To chemo or not to chemo?

(cc) Chemo – Photo by 416style on flickr

What a week…not sure where to start really. I’m going to try and keep this shorter than normal as I’m fighting a cold/sore throat and have a banging head and am desperate for an early night. That said I’ve been contacted by quite a few of you asking how Dad got on last week so wanted to update you all.

The news is that Dad’s tumour has continued to grow, it is now 6cm (50% growth since his last scan a few months ago), the tumour is on the surface of his liver and growing outwards, not into the liver. There is a chance that it could attach to his stomach and/or block a tube somewhere, causing an infection. It has spread to his lymph nodes and he has several spots elsewhere that showed up on his most recent scans. The options are limited, he could have chemotherapy (Gemcitabine and/or Cisplatin) or he could chose not to.

Last Tuesday was a difficult day, it was patient choice at its worst and best, essentially Dad had all the information he needed, an understanding (if little pressed for time) consultant, supportive family members – and he had no idea what to do. Some other time I’ll blog about some of the ups and downs of patient choice -from my perspective, but last week was a challenging day. In the end, aware that there were other people waiting to see the consultant and keen to take some course of action, any action, Dad decided to have chemo, a course of intravenous drugs (8hrs on day one, an hour on day eight and then a week off; repeat several times).

To cut a very long story short, what followed was a very difficult conversation for me, as I tried to broker a conversation between my parents that genuinely explored the options. I have been very open on here that I don’t want Dad to have more chemo, he had awful side effects last time, it wont change the eventual outcome (Dad’s cancer is now incurable) but it will potentially buy him extra time, maybe at a cost of some opportunities and his quality of life. My mum is also of the opinion that quality not quantity counts now. Dad wasn’t sure what to do and I was bloody determined that I would keep my views to myself and try to support them to have a conversation that allowed Dad to make his own decision, while fully aware of what that might mean.

It was hard. Dad naturally wants to fight the cancer – he sees this as his only option, that said he can’t be certain of what the chemo will do, how much time he has left, what it will mean for his quality of life. Essentially he had to make a choice with very few certainties – in fact the only certainty is that the cancer is still spreading and they can’t stop that. Hobson’s choice really.

In the end Dad took a trip to the tip (had to clear the shed before getting on with Libbie’s wendy house) and while taking time to himself decided that chemo wasn’t the right choice for now. I know he spoke to mum, my brother, my sister and myself and in true Julian fashion I’m sure we all had a different idea or thought or view of what he could do. In the end he’s confident he made the right decision, he said he felt under pressure to decide at the appointment (and I’m not sure why but I felt like that appointment was rushed too – even though it wasn’t) and he wanted to keep his options open. For now he is going to take his chance, get on with his project, look forward to the summer and keep hoping that the impossible happens and his attitude and will power will stop it.

I obviously hope that by some fluke of nature Dad’s tumour will stop or disappear but I am an eternal realist and I don’t think it will happen. Today was the funeral for Val, my mate’s mum who had Bowel Cancer. The funeral was packed, a lovely send off, that spoke to how loved she was as a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend to many. Val loved life and she still had so much to see and do, she went too soon. The poem She is Gone by David Harkins was read today, there were a couple lines that have stuck with me that I’ll end with:

You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived….you can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

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10 thoughts on “To chemo or not to chemo?

  1. At times extending a person’s life when that person is bedridden and suffering does not seem worth it. The best to do, I think, is to support your dad and spend as much time with him as you can.

  2. Thanks for commenting Colline, appreciate the interaction 😉 My Dad is very much alive and (to the untrained eye) well – he has had bouts of illness since first being diagnosed with cancer three years ago, some more serious than others, a few which we thought were life-ending, but at the moment he probably spends less time in bed than I do! That said I am keen to spend as much time together as is reasonable, for all of us, the hard thing is judging how much that is, especially as everyday life goes on pretty much as normal (at the moment). Thanks again for the comment, really appreciate knowing someone reads and thinks about this stuff!

  3. I came across your thoughtful blog and found that I could not just walk away. You have written well about an important decision and I applaud you. My thought and prayers are with you and your family.

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