To Chemo Or Not To Chemo? That Is The Question

Subsequent to my last post where I had agreed to chemotherapy, I later discussed this with Denise and looked at the pros and cons. I decided in the end that the potential downsides of chemo seemed to outweigh the possible good.

One important thing going for me at the moment is my positive attitude towards dealing with the cancer. The thought of the possible side-effects of the treatment – feeling very unwell and compromising my immune system – in relation to the possible gains – a few months at most added to my life expectancy ( the likely prognosis) – didn’t make chemo seem the right thing for me. I felt strongly that my positivity would be compromised. These were all important factors in my decision not to go ahead with the treatment.

We phoned the hospital and their response was immediate. We had several strongly supportive phone calls with the receptionist, chemo staff nurse and one of the lung cancer nurses. The receptionist made an immediate call to the staff nurse and all of the actions we needed were arranged very quickly. Both nurses gave me a lot more information so I could make a more informed decision. They suggested and then set in place a set of practical and reassuring steps. The chemo start date was put back a week to give me longer to consider and an appointment was arranged with the oncology doctor within the next week so I could have an in depth discussion.

At the meeting with the doctor the feeling was that everyone would support me in whatever I decided. The doctor said that as long as I was well enough I could begin the chemo programme at a later date if I changed my mind ( I do understand that sooner is better for this). She stressed that I would be offered the same additional palliative care whether or not I went through the chemo.

Our good friend, Kay, took me to the appointment and sat with me through it, helping me to feel more steady.

I strongly feel, that if this is the way the NHS functions then we need to fight to save it because, in my experience so far, I have been informed for making decisions and supported in finding what I wanted and treated as an individual and not a disease.

When I got back home Denise said my mood was much lighter and more buoyant. Like the hospital, my family, Denise, Matthew, Sam and Anna have all been clear about supporting whatever I decided.

Cancer – Prognosis and Treatment Plan

Sorry for the delay in posting but on some days I don’t feel I have the energy to do that much. Anyway, I’ll try to bring it all more up-to-date.

Last Wednesday I had my appointment with the Oncology doctor. Matthew came with me, it definitely helps not being on your own. It was strange going into Oncology as it’s the part of the hospital where I worked when I was casualty porter. It looks the same from the outside but inside is all new and shiny (anyway a lot shinier than when I worked there).

In the room with the doctor was one of the lung cancer nurses and a nurse who is carrying out an evaluation of a new cancer drug.

The doctor took me through the in and outs of chemotherapy, that I would start off by having two drugs injected and eight days later I would have one of them again. After that there would be a period of thirteen days to recuperate before going through the cycle again. I think the course is three times through this cycle. Then everything  would be evaluated (as it would be throughout the treatment).

I had a few questions:

  1. How effective is chemotherapy? I didn’t really end up with a clear answer to this. I can see why – cancer comes in different types and attacks different organs and chemotherapy doesn’t work with everyone.
  2. What’s the prognosis for what I have? Without chemo I would probably not last longer than a number of months and possibly a year or so. With chemo (if it works) I could get another four or five months. That was a bit of a surprise but not totally unexpected.
  3. What are the negatives around chemo? It doesn’t work on everybody. People react differently, some have no problem with it while others get very sick. Also as it is attacking the cancer cells it also attacks the good cells, resulting in a lowering of resistance to any illnesses which are around.

At  the time I sort of thought, “What choice do I have”, so I said I would go ahead with it. A date was set, which is tomorrow, 24th August. After a few more tests – blood, height weight etc. Matthew ran me home. Royal_Lancaster_InfirmaryI wasn’t keen on telling the family but, when I told Denise, she wasn’t very surprised. Matthew seemed to take it well but Anna was upset at the news.

Later in the day Denise spoke to one of the lung cancer nurses. My breathing wasn’t so hot at the time (it comes and goes) and I was also coughing quite a bit. So Denise asked her if there was anything that might help. She said that, for the cough, it would just be cough medicine as there wasn’t anything in particular that they would be able to give me. But, for the breathlessness a medicine called Oramorph could help.

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Denise rang the GP surgery (see how I’m getting out of doing things), and later in the day Sam went and picked up the prescription from the pharmacy. Looking at the bottle when he came home I realised that what I had been prescribed was Morphine.

It’s quite difficult in my position as I am a recovering alcoholic and addict though I’ve never tried heroin or morphine (basically the same drug except that heroin is more potent weight for weight). But I know I’m going to need some kind of pain relief as things move on so, all-in-all, I’ll do what they tell me and take what they give me to take. I know this will be frowned upon by some twelve steppers but I don’t intend to be a martyr for anyone.

But, overall, I am feeling positive about things; not that I’m likely to buck the system but rather that we will deal with what comes along as it comes along and try to make the most of whatever time we have.

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Sam, Me, Denise with Rosie and Anna plus Poppy

Until my next post, which I will try to get out a bit more speedily than this one, thanks for reading this.