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.
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.