This is a different style post than some of my recent ones, but it addresses questions and issues that any one with cancer needs to address during their treatment.
There is a lot of information and skepticism floating around with regards to chemotherapy. You only need to use google for a few seconds before you find many theories as to why chemotherapy is bad, pharmaceutical companies are evil, and why asparagus only diets are the cure for cancer. There is much conjecture, a lot of scaremongering, some evidence based ideas, and personal opinions.
The question is, how do you separate out fact from fiction? This is not an easy question to answer for the average lay person. When you are bombarded with so much information, what inevitably happens is people pick and choose what they believe based on their own preconceived perceptions, and what is most ‘comfortable’ to believe. When you are dealing with cancer, and its somewhat high mortality rate, people will grasp to what hope they can find, be it in false remedies, evidence based ideology, faith based theories, or in the reality in which they exist.
But the harsh reality is that almost all of those things do not offer magic bullet type cures for cancer. The claim that pharmaceutical companies are out for every dollar they can be more accurately applied to those that peddle herbal cures and cures based on diet alone. If eating asparagus could cure cancer, then it is highly unlikely that such information could possible be kept secret in the interest of pharmaceutical gain. Lets not forget the Doctors who dish out treatment, they genuinely have the patients best interest at heart, and to say that they are persuaded by pharmaceutical interests is basically hyperbole at best and out right scaremongering at worst.
Here are two interesting articles that are worth the read when you have the time. The first is by Malcolm Gladwell, and gives a pretty good synopsis of the state of play of pharmaceutical companies and the development of agents for chemotherapy. The second is from a website/blog that attempts the counter the myths about various aspects of medicine with evidence based research to back up what is considered the current consensus on any given issue. The article on chemotherapy is interesting, although somewhat loaded with agenda.
I have written this post in response to the fairly regular commentary from people who hear my story and want to reccommend a diet or a lifestyle or a herbal remedy that will cure or improve the odds of my survival. One particularly lady claimed that I needed to eat an alkali based diet in order to reduce the acidity of my blood cos ‘cancer thrives in an acidic environment’. Usually, I respectfully ignore suggestions like these, but for whatever reason, I felt I needed to point out the flaw in her reasoning. Firstly cancer does not ‘thrive in and acidic environment’, by its very nature, it has a high cellular turnover, and therefore a much higher metabolic consumption than normal cells in the body (something that current researcher are trying to target with therapy). This high metabolic rate means that as a byproduct, extra hydrogen ions (H+) are produced, H+ ions are responsible for acidity. I.e. cancer does not thrive in an acidic environment, it PRODUCES an acidic environment. Secondly, the idea that you might be able to alter the pH of your blood via diet is fairly wrong. The pH of our blood is finely regulated by the body, and a few decimal point changes in either direction has fairly significant metabolic implications for the body, resulting in physical illness.
After pointing these things out to this lady, she paused, looked reflective, and responded with “well, sometimes you have to forget about all your medical knowledge“…. enough said.
Cancer is scourge that brings out many positive intentions, and a lot of people mean well. However, misinformed good intentions are not very helpful, particularly when the stakes are life or death. A misinformed decision can easily lead to the worse of the two outcomes.
This is not usually the kind of post that I put up on my blog, but I have posted it for interests sake of the two articles, and to explain where my perspective with regards to chemotherapy treatment. I hope it helps.
Thanks for listening.
I cheated again. Two photos, because they both tell the same story in different ways. The beauty of creation, even on a dull dreary wet morning. I was in Rotorua again over the weekend, the first day was a spectacular blue sky day, the second was grey dull, cold, and drizzly. But in the midst of the grey, I could not help but notice the dew/rain laden cobwebs on a tree out the back.
I had to manually focus because the camera kept wanting to focus through the cobwebs to the background. This meant at least 10 attempts with each shot to get the focus just right, not using a tripod didn’t help either.
Photo #1 Shutter 1/60, Aperture f/7.1, ISO 800, Focal Length 208mm.
Photo #2 Shutter 1/125, Aperture f/6.3, ISO 800, Focal Length 123mm (and cropped)
May 21st – 18 months ago I got histological conformation of my cancer.
I turned 28 on that day.
I was married for only 11 months.
And my life was changed forever.
