Thursday, February 10, 2011
Hitting the Wall
Thank you Amy and Olivia! You made me cry, which is a good thing.
"If you had cancer in the sixteen hundreds, they would have bled you," J~ said to me a week or two ago. "They believed cancer was an excess of black bile." He was reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. His tone conveyed amusement, or perhaps relief that we're not in such barbaric times, but I felt none of that.
I felt, instead, the weight of the future, when new knowledge casts today's approach in a similar light. If I'm lucky enough to live a long life, I expected I'd have to contend with that.
I just didn't expect to have to contend with it now.
Two days ago it was all over the news: a new study shows that if breast cancer is in the lymph nodes, it doesn't necessarily support your future health to remove them. Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system, after all.
This study points to a paradigm shift in cancer treatment: getting all the cancer out surgically is less important than once thought.
Hearing this latest development, I recalled how I imagined telling the surgeon, "Just take the cancerous nodes, leave the rest." I knew she would not have been okay with that. I pictured her shaking her head, smiling sadly at me. I would have felt foolish to even suggest it. If only we'd known. Though this study addresses cancers less advanced than mine, there could have at least been a conversation, a possibility... But what can be done? We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.
Anyway, it's chemo that's got my attention now, and these last few days, I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you, it's been really really hard. I feel twisted and squeezed from the inside. It's difficult to stand upright, a strain to focus my eyes. Everything in me, every cell says stop this poisoning. It's killing me. It's suffocating me. I cannot endure it.
The thought of another cycle leaves me whimpering.
From what I hear, many cancer patients describe their chemotherapy side effects as "manageable." What does that mean? I cannot fathom...
With the latest news, all my doubts rise to the surface. How long will it be until we know that chemotherapy is barbaric too? There must be a better way. There will be a better way.
J~ stayed home from work to be with me today. As I write, he is cleaning the kitchen. Next, I will shower and dress and we'll go out with the dog. As my friend K says about her daily run, "fresh air and forward motion." That's all there is. Get through today.