Sunday, December 7, 2014

What would you do?

Here's the scenario. You had cancer once and chemotherapy almost killed you so you swore you would never do it again. You get a new cancer or a recurrence and the oncologist recommends more chemotherapy. Would you do it?

This is the case of a friend of a friend. Apparently the first rounds of chemo nearly killed her by causing life threatening diarrhea for weeks. Her doctors told her a week or so ago, its back and want her to restart chemotherapy. She said no.

My friend told me this story as she is trying to find her so she can talk to her. I can completely understand the situation.

My first inclination would probably be to refuse more chemo if I had nearly died the first time. It might take a lot of convincing to get me to try it again. I would want to know what would the doctors be able to do to help prevent of the situation. I mean would I rather die from diarrhea or from cancer? I'm being real here.

Us cancer people may make what others consider weird decisions and discussions. We have already faced a potentially deadly diagnosis. Sometimes the treatment is pretty nasty. I mean its the slash, poison and burn - surgery, chemo, and radiation. Its no fun. You feel like crap. You lose your hair. You deal with radiation burns on sensitive body parts.You may be alive during treatment but you certainly aren't living.

I know I would have second thoughts and look for options that wouldn't be as harsh. What would you do?


Becky said...

I had 24-hours of contemplation of exactly that question last week. Not a recurrence, rather adjuvent chemo after neo-adjuvant chemo.

If she had her chemo a long time ago, then I'd recommend that she talk over the changes to treatments - there are new drugs to help with side effects ...

But I too would question whether more chemo is the only option or best option ... cause you are right in saying that you aren't really living when you are on chemo ...

Scott J said...

Hi Caroline,
difficult decision but like Rebecca I'd suggest the chemo dosages are or can be made milder. For me my first two cycles literally drained me, I lost 35 pounds in 5 weeks and because it felt exactly like my second heart failure that also went on for five weeks I freaked out on a branch clinic oncologist and now pay the different price of milder chemo with complete withdrawal of services other than infusions. (My main oncologist who hasn't spoken to me since before the treatments started and has quit my case and refuses to speak to me--I believe because I was misquoted in an interview with another doctor).
The sickness part is awful but being shunned for being sick by people who should know better is worse.
I'm slowly learning to live on Planet Cancer and how to "be" a patient with some autonomy. Commenting here on your blog is part of the sanity I feel when around others that "get it." Second is to make sure I won't be treated as an object by the System by first getting access to my records and then carefully explaining to the doctors how to work with patients.
Cancer isolates you, sometimes from yourself and not just other people. It seems to be a disease that has its own personality in every person but is taken to be a singularity by the doctors—as if all ways of treating people were reduced to one.
I recommend (ironically?) "Men Explain Things to Me" by Rebecca Solnit. Chapter titled "Woolf's Darkness - embracing the inexplicable."
Take Care

Joan B said...

We never know until we are in the situation. That said, I would get a second opinion from a top cancer hospital. I've seen too many folks suffer terribly at the end of their cancer treatment. I wished at the time that their families would have acknowledged that palliative treatment was better, but really, it is so personal that I try not to second guess (hard though)

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