To contemplate just how much my life has changed in the last 18 months is no small feat. My identity, the person who I am, is now intricately intertwined with cancer. Its almost impossible to separate me, Jared, from the cancer that has dominated the last 18 months of life. The words Jared and cancer are now synonymous.
This has been both a blessing and a curse.
The curse part is obvious. I have been confronted with my mortality, slapped into my face like a cold fish, there is no avoiding it, I’m dying; I’ve been confronted with family, dealing with the mourning associated with finding out a loved one is suffering; I have been confronted with marriage, knowing that Hannah is grieving this in totally different ways to me, in ways no new wife should have to; And I have been confronted by community, the support, the friendship, the collective sadness at what awaits me in my future.
All these things now define me, and are my cross to bear, so to speak.
If I stop my contemplation there, I end up depressed and feeling sorry for myself. So, if only for my own sanity, I have to look at the other side of my journey.
Cancer has been a blessing. And not in a silver-lining-behind-every-cloud kind of way, but there has been genuine reward in the journey I have been on over the last 18 months in ways I could never have anticipated.That reward has come at a price, but none-the-less, has had a hugely positive impact in my life. As mentioned in a photo I posted earlier this month, the colours around me are so much brighter than they every used to be. The beauty of the life I have lived has never been so appreciated as much as it is now; The bond of marriage has been woven even tighter than I could possibly have thought as Hannah and I are forced to embark on this journey; And finding joy in knowing a community that weeps with you, rejoices with you, and celebrates with you, no matter what the circumstance.
In the light of death, there has been re-affirmation of what it actually means to be alive.
And the exclamation mark of that last paragraph belongs to Christ. The hope, the faith, the love, are all things that carry me beyond my present reality. They empower me to be me, beyond cancer, beyond a short lifespan. They create meaning in the nothingness, beauty in the uggliness, and colour in the black and white.
Perhaps that is the biggest reward of this journey, is re-discovering faith in a world that is rapidly leaving it behind.
Thanks for listening.
I get a 4 week break from chemotherapy! And that is about the biggest feature of this round, the fact that there is a break afterwards. Hannah and I plan on going to the Gold Coast in about 10 days with some friends of ours for a week. Its the first holiday I’ve had since New Years. Which I think is pretty impressive since I have had to adjust to last year being virtually work free, and this year punctuated by fortnightly chemotherapy.
Interestingly, I feel as though I’m more ‘on top’ of my chemo these days than previous rounds. I’m not sure if its my body adjusting to the toxic onslaught, or whether I’m just learning to manage my symptoms better. Either way, I feel as though I bounce back a bit quicker each time. That being said, Friday is still the worst part of the regime. Unrelenting nausea tends to not abate no matter what anti-emetics I throw at it.
Beyond all of that, the next chemo update will be in 4 weeks, which will be the final round of the trial I’m on. I then continue on a pretty similar regime minus the trial drug (of which I’m pretty sure is placebo anyway).
Until next time…
Well, technically they aren’t mushrooms or magic, but they look cool. These toadstools were growing in the shade of a tree down by Lake Okaraka near Rotorua. I couldn’t help but photograph them early in the morning under the dew. I’ve also cheated and put up three photos, for the purposes of art i’ll call them a triptych. I thought they worked well in a series 🙂
Life seems to be remarkable like that, where other things decay, life can spring forth. Its a balance of fragility and robustness that almost doesn’t make sense. Yet we have to live with it all around us, Life and decay, fragility and robustness, beauty and ugliness.
Life is full of contrasts.
We are into double figures!!!
Short of sounding like a broken record, there isn’t too much new to report about round 10. I did start a new anti-emetic drug this round called aprepitant. I looked it up on the pharmac schedule to discover that the three tablets I take (1 a day) costs around 130 dollars! Aren’t you all glad that your well-earned tax money is helping me not feel nauseous? 🙂
I have to say, that on the whole, I slept a lot more this round, and even as I write this (Wednesday), I had to leave work early to catch a nice 3 hour afternoon nap. I’m not sure how much of this is cumulative effects of chemo, or whether doing night shifts last week took a toll on me.
The one thing I’m looking forward to about round 11 however, is the fact that afterwards I get a 4 week break from chemo!! Seven days of this will be spent sunning it up on the Gold Coast, but the 4 week break is like Christmas. I’m hoping that my body can recoup a little bit, be better prepared for further chemotherapy onslaught.
Till next round…