Making decisions about chemotherapy.
When we were young in my neighborhood, we seemed to have a universal curfew – – when the street lights came on, everyone went home. It worked great with the seasons as we were naturally able to stay out longer in the summer. I thought about that recently when my brother visited. As all our solar lighting in the backyard turned on, it seemed that was his cue to call it a night and go home.
For metastatic pancreatic cancer, there are two main treatments (standard of care), both of which are a cocktail of two – four drugs. This is a fairly recent approach; combining treatments seems to work better. Sometimes one works better than the other, sometimes neither work; it’s all unique for each person. Most clinical trials are tied to one or the other main treatment, using new drugs to upgrade the treatment. So far, most clinical trials fail for pancreatic cancer, so it’s important to combine with a treatment that does sometimes work. Sadly, neither main treatment works for long.
I have been on both main treatments. One worked better for me than most people experience. I feel lucky for that. The other seemed designed to harm me. I never qualified for clinical trials; the two that rejected me for having too small tumors, failed.
All chemotherapy is toxic. The longer you stay on it, the more toxicity develops and remains in your body. As the toxicity increases in your body, the worse you feel, the side effects worsen with subsequent chemo and those chemos have less chance of working.
I tried the newest released drug for pancreatic cancer and it did work……for a moment. The cat scan and tumor marker tests at the three month mark recently confirmed it is no longer working. The cancer is growing.
There are a couple options for me to consider, however, the chances of them working, with my level of toxicity after 2½ years of chemo, is less than 10%. It would take 3 months with, probably, significant side effects to even determine if it’s working.
Reality check: I would be trading 3 months of feeling well, for 3 months of serious horribleness for a 10% chance of success.
Occasionally in our lives we have to make very difficult decisions. For me, though, this one was pretty clear. It was just tough to actually say out loud. To people I love.
There are people who would never feel okay if they didn’t strive to do everything in their power to try, even in the face of serious adversity. There are other people who focus on the value of the quality of one’s life as their driving force. I think I’m both. I believe it’s the reason I’m still here today. I tried both the western medical chemo options combined with my holistic synergy lifestyle.
So, I made the decision. I have stopped chemotherapy and will only focus on my holistic synergy approach.
I am choosing quality of life as my only path now.
I have been off chemo for two weeks and I feel pretty wonderfully okay. I can bike ride, play tennis, walk for miles, eat great food and nap only if I want, not because I’ve run out of steam for the rest of the day. As much as COVID allows me, I can visit with family, friends and enjoy a small glass of wine.
I feel at peace with my decision. At this point, my time for living with pancreatic cancer would not be super long with or without chemo. So, I choose to be well during this time. I plan to be here as long as possible to enjoy everything, as I’ve always enjoyed everything. This is a hard journey sometimes, and I do have ups and downs. I’ve taken good advice from a friend and cry a little each day, just to help me keep up.
Because I know I will have to go home when those street lights come on.