When I got diagnosed with breast cancer, the last thing I wanted to hear was that I needed chemotherapy. Not only did I need chemotherapy, the chemotherapy treatments would last for 6 months.
Ironically, many of my patients come to my office, refusing to take chemotherapy. The fear of getting sick, or horror stories from other cancer patients have them so paralyzed with fear that they are unable to make the logical choice for their health. I spend a great deal of time explaining the importance of chemotherapy and how modern support medications that are given along with the chemotherapy, minimize many of the horrible side effects that we saw years ago. Chemotherapy is just like any other medication. If the side effects are too bad, then the drug can always be stopped. But you will never know if you don’t try. If you don’t try, you may miss the window of opportunity to cure your cancer. After the conversation is over, most of them go on and get their chemotherapy. They come back to me later to get their radiation treatments. Sadly, there are some who refuse the life saving therapy, only to get it later when their cancer comes back.
Now, that I am a patient, I understand the fear of chemotherapy. Even though, the serious side effects are rare, they do happen to a small number of people. I have seen people with serious, sometimes long-term side effects from chemotherapy. Loss of hearing, heart, liver or kidney problems, loss of sensation, numbness in hands and or feet, serious infections requiring hospitalizations, serious allergic reactions, even death, can all happen.
But I had to push past my fear. Sometimes, you only get one shot to cure cancer. I don’t want my cancer to come back. I want to cure my cancer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, taking chemotherapy is not a guarantee that your cancer will not come back. If you take chemotherapy when it is recommended, you have the best chance to cure your cancer.
I’m finishing up the last of my chemotherapy. I took 16 cycles of chemotherapy. I had four cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, that were given every 3 weeks. Then I received 12 cycles of Taxol, that I received every week, for 12 weeks. I will admit, that it was not easy. I had problems with low blood counts, infections, severe tiredness, muscle aches and pains, darkening of my hands, feet and nails and hair loss.
If going through this means I get to see my 3-year-old twin daughters grow up, then it was totally worth it.
If you are struggling with the decision of whether or not to take chemotherapy, ask yourself, how important is it to you to keep living? If your life is important to you, then choose chemotherapy.
: Don’t let your fear kill you.