On deciding to do Chemotherapy

The awareness color for Hogkin’s Lymphoma is purple

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was twenty-four years old. It changed my life forever. I am forever grateful for my careteam. If it were not for them, I would likely be hospitalized or or dead. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was one of the people that said “God forbid if I ever get diagnosed with cancer, I would avoid chemotherapy at all costs”. That is such an easy thing to say as a hypothetical. However, when a cancer diagnosis is staring you dead in the face, things change. You change the way you see life. You change your decision making progress.

Whenever I got my formal diagnosis of stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my oncologist (cancer doctor) presented me the options. I asked him about alternative treatments to chemotherapy; since the media is always covering possible alternative treatments for cancer since the medical field is desperate to find an alternative treatment plan that is not as harsh on the body. My oncologist flatly said that the studies said that chemotherapy was the most effective treatment for my type of cancer. He told me that since I was younger (mid twenties), I should theoretically not have as rough a time with chemotherapy. However, he’d give me a lot of prescriptions to help me deal with the pains associated with chemotherapy. Immunotherapy was not an ideal option for me, my oncologist telling me that it would be used if my cancer came back. I was given a recommendation for a medical marijuana dispensary to help deal with pain (which I never followed through on because the only dispensary in my state was about a seven hour drive, one way, and there was no guarantee that I would fit my state’s criteria for legally obtaining medical marijuana).

CBD oil and medical marijuana for patients does not cure patients. It only helps with pain management and reducing other symptoms associated with cancer. Insisiting it “kills cancer” is spitting in the face of cancer patients and their careteams. If medical marijuana and/or cbd oil actually cured cancer, no one would willingly walk into chemotherapy. Oncologists keep up with the latest studies about different possible cancer treatments. If treatment was as easy as prescribing a marijuana product, then no one would do chemotherapy.

I remember sitting there in the office while he explained the options to me and answered my questions as they popped up in my head. After he was done explaining everything, I made the decision to go ahead with chemotherapy. I told him, “Let’s do it”,wanting to deal with the monster that is cancer before it could further do me harm and cause me more problems. Up to that point, I was presenting with pretty bad symptoms that could have progressed to the point of me having a heart attack or stop breathing,depending on how large the tumor would have gotten if I chose to refuse chemotherapy.

Now, in the final stages of my treatment, I am done with chemotherapy and currently waiting to begin radiation. I have the chance to reflect on my experience with chemotherapy. Would I do chemotherapy again? Honestly, probably not. I am at my most vulnerable for cancer to return to me within the first five years post treatment, according to my oncologist. The biggest thing that kept my hopes up (and why I continued to do chemotherapy) was knowing that I would only have to do chemotherapy for about six-seven months. To be blunt, if my doctor told me I would have to do this for the rest of my life, I would have likely gone somewhere where assisted suicide was legal and wait until the cancer was really bad before asking to be peacefully put to sleep. Some patients are in the unfortunate position where, due to the location and type of cancer they have, they have to be doing chemotherapy for the rest of their life.

The point I am making with this article is that it is so easy to say “Oh, I would never do chemotherapy”, but once you get the diagnosis of cancer? Everything changes. You are faced with your mortality. Assisted suicides should certainly be legal for those who are facing terminal diseases.

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.