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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cancer Treatment

I guess as far as Cancer is concerned I have a fairly unique perspective.  I have now been on both sides - the carer and now the one being cared for.  You would think because of this I have a good knowledge of treatment and what was going to happen - not so, I think even I was shocked at actually how dense I was about the whole thing.  When I was diagnosed even being through what I have before with Cancer I was clueless, I felt completely out of control there for a while - but that's OK - it does go away and you do get a handle on things, but all of this has to be done while your treatment starts, usually at a rate of knot's.

Since I found the lump in late April I have had/done the following;
Ultra-sound scan
Mammogram
MRI Scan
Surgery to remove the lump and 11 lymph nodes from my armpit
Hickman Line Insertion
3 Lots of Chemo
Various chats with my Consultant and Oncologist
Various proddings and pokings from Doctors and Surgeons
Meeting with a Fertility Specialist

My treatment will continue on with six more lots of Chemo, 3 weeks of Radiotherapy and five years on hormone therapy (tablets).  It seems generally any Cancer treatment will consist of some or all of the 4 (Surgery/Chemotherapy / Radiotherapy/Hormone Therapy) depending on the many variables - what type of Cancer, grade, location, etc etc.

Having sat and thought about it all for a while it grieves me that after all this time and research that those 4 things are still the go-to treatments, we just don't seem to have moved on much.  It felt completely alien to me when I signed a consent form to allow what is in its most basic form the hospital to inject me with poison for 6 months then to blast me with radiation and finally to put me on a drug with a list of possible side effects a mile long. 

I'm making myself sick to make myself well.

The treatments all have side effects and this is what I find most difficult, there is always a trade off - and you have to ask yourself as you start this journey, what am I willing to sacrifice, what is an acceptable loss of quality in my life over quantity?

Unfortunately much of the problem with side effects is that some people will feel the full force some will get none, some are temporary some are permanent but no-one can tell you for definite, it is all a leap of faith.
For example when I started my treatment my Oncologist asked me if I would participate in some research they are doing so that younger women will be able to find out one way or the other if the Chemotherapy will make them sterile.  I agreed, no-one could tell me the answer to that and I wish they could have.  Instead I had to make a decision based on nothing - I have no idea if I will be able to have children once this is over (granted i had no idea before either) but this treatment may end any hope of having a child naturally for me.

I wish in a way I was braver, increasingly some people are shunning the standard medical treatments and going it alone, trying to treat themselves naturally - as with any treatment sometimes they win, sometimes they don't, but at least the quality of their lives is far less compromised.  I wish I had been brave enough to say no to more treatment after my surgery because there is a good chance I would have been fine - but at this point in my life its not a risk I am willing to take, even with the impact it will have on the rest of my life.

To be truthful I consider myself very lucky - even with all of this I am one of the lucky ones and I will not take that for granted, some of the women I have met since being diagnosed have made me realise this, some are far worse off than me in terms of what Cancer they have and what they have to cope with whilst fighting it, they are the ones that are inspirational.

Cancer treatment is scary and unpredictable and you just have to go with the flow much of the time, learn to listen to your body, be positive and for a former pessimist that can be a big ask.  Its a shame that until this point in my life I don't think I ever thought to myself - I want to live - its not something we say to ourselves unless something threatens to take life away, its almost as if saying it is like waving a red flag at a bull, that somehow saying it means our life will be extinguished in some cruel irony because we finally admitted how much we want it.  But I do want it, now more than ever, and not just to exist to live, really live - how many of us can say we do that?

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