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Why Do Cancer Patients Give Up?

hospital hands

Right around this time last year, a doctor gave me the hard, awful truth–that I had a 1 in 5 chance of being alive in 5 years.  I remember looking at her incredulously, and totally dismissing her entire conversation.  After all, except for the very recent abdominal pain that I had experienced, I felt FINE–the pain was ONLY from my Mexico trip.  I thought to myself, “This chick is CRAY.  I will be alive in TWENTY years. I will be alive in ONE HUNDRED years.  YOU must not know ’bout me.”

But then, I met a few women on the same journey as me. Very early on, I met a women in her 80s who hasn’t left her home in two years, except for medical appointments.  She gets up, goes to her closet, dresses herself in what she would want someone to find her dead in, and watches uninteresting television shows all day.  She told me that she was waiting for Death to come for her.  At the time, I thought she was crazy.  But now, a year later, I completely get her.  I’m not there, but I get those women who are there.

Here’s the truth.  This is hard.  HARD.  The most arduous journey that I’ve ever been on.  I had surgery.  I had a blood clot.  I had chemotherapy.  I had a brain bleed.  Those were tough times.  But those things have NOTHING on daily life–joint pain, diarrhea, severe fatigue, insomnia, constipation, neuropathy, depression, etc.  I don’t mean one day joint pain and the next diarrhea.  I mean ALL of it.  ALL day.  Everyday.   At some point, giving up not only seems easy, it feels inviting.  A welcomed rest from this uphill battle.  A nap on the beach instead of real-life Mortal Kombat.

chemo day crop

And if that were all, it may not even be so bad.  But that’s not all.  In addition to fighting this despicable disease ravaging through your body–you have other fights as well.  IF you are lucky enough to have insurance, you have to fight them tooth and nail at every turn.  I realized early on that my insurance company wants me to die, or at least get off of their rolls.

You may have to fight your doctors because they get tired of your constant complaints and calls.  Sometimes, they even advise you to stop fighting and look into hospice.  If your DOCTOR no longer has hope, why should you?

Some of the toughest battles are with your family and friends. They may not agree with your choice of treatment.  Sometimes people think that if you look good, you MUST feel good, too.  They may simply get tired of you being sick.  Or they need your help with something as trivial as their business plan, regardless of how you feel.

Finally, many patients stop treatment because they want CONTROL over their own transitions.  They want to die on their own terms.  They want a say so in how the rest of their lives go.

There are many reasons why cancer patients simply give up and stop fighting.  Fortunately, I am uplifted daily, sometimes hourly, by my tribe.  Everyone doesn’t have that.  While I thank God that I’m not in that place (yet), I can certainly relate AND respect their choices.

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4 Responses to “Why Do Cancer Patients Give Up?”

  1. A. L. Taylor says:

    I wish you didn’t have this thing called cancer. I wish the day you were told you had a 1 in 5 chance of living past 5 years was just an awful nightmare. I wish you didnt have the aches, pains, and body breakdowns that you have suffered over the past year. I wish you didnt have to fight the battles with the doctors and insurance companies. BUT. Im SO GLAD, that while you are on this life changing and challenging journey, you bring light, understanding and clarity and much needed attention to this dreaded health issue that adversely affects so many women. THANK YOU for accepting the challenging purpose for which you were born and showing many of us that that too is our duty. You are indeed SASHA FIERCE personified!!!

  2. Adriene says:

    Yes Jewel, you have a tribe. Please always know that there are many people in your life that love you, miss you and only want the best for you. Please know you are always in my thoughts, my prayers and just my daily moments of wonder. You will always be supported by me and whenever you want a change of scenery; my door stands open for you 365 days a year to wait on you hand and foot. It can’t fix the daily challenges but I don’t know, just know you always have a true friend in me and I know you will always fight.

  3. My prayers are with you… Not an easy journey yet you always inspire me… Your smile, love for yourself and others defines your greatness.. We are all in this together some way or another…. Your story will be shared amount my friends… You are inspirational….

  4. Mary Beth says:

    Thank you for sharing the not so easy but true parts. You truly are a Jewel.

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