As my mother’s (and our’s I guess) shitty cancer story is coming to a close, I thought it may be worth clearing up a few misconceptions about the disease that somehow get perpetuated by entertainment media. Let’s face it, the truth would make bad television.
- There was something wrong before diagnosis and the doctor just confirms fears This one is a big one. Many cancers (Lung Cancer is a prime example) will only show symptoms in the very late stages when a cure is out of question. This is why going for check ups is important. If you have family history, if you are at risk due to lifestyle, tell your doctor. Also listen to your gut feeling if a diagnosis doesn’t seem right, go and get a second opinion. Yes it’s scary, but treatment at early stage is infinitely better than knowing there isn’t much you can do and you’re just playing for time.
- Despite Treatment you will be able to live a relatively normal life
I mean sure, it’s totally possible you feel well enough to start a career as a drug baron, but honestly, most chemical treatments will knock you sideways. I guess sleeping a lot, not being able to eat because of nausea and bouts of diarrhea make for bad television. The biggest realisation to me was that the best way of helping is not by big gestures, but by doing little things, like making food she could eat, clean, do the washing etc. As I live away, I tried my best to come home at least once a month for a long weekend. In the meantime Dad and the others were worth their weight in gold and then some\
- Its a steady decline once the diagnosis is final
If they made a truthful film, it’d be called “Cancer It’s complicated” First: No doctor worth their salt will give you an estimate these days. They certainly didn’t with Mum and as frustrating as it is, they are and were right: There’s too many ifs and buts and too many things can change while in treatment. I mean look at the blogs I linked to. Some of these people have been living with their cancers for years and are still going strong. So many new options have come into being since their diagnosis that it’s completely transformed options. Sadly, in mum’s case we’re dealing with SCLC, which hasn’t yet had the same breakthroughs some NSCLCs had but that doesn’t mean they can’t come. Doctors did give a prognosis to my godfather (lymphoma) which said he had a 90% chance of survival and guess what, he was in the 10%. It’s irresponsible imho to make such claims, because you never know in which group you fall. Second: Cancer isn’t linear. In November mum was in such a bad state I thought that was it. She was struggling to breathe, in and out of consciousness and quickly losing weight and lung capacity. But then treatment kicked in and a couple of months later she could be back home by herself. The day she collapsed was the day after she had a final consultation after radiation therapy with the docs telling her she was in such a good shape, they could suspend treatment for a month and that the spots they treated had gone. We had made plans for her birthday only to find out a day later that it was all in vain as the brain mets had turned her brain into mush. Now the best thing I can hope for is that she won’t be in this state for too long.
Feel free to add anything else I missed, I’m sure there’s plenty.