Brave stuntman Robbie Knievel died on Friday morning at the age of 60. He was in a hospice in Reno, Nevada battling pancreatic cancer, which accounts for about 3% of all cancers but about 7% of all cancer deaths in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often delayed because the pancreas is buried deep in the abdomen, where it cannot be seen in a selfie. Therefore, the sad news of Knievel’s death is an opportunity to raise awareness about this terrible cancer, which is likely to kill over 50,000 people again in 2023. After all, greater awareness could save lives by diagnosing more people earlier and raising more funds for research to find new ways to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. But guess what the various anti-vaccine social media accounts are trying to do instead? Yes you got it, blame the Covid-19 vaccines.
It’s quite a feat to try to capitalize on Knievel’s fame in this way. Robbie Knievel, son of legendary stuntman Robert “Evel” Knievel, certainly got into this whole daring adventure early in his life. He started jumping on a bike at the ripe old age of four and riding a motorcycle at the age of seven. Yes, a seven-year-old on a motorcycle is not something you see every day. This clearly foreshadowed a stunt career where he would use motorcycles to jump off a wide variety of things, from fountains to limousines to the Grand Canyon, setting 20 world records in the process. Robbie Knievel began touring with his famous father at the age of twelve before eventually embarking on a solo career. You may have seen him in his signature red, white and blue overalls, reminiscent of the leather overalls his father wore.
While Robbie Knievel’s life was anything but ordinary, pancreatic cancer is unfortunately common. The American Cancer Society reports that one in 64 Americans will be diagnosed with this cancer at some point in their lives. That’s a pretty high number if you think about it. So, if you were to throw a wine and cheese party “People who believe space lasers caused the fires in California” with 64 people, on average at least one of those attendees will eventually be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The problem is that such diagnoses don’t usually show up in the early stages of pancreatic cancer because you don’t tend to think and look at your pancreas every day in the mirror. Of course, if you happen to see your pancreas in the mirror, get medical help as soon as possible. Diagnosis is usually by looking at it on ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS), computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Definitive diagnosis requires a biopsy of any abnormalities seen in the pancreas. These are not things you can do every day. You probably can’t install a CT scan around your bed or attempt a pancreatic biopsy while plucking your nose hair. There is a blood test for a tumor marker called CA19-9. However, it is not a very reliable tool for screening for pancreatic cancer because you can have pancreatic cancer without elevated CA19-9 levels.
People may use the phrase “quiet but deadly” to describe farting. But it’s really about pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer can silently grow and spread over time. By the time symptoms such as abdominal pain radiating to the back, loss of appetite, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, yellowing of the skin, or a change in the color of the stool or urine are noticed, the cancer has often spread beyond the pancreas and has reached an advanced stage. This may make it impossible to surgically remove all of the cancer.
Even if the cancer is still confined to the pancreas, surgery can be difficult. Your pancreas is not like your nose. It is not in a convenient, easily accessible location. Instead, it’s tucked deep in the abdomen, next to the small intestine, gallbladder, and several major blood vessels. Only very skilled surgeons can successfully perform the complex procedures required to remove the cancer and some of the adjacent structures and reconnect everything. So don’t believe health systems when they say all doctors are the same. It would be as if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said all quarterbacks are the same and started Tom Cruise or Wayne Brady as the signalman, not Tom Brady.
Therefore, if social media accounts were to post information about helping people after Knievel’s death, it should serve to raise awareness of this often deadly cancer. This would be advocating for more funding and research to develop new ways to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. Even though so many people are diagnosed with this cancer every year, a lot more money is being spent on finding new ways to take and share selfies, and on films like Mars Needs Moms.
However, once again, anti-vaccine accounts are trying to hijack valuable discussions about real health issues by dismissing unsubstantiated claims. For example, one Twitter account with a blue verified checkmark taken over“It’s very possible that the vaccines/boosters damaged his pancreas and caused his cancer.” Yes, it is very possible that this claim is full of hype. Another account asked on Knievel: “Was he another victim of #Covid #Vaccine aka #DeathJab????” Umm, if over 262 million people in the US have already received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, how can you call the #DeathJab vaccine?
Yes, this is the same old strategy that anti-vaccine accounts have been trying to use recently, as pointed out here by Twitter Resistance activists and brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein:
Those with anti-vaccine programs continue to jump over the scientific facts and evidence. If nothing more is done about this scourge of disinformation and misinformation that has infected the public and is being propagated by politicians and TV/Radio/Podcast personalities, our society is about to make a catastrophic landing.