Mar 02, 2011 - 3:24 pm
I did some “old school” arithmetic and by my account, by the time I finish with this treatment schedule, I will have completed (51) rounds of chemo in my journey, not including Avastin.
That number shocked even me - guess I had just lost account as the years have passed…
I liken chemo to NAPALM and am often reminded during treatment, of all the war movies where the jets come swoopin’ in and drop the napalm out of the sky while the other team runs for cover inside their man-made tunnels.
The fury of the napalm (like chemo) is evident as it lays waste to everything in its path, while the enemy just waits it out. And when it’s all over, they come scurrying out of their tunnels and are ready to do battle once more.
And that’s how Cancer really works, isn’t it? It hides and waits, gathers its forces and launches another attack – in our world we call this a RECURRENCE.
And Recurrence, is always where the real battle of Cancer is ultimately won or lost. These are just the facts and if you ‘ve been on the board long, well, we know too many of our friend who we have seen this happen to.
Myself, I’m on the downward slope of Recurrence #3. I can tell you that the battle gets harder not easier. As I close in towards 7-years of hand-to-hand combat, I find it much more difficult both physically and mentally to keep “steppin’ up” and hitting it out of the park.
Perhaps, my body has just grown weary of all the abuse that Cancer has put me through. Mind and body wise, I am a weary traveler on the Long Road of Cancer – I’ve found that there are not too many rest stops along the way. And when you eyeball one, then you better pull over – that’s what they are there for.
I’ve got much more experience than when I started - that’s an Advantage, but I also think it can be a Disadvantage at times, as well. The problem with multiple recurrences, is you are fully aware of what you are going to have to go up against. You could sit down and write the script out yourself for all that you are going to have to go through again. And that pain weighs heavily on both you and your caregiver.
It’s a very long road you are both facing again – this 3rd Tour of Duty for me will be 10-months of hard fighting. That’s a lot of good time gone by the wayside, but with no other choice than to lay down, I went for it yet again. Still in the hopes, that I might get cured, I try and fight on.
But, am I really kidding myself all of these years…now a Stage IV with all of these years of “front-line action?” Could I still really be this naïve? That chapter is still a few more months away, after we wrap up treatment and do the scans, and get the “results” that myself and those that have followed me are waiting for.
Of course, I’m a little more realistic about things now than I was before I started – one would expect to change and grow between Years 1 and Years 7. I certainly see things a lot more clearly now and I have no misgivings as to what still waits before me. All I can do is get up everyday and take a step forward and see where the days go. The meter is running anyway, no matter which way it goes.
I think as the “wear & tear” on my mind and body continues over the years, I constantly am looking for that fine line that defines Curative to Palliative to End of Life.
Where is that line for me?
Where is that line for any of us?
Not even the greatest minds of our times can answer this question for any of us – of course, I find that the most challenging aspect of the disease. When to know WHEN?
As always, TIME will tell us all what we need to know. I just find it aggravating that I was given 7 more years of life and had to give 80% of that time to fighting “just to live.” The numbers really don’t add up for me, but as a stubborn and tenacious Texan, I just don’t know why I keep going sometimes.
Perhaps, it’s because I still have a shot at Cure that acts as the “carrot on the string” and keeps me forever advancing to that goal. And if I don’t make it, then maybe I will be granted at least one period of 6-months or even a year, where I could rest my mind and body and prepare for another fight if Recurrence #4 decided to announce itself. That would be nice – I need a Cyotoxin break so I can see again what’s it like to try and feel good and somewhat human again.
Chemo – it’s the chemical sensation that’s sweeping the nation – every hospital and chemo ward I’ve seen is jammed full – literally standing room only just to get in.
And what a novel approach – we’ll give you “medicine” whose mission is to kill and destroy any living cell that it comes in conact with. Now, that’s real space age technology there – talk about a targeted approach.
I won’t live to see it, but I do hope that there become better ways to attack this problem as the decades roll by – one thing for certain, Cancer is not going away. Someone will always be dealing with it – and let’s hope in the future, it is in a more humane way.
I really don’t fault the medical community – it’s simply all we know to fight with in 2011. It’s just upsetting that we are not further along and we could end all of this needless suffering that so many millions are going through each day of their lives.
Unfortunately, the Cancer Battle, is fought with the premise of ADDITION by SUBTRACTION. Which means we are adding time to our lives, by “subtracting” our organs in surgery, and our cells through brutal radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Which brings me to another theory I’ve been mulling over. Are we really adding years to our live with treatment? Well, of course we are, but is what we invest in the fight, what we are getting out of it?
