Last Thoughts - Cancer the big hoax?
It’s a beautiful Saturdacy morning in October. The clouds are fat and puffy allowing the sun to come and go as they glide by. Like clock work I hear the four Merlin engines of one of the last 2 remaining Lancaster bombers from nearby Hamilton on it’s mission bringing thrills to all who view her from the ground as well as her paying passengers. As I look out my window, there she is and then she is gone. I was born just three years before the 2nd World War began but grew up with the Spitfire and the Lancaster as a part of my vocabulary. However, my thoughts to-day and this past week are not of the past but of my future. Two weeks ago, almost to this minute, I came out of a light sedation to hear the three words no one wants to hear,
” You have Cancer”
I have been an amateur writer since retiring 32 years ago. I have self published six books and written over 100 short stories and articles, but none as personal as I am about to attempt on this road that no one should be forced to walk. My cancer is one that I have observed in the past in a couple of friends. A cancer that I thought I would never be able to handle. Every one’s cancer has a different twist but the trauma is the same. The Esophagus is a very difficult organ to have a cancer in and my tumor is where it enters the stomach. I have been warned that the surgery is long and difficult and more complicated than a heart transplant. It is to be avoided when ever possible. I was given a 50/50 chance of recovery against a 20% recovery using Chemo, Radiation and Meds. only. The alternative to non-recovery is a very painful and uncomfortable slow death. This is where the pill comes into play and I am not referring to the blue one.
Feelings that overwhelm you knowing now what you are facing can barely be explained. One of my first thoughts was not for myself but for the bearer of this horrible news. The compassion in the eyes of these health workers is compelling. It took some time for the news to sink in and as the tests returned with more and more information, after a few days of constant bombardments, I realised just what a jam I was in. The best scenario is going to be very hard and all others are going to be much worse and horrific.
These are some of the thoughts that cross your mind but not in any order of importance.
Why me? Why not me?
Frightening thoughts of what is to come
Concern for family and especially my wife
Will I be able to remain dignified in my last moments?
A sense of rage
How much of a burden am I going to be?
Am I prepared for my maker?
Will those that have gone before me be there in Heaven to greet me?
Are my sins of being human the reason for my illness?
Does God have a reason for me to have this burden when so many others are passed by?
Feelings of acute sadness.
Disbelief, knowing you are not going to wake up from this nightmare.
My cancer has not manifested itself yet as it is in the early stages. Except for being tired, I am still able to function, except while I was hospitalized for 8 days and had to wear those idiotic gowns. My blood count is becoming a problem with the internal bleeding. I am trying to lead a normal life for the next few days as I know that I am facing months of poor health if I survive the initial operation. This is expected to take 6-8 hours and recovery will be months. Really, I do not know what to expect and I am only guessing my future. My Oncologists will throw a lot more light on my dilemma. But before I see her, I am still going to be worn out running to St.Catherines, Welland and Hamilton hospitals.
Following all my tests and after a visit to my family doctor, after many conversations with friends and relatives many that have first hand experience with this horrible disease, I, for now have decided to trade a shorter time on earth of relative quality of life for the debilitating, painful option of chemo and radiation. I know that I will have to address the team of surgeons and perhaps my Oncologist’s arguments for the treatments. We will see.
If there could be anything positive about my story it would be that up till now, I have had very little blow back from the medical profession when I have said that I probably will forgo Chemo and Radiation. My decision has not been made lightly as I have done some considerable research before making my decision. My first hint that I should look long and hard before making a decision regarding my treatment was receiving two entirely different opinions between the St.Catherines and the Hamilton hospitals. My mind was made up before Hamilton to forgo surgery. All my care givers in St.Catherines strongly advised against surgery but the story was reversed when I spoke to the Hamilton surgery team. I got the feeling that I was new meat that was ripe for the knife. I could almost hear them wringing their hands with the prospect of a new patient. I am sure that this is not the case. When I look at the small area that I have covered in the Niagara region and realise how vast this cancer scourge has devastated the whole of our society, surely the world would be a much different place if a cure for cancer was realised. The stock market would crash along with at least half of all our medical infrastructure. Cancer can’t be beaten! Too many lives would be ruined in bankruptcy. Perhaps that is why since its horrible discovery, man has made, in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars and all the blather about man’s great strides to eradicate it, It seems we are no further ahead than we were one hundred years ago. Surgery would probably be an exception.
My cancer is of the Esophagus and it is low at the entrance to the stomach. To operate would be far too invasive with a less than a 70% chance of success. After weeks of Chemo and Radiation my heart would not tolerate the trauma. Surgeons have told me it is more difficult than a heart transplant. Chemo is just now being challenged as being the worlds biggest life taker next to heart disease. This stuff is poison. A recent survey taken in Great Britain claims that in 50% of cancer deaths where chemo was used, it was the chemo that caused the deaths. But that is only one side of the story.
I have the greatest respect and trust in my Radiologist, Dr. Sur. He is renouned in his field of Brachytherapy, that is where a small tube is pushed into the cancer tumor after it has been measured and a radioactive seed is shot into the mass and exploded giving the mass an internal radiation blast 10 times the strength of a regular treatment. This is done three times every other day. It was meant to stop the bleeding into my stomach and it worked. Dr. Sur has explained that radiation and chemo proceed surgery and chemo in the last two years has been modified so that it is not as hard on the patient. I still have two friends that have lost family members to the same cancer I’m fighting. Dr. Sur has convinced me to follow all the leads and to see the surgeons for their assessment before I decide my way to live as comfortably as I can for as long as I can. As I have been warned by a dear friend, your heart has problems and you don’t want to put any more stress on it.
What do they say about a woman’s right to change her mind? I guess I should have the same right since I am making life and death decisions. I have just returned through the first snow storm of the season from Hamilton and a consultation with my surgeon, Dr. Shargall. I have been given finally, a fighting chance to extend my life a little longer than the six months offered to me by all the other teams of professionals. Surgery. It’s not a great deal, but it is the only one that gives me a fighting chance.
My cancer is localized and has been caught early. Normally radiation and chemo are administered for a 6 week period 5 days a week and then a waiting time of 6-8 weeks for healing. If I go ahead with surgery I can have it within two weeks, (we don’t delay dealing with cancer) the doctor said. The surgery has a 95% chance of success. Complications are reducing my chances by 30-35%. These would be a variety of problems such as blood clots, Afib, infection and others. I feel that I have no real choice but to gamble that the Lord does not want me yet and if he takes me during this procedure, I will be avoiding this most difficult time, death at the end of doing nothing accept some radiation.
My thoughts are now focussed on my family.
When I was a young man of about 14 years old. I was to accompany my father on a visit to my Grandparents. My grandfather was about 80 years old and seemed to be in good health. There was a movie that I thought I would like to see and so convinced my dad to take this opportunity. We did see the movie and I to this day still remember parts of it. I tempted my father to see a movie instead of doing his duty to visit his parents. That would have been the last time we would have seen my grandpa. He died shortly after. The guilt still has a hold on me, my wants came before my responsibility and duty. My father never spoke of it but I knew that I had taken my father’s last chance to visit his father, away from him.
I am relaying this story to another generation that seems less duty bound to family. I do miss the fact that I cannot communicate with my two boys in a normal fashion. My grandsons are not unlike I was, self centered and interested in many things other than family. I only realised after it was too late that I had missed the last opportunity for a visit with my Grandpa. I hope my boys won’t carry that guilt through their lives.
Paul D. Scott.