Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Price of Survival

I've been scanning a whole bunch of 8x10 prints. This is me

My grandfather's house outside of Ann Arbor. He lived there roughly from 1939 to 1968 or so

me again

My brother riding a deer. I don't remember this toy. Maybe it was shot elsewhere?

Our house in Corning, NY

me with my straight as an arrow hair considered a huge cosmetic defect in those days. It cracks me up that kids straighten their hair now

My mom in my grandfather's house

Lately one of those sleazy ambulance chaser lawyers has been advertising on TV:
Permanent hair loss  due to Taxotere ? You may be entitled to compensation. Call us NOW!!!! 
Taxotere is a form of Taxol given to breast , ovarian, and prostate cancer patients. Of the 3 drugs I was given: Cytoxan, Adriamycin, and Taxol, it was probably the most effective of the three. It had a different side effect profile than the other two. It did not cause red blood cell depletion, nausea and digestive tract ulcers like Adriamycin. Some people's hair actually grows back on Taxol after losing it on Adriamycin. The most annoying side effect was nerve pain. My upper legs and hips felt like I had broken every bone and sprained every muscle within. I could not be comfortable. In some people, it can cause permanent neuropathy: numbness of fingers and toes, shooting pains. I do have occasional shooting pains in my right rib cage but that damage probably was due to radiation as I did not have it before.

So is permanent hair loss a reasonable price to pay for survival? I would think so. One can always get a 'scalp prosthesis i.e. wig.'  And of all the possible lasting side effects, hair loss seems the most tolerable. My friend got leukemia from Adriamycin. I am sure she'd wish she just had hair loss. I don't think she is suing anyone. More common from Adriamycin? Heart failure. Both the acute and chronic kind.

My only paying job once I retired was to fill out a questionnaire for a research study I found in the want-ads in one of those tabloids Ramy picked up on the T in Boston. They would list combinations of percent risks versus percent benefits in order to suss out just what would a cancer patient tolerate.

Would one tolerate 10% chance of blindness in return for a 90% chance of survival? On and on.

As the nurse practitioner pointed out to me, chemotherapy had the greatness benefit to me versus most patients. Based on the size of my tumor, the cancer had a 50% chance of having spread. Chemo would cut the chances down to 25% meaning instead of a 50% chance of dying, it would be 25% or 30% if they included other factors. Still very scary to me. I would go through 16 weeks of different kinds of hell: hair loss, nausea, fatigue, mouth sores, bloody noses, black nails, risk of uncontrollable infections, possible heart failure, possible secondary cancers but it seemed worth it. I imagine if chemo only increased your survival a small bit, the decision would be much more difficult.

Spring has been put on hold with very cold mornings. I can tolerate cold while running as long as it isn't icy but it has made biking less pleasant.

Out to dinner tonight with the hubby. Tomorrow, Easter.


Elephant's Child said...

Never an easy decision. Perhaps because there are no guarantees. Enduring all the undesirable effects AND dying anyway feels like a rip-off to me.

Holly said...

I hat my permanent hair loss and feel sad about it every day. Complete strangers approach me to suggest this or that lotion or pill to correct the situation. So embarrassing.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

I am sorry Holly. People are so eager to fix things they forget that what they say hasn't been said a hundred times before them. Cancer leaves so much damage, physically and emotionally.


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