Some may believe that making a choice as far as cancer treatment is easy. Suffer for a little bit and live, right?
The difficult part is walking down the path that you have chosen and accepting the consequences, whether good or bad. No matter the decision–strictly allopathic medicine, natural remedies, or something in between–the results may be positive or negative, and often not even the most experienced doctor can predict survival.
And when it comes to long term treatment like anti-estrogen therapy, the choice may be a bit more complicated. For a friend, ten years of medication only added 3% to her survival rate, which was more than enough for her to begin the medicine. On the other hand, considering I had inflammatory breast cancer, a cancer that is much more aggressive and difficult to treat, anti-estrogen therapy added 30% to my survival rate.
So if I follow all of the advice from my doctors–all based on world-wide research–my possibility of living a full life is currently at 80%.
What is often not discussed is the pain associated with these medications. I have been on Anastrozole for a few months now, and the body-wide bone pain has begun to increase dramatically. This may be possibly due to the current stress in my life, or simply just the medication itself building up in my body. Needless to say, the pain some days can be unbearable.
So in the latest visit with my oncologist, he encouraged me to try Letrozole. This might be a better medication for me in the long run, but it will put me back to square one as far as pain. My body will have to become used to the new medicine, which means more pain in the short term. And this could all turn out to be a fool’s errand, becoming an even worse experience and leading me back to Anastrozole.
Honestly, it would be easier to quit the medication totally.
Reading The Last Arrow by Erwin McManus, I found a passage that made me reconsider that possibility:
“Sometimes the only way to set people free from the past is to create a different future that gives those all around you the inspiration and hope to set their own past on fire.”
Or as a friend told me after my most recent diagnosis, “Perhaps you were not meant to learn something from your suffering. Maybe you were meant to teach others how to live through it.”
So pain will be my companion for awhile. Some days I will break from the exhaustion, but I will not quit. And perhaps my continually rising up after defeat, even in the midst of pain, will give others hope.