Sunday, 19 May 2013
I have had a lot of feedback on my blogs on cancer treatment. As usual, I have made light of much of the horror. However, my dear friend, LC, put some things in perspective for me.
"In my view, in the last 18 months the doctors have poisoned me, cut me and burnt me repeatedly to rid my body of cancer. My job was to be passive and patient."
This is a pretty accurate description of cancer treatment as it stands. The doctors and nurses are lovely people, kind, sympathetic and gentle. The treatment is not.
The operations are brutal - removing lymph nodes is real cut and paste surgery. There is an urgency to move you on as fast as possible to the next phase of treatment. Most breast cancer patients are chopped about in the armpit as well as the breast. It precludes hugging, opening tins and stroking the dogs for a long time. Wearing a bra (recommended) is difficult. Post op bras tend to be as exciting as maternity bras - just the thing you need, when your femininity has been stripped bare by a surgeon's knife. (For the record, Spanx bras have no seams and you step in to them - I highly recommend them).
Chemotherapy (as discussed earlier) is poisoning in strictly medicated doses, that keep you alive but destroy your immune system, mess with your platelets, give you nausea, anaemia, an ulcerated mouth, bruising and rashes. The fatigue is indescribable. The hair loss is immaterial in the grand scheme of things, but the humiliation is psychologically hard to bear on top of all the other stuff. More side effects can be found here.
Radiotherapy is deep tissue burning, cunningly disguised for the first few sessions, as the burn is so deep under the surface, the effect is not visible for a few days. The fatigue comes out of nowhere and hits you like a sledgehammer. You are not allowed to wash with anything other than baby soap and no deodorant for the whole of your treatment. Dehumanising? I think so. There is nothing like being laid out topless on a slab of stainless steel, alone, in a cold room, whilst some James Bond type machine whirrs and hums over you.
It is, effectively, torture.
I read a heartbreaking article by Lord Saatchi the other day. I agree with him.
Passive and patient may be the prescribed reaction. Violated, burnt and mentally scarred is probably closer to the truth. Not just for the patients but also for those who support and love them.