Case in point…I will have “invested” 10-months of my time into this latest cancer battle. Let’s say that I live for 10 more months…..what does that represent to me? To me, that’s a DRAW – I gave 10 to get 10, so we’re even. But are we really?
I left behind 5 wedge resections of my right lung – they cut out 2 ribs – they destroyed another 10% of my right lung with radiation treatments that had me on my knees, literally begging for death.
Draw? Well, we can call it that, ‘cause that’s probably the best case scenario for me this time. But as I’m trying to illustrate, we always lose more when we go up against Cancer – we can win some victories, but the costs of those victories are steep and come at a very high price.
And if I’ve invested 10-months and were to only get 6-months before my next recurrence, then my old school math, tells me that I’ve lost. And if it’s anything less than that……
And lastly, I wanted to tackle one of the biggest questions that we are asked advice for everyday up here – and it’s one of the most difficult to answer.
The Question: “Should I do chemo following my surgery?”
Our Answer: Has always been to do what you feel best and what your oncologist and medical team feels is right.
That disclaimer takes away the guilt in case we were to advice someone one way or the other and it was not the right path to take – that would be hard to live with for any of us.
Of course, the answer is never definitive. But, I did get to the root of this answer with my oncologist recently and I asked him this question. This is from his medical point of view and not just my opinion.
What he feels is right, is if there are NO cancer cells “detectable” then he is against doing chemo for all the obvious reasons, that you are throwing a “big gun” at this problem with no guaranteed resolution and that you are risking “Densensitation” to the chemo’s effectiveness and that over time, cells will change to make the adjustment , and then the chemo will fail.
He feels it is better to have the “Big Gun” chemo in your holster for when it’s really needed.
To further illustrate this point, I want to use my old Friend “Buzzard” as Test Case #1 and “Sundance” as Test Case #2. (Hope you don’t mind, buddy)
“Buzzard” – Test Case #1
“Sundance” – Test Case #2
This might help some of you who might be looking down this road in the up and coming future. Any of us would be supportive with whichever route was taken, but this is a medical opinion from a well thought of surgical oncologist and does make for some interesting thinking on this subject.
The other topic we talked about was does Chemo Cure Cancer by Itself?
My onc and I sat down and spoke on this sobering topic – chemo and it’s role in our fights. He explained to me that Chemo in and of itself, will not cure cancer. This is not really news, it has been told to me by several oncologists and medical professionals that I’ve spoken to.
We know that it shrinks tumors, we know that it holds the line for awhile and prevents growth and metastasis, until its effectiveness in our bodies stops.
My onc gave me a good analogy that I wanted to share with you. It went something like if you have a million cancer cells in your body, then chemo has a better chance at catching so many of those during various stages of their growth cycle….but when we multiply that by hundreds of millions or billions of cancer cells, then the task is just too overwhelming for chemo to do by itself. Too many cancer cells at too many different stages of growth and therefore, impossible to eradicate all or most of them.
“The Chemo Wars.” I wish we could get this as more of a TREATMENT option, instead of a LIFESTYLE.
Because, honestly, I don’t know how many more rounds I want to do. I guess we’ll just see how this battle shapes up and then I can think long and hard on the future, depending on what we find out.
I want to thank everyone in advance for taking their time to read this. Many of you are in your first year or first few years of fighting, so it may be hard for you to understand my perspectives at times.
But, I’m speaking from a 7-year perspective and from time to time, I need to talk about the subjects and topics that weigh so heavily on my mind.
Who else can I turn to in my time of need? Who else would really understand where I’m coming from? What’s the point of my journey if I cannot have the free will to express my feelings in an open public forum and to tell you what I’ve felt and learned over that length of time?
I’ve put myself on the other side of my posts and if it were Me reading Me, I would want to know a little about what this guy has found out during his time in the battle. Why has he survived so long? What keeps him going? I’ve tried to show you many sides of myself from strong to fallible and I always like to tackle some of the biggest topics out there and I try and stay as real as I can, while still being very supportive.
I am one of a handful of people in our community who has been fighting this long, which puts me on a pretty short list of folks.
We always pay attention to the NED club and they are given high praise for their accomplishments – and rightfully so. But, I think the Long Term Actively Fighting segment of our community needs recognition as well, because what we are doing, is every bit as important and relevant in this community – I just wanted to stand up for this group and say that.
I certainly don’t want you to fight as long as I did – but if you find yourselves in my shoes, you will know that were those who came before you – that defied the odds – that thumbed their noses to cancer – and lived many years longer than they were given by their “trusted medical staff.”
For those of us about to fight – I SALUTE YOU!!!