Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Plot Thickens
No Chemo tomorrow. My oncologist wants me to postpone for a week.
Why? Because my fingers and toes are sore and hypersensitive. Not so bad that I can't button my shirt, but much worse this week than last. The good doctor is concerned that I am headed toward a more serious and long-term case of peripheral neuropathy. She has patients for whom this has happened. "It's a major quality of life issue," she warned when we first discussed my chemo plan.
I want to be around to see my husband and stepson and friends and siblings mature, my relationships deepen. I want to be old and wrinkly one day, and sit and laugh tenderly with my loved ones about when we were so young and hot-headed and awkward at expressing how much we love each other. Do I want that more than the ability to hold a pen? Tie my shoes? Walk without stumbling? Not an easy answer.
Quality or quantity? It's not like comparing a generic sheet cake to a gourmet truffle. When it comes to living, quality matters but so does quantity. They are intrinsically related. At least in certain areas, life improves with age.
Will a one-week delay impact my prognosis? My doctor thinks not. I hesitate to ask for evidence to back this assumption. She often responds to my inquiries as if I'm challenging her, as if I don't trust her knowledge or judgment. I have to work to rephrase and defuse. It's tiring but I find that she does come around. And when there is no evidence to give, she'll say so.
She's a well-regarded oncologist. Some say the best. But more and more often I find myself thinking she might not be the right match for me. She's sickly looking herself. It's a surface issue, but it affects my ability to believe she knows what true health feels like, and therefore I wonder if she values it, or trusts it. She often frets about her patients who exercise, jokes about them "sweating like pigs" "sweating like dogs" in the gym, more than once telling us how relieved she feels to be there on her treadmill in case one of her patients, an aerobics instructor who works at her gym, has a heart attack mid-class. Recently, my oncologist expressed pleasure that I'd exercised less in a given week rather than displeasure about the reason (my stamina had diminished.) Also, and this is a big one, she has a tendency to regard more drugs as better whereas I prefer to look for places where less drugs are reasonable. A solid case can be made for her approach to the cancer battle itself, but when it comes to medications for short-term side effects, I'm of a different mindset.
Switching doctors midstream, however, feels exhausting.
Doctor disillusionment aside, the plot has officially thickened. Just two cycles into the prescribed twelve Taxol infusions, even with the week off and increased vigilance about taking supplements (there are several that can help stave off neuropathy) I am wondering if I'll be able to stay the course.
On the horizon lurks an alternative chemo drug, Taxotere, but it's harder on the body in multiple ways, and perhaps also less effective.
Time will tell...