You know those movies where you’re inspired to be the best version of yourself and really live? “The Bucket List” and “Thelma and Louise” spring to mind. The same thing happens with New Year’s resolutions and we know their notorious survival rate. The trouble with inspired living is its fade and very quickly habitual life takes over.
The Factors Motivating My Options
Today when I received the crappy news about my raised tumour marker, my problem solver (the part of my ego that lives loudly in my head) got to work. I’d already walked in there with a tired attitude. Tired that this temporary phase of my life is taking its toll mentally, physically and emotionally. Tired of living without my usual vitality and curiosity (although with the new drugs this seems to have improved somewhat). That my patience is being tested and I don’t know how much longer I can handle being in this holding pattern.
So I mentioned to the oncologist that I’ve been considering abandoning treatment if the marker dropped and held its level. In my mind, I held a target of 3 months. No logic behind that, really.
After some direct questioning and frank discussion, her recommendation is to complete 4 cycles (which is all the medical aid has authorised) and then go onto oral maintenance indefinitely.
With this new information, my pondering is now without the comfort of the marker’s support; like a trapeze artist without a safety net.
Here’re my 2 options as I see it.
- Get busy living
I can choose to not depend on chemo and say no to the side effects that limit me. [Have you seen The Matrix?] Mainstream medicine is not the only healing modality available but we carry a false sense of security about it because it’s the generally accepted practice. [ “Baah”, anyone?]
You see, cancer’s perceived not according to what we see the disease doing. What we see and label “cancer” are the effects of the drugs. And they’re designed that way. They’re designed to kill our systems so we can heal. Really barbaric and counter-intuitive. I’m not saying we’d be better off in the long run without them but they sure as hell make you look bad and feel worse.
I’ve been living on the sidelines of my own life waiting to get back into play again. I might (but not necessarily) end up living a shorter life without the drugs but I have to make the inevitable exit at some point anyway.
- Get busy dying
She explained how another patient on maintenance chemo lives a regular life, participating in hobbies and travelling on holiday. [Really? So on these holidays, what does she do? Lie around by the poolside on a lounger relaxing and reading a book? That’s nice.]
In the next breath, with a big “but” she reminded me [thanks] that I’m young and have probably been exercising more than any other patient – to my benefit. So will I be able to hike and run and bike and rollerblade and gym and play? Well, I’ll be able to plan and take poolside vacations because I won’t be tied down to coming in for treatment every week. [Great – a consolatory improvement.] Oh, and I’ll live longer… leading a fairly comfortable sedentary life desk jockeying for a living. How’s that for a spiritless slow death?
I see my healthy 93-year old grandmother who, according to her GP, will outlive us all but life has little meaning (except when Rinaldo’s playing – they come from the same island). Seriously, I have no desire to clock 100 years for the sake of it.
It’s not about giving up. It’s about choosing to live – as The Full Monty me. I might change my mind as other options arise but this is my gut feel for now.
We like to think we’d choose quality of life over mere longevity. It feels noble (or something). I’m learning that it’s one of those things you cannot know until you’re really faced with the choice which is f%^$ing scary and interestingly liberating. Sheesh, I need a nap!
Actually, there is a third option… Do nothing:-) But who wants to live life as a passenger when you can be the driver? You only do it once…uh, until the next time!