My brother Todd once called the innkeeper in a living Nativity scene a “nasty” name when he said there was no room at the inn for Mary. This, of course, mortified his wife but has also added a term to our family lexicon whenever we encounter a challenging situation or person. Chemotherapy is an “innkeeper”. I’ve had four treatments so far and each treatment is complete with its own set of nasty side effects; rash, fever, low blood pressure, hair loss, fatigue, muscle pain, and neuropathy. It’s said that the side effects of chemotherapy treatments compound or build on the previous treatment. In my case, this was true of the fatigue and neuropathy. After my fourth treatment, it was a struggle just to get up in the morning. Even taking a shower left me winded and the occasional tingling in my fingertips had morphed into a full-time numbness that made buttoning a shirt a challenge. It’s hard to think that the very thing that’s supposed cure you is making you feel so awful! After meeting with my doctors it was decided to withhold my fifth chemo treatment. I will return to NIH later this month to review my situation and find out if a fifth treatment is necessary.
Now, some people call chemo a poison which is sort of true. Its mission is to kill cancer cells but in the process, it kills healthy cells as well. If you search the internet you’ll find a plethora of opinions ranging from how the doctors who prescribe chemotherapy are evil henchmen to how holistic treatments are quackery preying on the uneducated public. The following links are to two polar opposite websites each making claims and citing resources to make their case. According to the website, The Truth About Cancer, “Chemo is toxic, carcinogenic (causes cancer), destroys erythrocytes (red blood cells), devastates the immune system, and destroys vital organs”. The author of this website and also a book by the same name is Ty Bollinger who spells out an exhaustive case for holistic treatment for cancer and claims that doctors, hospitals, and drug manufacturers are guilty of extorting cancer patients for financial gain. The following article from a competing website, Lured Into Quackery by Ty Bollinger , was written by an author, only known as Orac. He claims to be a “humble surgeon/scientist” and in the piece, he describes a young woman’s struggle with cancer. In this narrative, the patient is prescribed traditional treatment but opts for the holistic approach eschewed by Mr. Bollinger. Orac goes into great detail about how these holistic gurus are as equally focused on reaping a financial reward as they claim the traditional medical field is.
As you may have read in my earlier blogs, I am in a clinical trial at the National Health Institute that prescribes three drugs (one standard of care, one chemo, and one experimental immunotherapy) to determine what order is the most effective and lasts the longest. Studies have shown that when chemotherapy is introduced early during hormonal therapy it can be effective in controlling cancer for months to years longer (See NIH Study from 2013). Who knows what science will discover years from now but as for me, I am blessed to have the hope of a better future than was promised to those with advanced prostate cancer ten years ago. And as for those who say chemotherapy is making millions of dollars for those who prescribe it, there may be some crooked actors out there but I refuse to believe that the entire industry is in it for the money. NIH is the largest, Federally funded research facility in the world. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that my doctors are incentivized to prescribe chemotherapy. That being said, I am participating in the trial for three reasons; to help others, to learn more about prostate cancer and to potentially be cured.
The following link was written by a 26-year-old woman who discusses her battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a sincere and heartfelt way. She puts the subject of chemotherapy into crystal clear perspective by writing, “So, with chemotherapy as the most effective current method of treatment (and one that is directly responsible for saving thousands of lives each year) I have now declared a moratorium on calling it “poison” — even when I’m kidding around. Instead, I’ve embraced what chemotherapy really is: a crucial, life-saving medicine that I am thankful to be receiving, even if I totally hate it as it’s flowing through my veins.” Read Entire Article
A friend once told me that although the side effects of chemo were painful, they were merely evidence that the drug was doing its job. I’ve heard people say they would never agree to undergo chemotherapy, but I wonder how many, who when diagnosed with a treatable disease, would actually forgo the possibility of an almost certain cure because of a difficult treatment. Like the author of the third blog, I am not enjoying this part of the journey but if I can extend my life a month, a year or longer I am willing to go through whatever hell is necessary. Pastor Nic delivered a home run sermon on faith last Sunday and one of his statements really stuck with me, “Faith doesn’t necessarily calm the storm but it can calm us while we’re in the storm”. I’ve shared my journey with many people but in the end, they always want to know how I can be so matter of fact about my situation. In truth, there are days when I take an emotional nosedive but for the most part, my faith in Jesus Christ calms the storm.
Rom 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.