This past year, a couple of cancer blog authors that I have followed have died, one just a few days ago. These young women were in their primes (26 & 31 years old) but handled their cancer in very different ways.
One who had adenocarcinoma (my kind of cancer) of the esophagus, underwent surgeries and chemo, but once she had a recurrence, decided to eschew further chemotherapy. She decided to eat healthily and exercise instead knowing that it probably wouldn’t make a difference. She died about six months after her recurrence was discovered and spent the last month of her life on an island in Maine with family and close friends. She died peacefully in a beautiful place. She had survived two years since her initial diagnosis.
The other who had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, underwent initial chemo and then a marrow transplant. She continued to seek treatment, after treatment, after increasingly toxic treatment. The photos of her on her blog showed a person who looked almost nothing like the person who started the blog. She was bald and swollen; she had bleeding out of her skin and horrible thrush and mouth sores. She spent much of her last months in the hospital. Finally, her body just gave out. Her husband said she died peacefully, but in her last posts she talked about suffering from major pain and panic attacks. She had survived four years since her diagnosis.
Each of these deaths left me a bit stunned, heavy-hearted, deeply sad … and with just a touch of dread. It’s becoming time for me to make some treatment choices and I ask myself, which person would I rather be: the one who lives four years but suffers horribly and spends much of their time in the care of strangers, or the one who lived only two, but is surrounded by home and family and beauty?
We, the cancer afflicted, are encouraged to fight, fight, fight and that’s all well and good if you have a chance of winning. But I don’t, and if my suffering serves no purpose but to add to medical statistics, then fighting to the end…well…seems kind of stupid to me.
Perhaps I am not as tolerant or tough as I once thought. The truth is, I hate, hate, HATE how I feel on this tough chemo. It could be vastly worse, I know, but I’m not sure I want to tolerate it anymore.