same old strategy that anti-vaccination accounts have been trying to use of late as Resistance Twitter activists and brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein pointed out here:
Those with anti-vaccination agendas have continued to jump over the scientific facts and evidence. If more isn’t done about this plague of misinformation and disinformation that has infected society and is being propagated by politicians and TV/radio/podcasting personalities, our society will soon be headed towards a crash-landing.