Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I love proverbs. There are websites out there with 100s of them. The more popular proverbs have origin, historical context, and date first published. They fit my style. They are usually short of words and long on meaning. We use to play a game with them where we would see who could name the most... back and forth between 2 or more people. When you ran out, you lost the game.

As I write this, yes, I’m between a rock and a hard place. The “rock” is continuing with my chemo regimen; the “hard place” is stopping my chemo. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, there are no right and wrong answers.

On one side is a view to continue what’s appears to be working. The issue with this is the toxicity of the chemo. My body may be reaching a critical stage right now where the cumulative affects are once again severely impacting the quality of my life. This includes: 1) Neuropathy which had in the past been annoying (and local to my toes), but is now reaching further up to the middle of my lower leg and is actually causing some significant short intense pain bursts (one to two minutes) in my toes periodically. In most cases, feelings will eventually come back, but not in all cases. 2) Fatigue which has kept me in bed with flu like symptoms for 5 days straight now. I also went on a 5 day antibiotic pack to help avoid pneumonia. Pneumonia is quite common in long term cancer patients. 3) A few other side effects, some mental, some physical, but not worth getting into. And 4) chemo related death. There are no good statistics on this as it’s hard to determine what killed someone, the chemo or the cancer, but one recent article I read said that up to 65 percent of deaths among children with myeloid leukemia follow chemotherapy complications. If you think about it, today’s chemo kills all cells, both good and bad, the purpose of the chemo is to kill the bad cells faster than the good ones.

On the other side of the equation is a view that says stop the chemo. The potential harm is a cancer recurrence. And, to make this choice that much harder, I’m more or less out of options. Sure, if it comes back, my doctors will try something. But, I’m already off the “planned” course and getting lucky twice is unlikely. I’m not overly worried about dying, but the process of dying with this type of cancer creates great anxiety. It will be painful and not be a pretty sight.

Next week I’ll talk to my doctor about some middle ground… a reduction in dosage, less in each sitting, spread them further apart, or some combination of the aforementioned. I don’t have a clue as to the implications for this, but he will understand this and be able to advise me. There is little doubt in my twisted mind that my current state (no evidence of disease) and longevity has pleasantly surprised my medical team.

Back to the proverb. Definition: In difficulty, faced with a choice between two unsatisfactory options. Origin: The earliest known reference was printed in the U.S. in 1921.

I hope you all are well. Take care.

No comments: