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Modern vs. Natural

I have to admit, yesterday’s post about my new drug schedule was actually a bit of a lead up to this one. I haven’t spoken too candidly yet about my decision to take the drugs I am on, and I decided now would be as good a time as ever to address it.

There is a world of information out there about ways to treat cancer, and the world seems to be divided into two camps: those who treat it with “modern” drugs and those who treat it through a more “natural” approach.

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 Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with any form of illness can surely relate to the amount of information available in both areas. On one hand, our doctors tell us to try certain kinds of treatments, on the other hand there are books upon books out there saying that modern medicine ignores treatments that have been used for centuries.

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, the green tea started flowing. A lot of people said I needed to get a juicer immediately, eat more “sea vegetables,” and start taking supplements.

I think a lot of this is inspired by what we see in the media. It’s in documentaries like Crazy Sexy Cancer, where a woman with a slow-growing incurable cancer virtually stops the growth of the disease through lifestyle and diet. We often hear more about the miracles on TV than we do about the everyday treatments.

What some people miss however, is that there is a big, BIG difference between someone like me and someone like Kris Carr. Her cancer is “incurable” and mine is “curable.”

Hodgkin’s disease is one of the first types of cancer they tested chemotherapy on decades ago. It is one of the most responsive types of cancer through chemo, and one that actually goes away with modern treatment. A significant number of people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s in their 20s live into their old age because of aggressive chemotherapies, despite the treatment poisoning the body in the process. This book was invaluable for educating me on chemotherapy and its purpose.

I read articles in the New York Times and LA Times yesterday about how Steve Jobs put off surgery for nine months after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in lieu of “Eastern therapies.” At the time of diagnosis, he too had a possibly curable disease, and putting off surgery and chemo may have changed that. Reading this made me angry. When a doctor presents you with something that will save your life, no matter how harsh, how can you look the other way? How is your life not valuable enough?

My point, is that given the choice, I will always choose the treatment that is proven to work best. I was lucky to get a common cancer with a well-known treatment. There really was no debate or need for a bunch of extra opinions because my diagnosis and treatment is so cut and dry.

For now, my focus is on taking my chemo drugs and hoping they work their magic. My oncologist says I will always have a little piece of cancer sitting on top of my heart, so I imagine I’ll invest in that juicer just yet. Because when the chemo is done and I’m left with a poisoned body, I will continue to do what’s proven best to halt further cancer growth and make my body healthy again. I’ll just make sure to do it on the advice of my doctor first.

The Second Half

I kind of feel like garbage today.

I started a new chemo cocktail yesterday because my old one poisoned my lungs. There are two well-known Hodgkin’s treatments – ABVD, which I was taking before, and BEACOPP. Now I am on a cocktail of the two cocktails – COPP/ABV. It’s bananas.

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So many new drugs, a whole new schedule. Sometimes I have to take a pill on Thursdays and not lie down for half an hour after, or just a pill on Saturday and Sundays. My chemo treatments are now one week, then three weeks apart. So in a 30-day cycle, on days 1 & 8. But I also have to take a chemo pill every day for the first seven days of that cycle. So I guess it’s kind of like I’m getting chemo for 8 days in a row, then three weeks off.

I got two new-to-me drugs through IV at the hospital yesterday, hence my garbage-like state. I’m both curious and nervous to see how this new regimen goes. The side effects are mostly the same except on one of these new ones I have to make sure to use the washroom every 3-4 hours. Apparently a lot of the chemicals are released through urine and can be toxic to your bladder if they sit in there for too long.

You have no idea how ridiculous I felt waking up to an alarm at 3am just to release the chemicals from my bladder.

In other news, I was taken off my blood thinners (YAY!!). So that is one less needle I have to stick myself with a day. Now I’m just on the Neupogen shots for my white blood cells. There will now be days where I don’t have to give myself a needle at all, which is pretty damn awesome.

I’ve got this little bag that I carry all my drugs in and it’s starting to burst. I can’t believe how many chemicals and pills it takes to kill cancer. I forget just how harsh some of these drugs are, until I look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of my bald spot. I hate badmouthing chemo because it is working for me and will cure me. But it’s scary to think of the healthy stuff it’s killing on top of all the cancer stuff. Not to mention, it makes me feel like crap.

Today is a Netflix kinda day.

Time

I have learned a lot of lessons since being diagnosed with cancer four months ago. Things that some people don’t learn until they are several decades into life. There is one lesson however that I’ve come to realize I am having a hard time to learn and has to do with time.

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You see, when I began chemotherapy three months ago, there was talk of the possibility of my not doing the whole six months of chemo. Hodgkins responds very well to chemo, as proved after my first treatment when all my cancer symptoms vanished immediately.

But after meeting with my oncologist last week, I learned that the mass in my chest was just too large to be blasted out so quickly. I’ll have to do the full six months, with an additional six weeks of radiation still up in the air.

So at this point, that is only three more months of chemo. Maybe several weeks of radiation. To people looking in on the outside, that probably seems totally doable. To me however, the person who has to deal with the effects of these treatments and cancer every minute of my life, it’s an eternity.

I was talking about this with my dad, who was trying to convince me that in the grand scheme of things, being out of commission for 8 or so months of my life with this cancer thing isn’t that long. In my mind I started trying to do the math on what percentage 8 months of my 25 years is, compared to 8 months of his 57 years. I couldn’t come up with an answer, apart from the fact that it’s a lot longer duration for someone my age compared to someone his age.

My point being is that cancer will make a person grow up a lot, but there are some things that I can only learn with time. More specifically in this case, how to deal with time itself.

I would have never previously labelled myself as an impatient person. In fact, my rare patience is something I valued. But these days, as each treatment, each day, each minute spent being sick drags on, I feel my patience being tested. Time is always looming over me, whether it be the day I’m declared cancer-free, or the day I’m told the cancer has come back. Neither of which of course can be revealed until due time.

These days when I get upset and frustrated over what is happening, it’s not the “why me?” it used to be. It’s the “I want this to be over NOW” foot-stamping temper tantrums. I am so ready for this to be over, but time just isn’t moving fast enough for me.

As I feel worse with each passing day, the following day stretches out into something that feels longer. Three months can pass in a flash when you’re having fun, but it slows to a snail’s pace when you’re grasping to find the energy just to get through it.

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I know this is an honest and perhaps depressing post for a Monday, but it’s a very real reflection of something not only I as a cancer patient struggle with, but I think anyone who is sick or injured struggles with.

If anything, let it be a reminder that not everything is “over before you know it.” Because living through some things often gets very real, very gruelling, and very hard. That is assuming of course it is ever over. My cancer may come back. I still can’t straighten my injured left arm. And apparently, I’m still not very good at mental math.

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