Monday, December 01, 2008


When I saw my Oncologist a week ago, she gave me a choice: chemo or randomisation (wherein I would either get chemo anyway, or I wouldn't, but I'd have no choice in the matter). I was feeling tired and stressed and sort of resigned, so I thought I was going to go for the chemo. I didn't feel like fighting with my very pro-chemo doctor, and I didn't feel like deciding anything. I didn't feel like talking to my Second Opinion Doctor, either. But I did.

"Great!" she said. "You have a low recurrence score! You'll do great in the protocol!"

But I don't like the idea of being randomised. Waiting some more, just to find out I'm being assigned something by chance, doesn't really thrill me. No one was suggesting I could just opt out of chemo altogether. My Oncologist is a treatment-conservative (which, for some reason, translates into very un-conservative treatment). My Second-Opinion Doctor is a researcher. Why would they offer me the "third way," I guess?

Then the People Closest to Me started asking questions, which basically boiled down to "How on earth is pumping extra toxins into your body when you only have a 9% risk of recurrence actually going to help you?" and "Why don't you just refuse the chemo?"

Oh. I can do that?

I understand that my cancer may come back. And maybe it will be worse. And maybe I'll have to have chemo then. But maybe it would even with the poison. And maybe I'd go into menopause before I'm forty. And maybe I wouldn't be able to work at Starbucks because my immune system would be compromised and working there is pretty much like working in a preschool with how everybody gets sick in the winter. And maybe the long-term effects would be such that years from now I'd be regretting the treatment more than the recurrence of the disease.

I kind of feel like Daniel and his friends when they asked the Babylonian steward to let them be vegetarians. Maybe someone should do research on the hormone-therapy/radiation/prayer course of treatment.


Annelise said...

I'm with you on this all the way. Sometimes medical people seem to think they're God, and it's comforting to know that they're not (I don't mean all of them are that way!).

Cliff said...

This is refreshing to learn. :) And it makes sense. If I may contribute a mini-rant, it bugs me when people treat death as a disease to be cured. We have healers and doctors for a reason, but not to alter the cosmic order.

Consider me part of the "rah! rah!" squad.

Heather-of-Six said...

I am so glad, Jenn, that you were empowered by God and by the People Closest to You to make a decision that you are happy with and really makes a lot of sense. I am also relieved to see that you didn't have to argue with your doctor. Go Jenn!! We're cheering you on in thought and prayer.

David Madeira said...


I'm with your mom. Chemo scares me more than cancer scares me. I mean that because it just seems in my experience like people I know who have "died from cancer" were really killed by chemo. I obviously have no scientific basis for this, but I just feel like doctors prescribe it so fast (probably pressured to by the companies that make billions of the cancer industry), and more often than it really is necessary.

It's not my decision, but I hope you evaluate ALL possible treatment options (including natural ones) and really assess your level of risk before going with chemo.

We love you and are praying for you.

T5M said...

...Praying for the Great Physician to heal you completely.

Jeff said...

It's actually really poor science that's going on, too. I get it that there aren't many alternatives, but if you can choose to be ranomized (or not) then it's not really a random sample at all. It's the people who were willing to be randomized. And I think it's crazy to think that this won't skew the results, the fact that the group they start with isn't a truly representative sample in the beginning.

Jenn said...

Well THAT was a popular decision . . . ;) Thanks, guys.

Jeff--good point. I asked if they could use my data for research even if I weren't randomised, and they said no, that randomisation was part of the test. But I think you're right about that.

David-of-Six said...

Re: Jeff's comment - yes, randomization is essential to accurate research. If you choose treatment or no treatment yourself (or your doctor chooses for you), that would skew the results, so they should not include you in the trial. The only difference between the two groups should essentially be a coin-toss. Of course, you could also argue that the results only apply to the Kind of People Who Are Willing to Be Randomized...

One of my teachers said that he could prove anything he wants if he could get to choose who goes into each arm of a trial!