It has been a whirlwind week. That’s for sure. I am tired thinking about this, and I want it all to be over.
On Tuesday, the 13th, I went to Duke for a second opinion on my treatment options with my parents. I was expecting to hear the same thing I heard here in Asheville: you are young and the cancer was aggressive, so let’s do chemo. I heard quite the opposite. In fact, the doctor at Duke pretty much said that chemo may in fact be more of a hindrance than a help. Here I was, ready to go on the chemo, ready for my life to suck for the rest of this year, ready to just face the monster head on, and now I am told that I maybe shouldn’t do anything. I wanted to just disappear.
Essentially, the doctor at Duke showed me that, if I turn my life into a mathematical model, I have an 89% chance of being alive in ten years without chemo and an 86% chance with. This seems like an easy answer then, right? No chemo! But, he wanted to make things more difficult for me, saying that most doctors would not agree with him, that most doctors would say, “Better safe than sorry.” But his argument is that we’ll never know if chemo helped me at all. Let’s say the cancer never comes back. That doesn’t mean that chemo is the cause of that. Let’s say I have a recurrence next year. Chemo may in fact be at fault, or it may have not helped fight the cancer already in my body anyway. In addition, chemo may cause some chronic conditions, including infertility brought on by early menopause and chronic shaking. Great.
There is a condition called Micro Satellite Instability, or MSI for short, that many younger cancer patients find that they have. If I understand it correctly, this condition means that the 18th chromosome is shorter than it is supposed to be. The result of this shortness is that one out of 4 DNA “fixers” (things that go along your DNA and fix any mutated cells, such as cancer), does not exist in the body. Yes, the doctor says, sure we can do this test, but it will take a month. At that point, shouldn’t I have started chemo? What good would it be to know that I have a condition that makes me more likely to have cancer, other than making me more terrified for the rest of my life? I can’t think of a benefit.
So, I am still thinking, but I believe my plan will be to choose an alternative method of fighting any remaining cancer cells in my body. I will be visiting an Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Clinic on Monday, and I will be working on creating a diet and exercise plan to help me fight this fight on my own terms. I can do this.