Monday, February 05, 2007

The Do-Nothing Post

As if it weren’t completely obvious from our do-nothing cancer blog, you’ve probably figured out that we’ve decided to do nothing to treat Dan’s cancer, at least for the time being.

Meeting Dr. G in December was probably what crystallized this decision. Dr. G seems to be able to treat Dan as a cancer patient without actually treating his cancer. The previous oncology practice had told us that we were “smart people” and they wouldn’t “insist” that Dan go through any time of treatment . . . but they weren’t exactly sure what to do with him if he wasn’t going to have chemo.

Let me back up here a moment: everyone knows that Dan has non-Hodgkins stage 1 indolent lymphoma, hereafter known as nHS1IL. And this sucks, but not in the usual cancer-sucks way, right? nHS1IL sucks because it just sits there, lazily multiply in the lymph nodes. Sometimes it makes the nodes break free of their moorings and bob to the surface around the groinular area. You poke them, and they’re kind of roly and squishy.

But mostly nHS1IL just hangs out, being cancerous and malignant and whatnot. Give nHS1IL long enough, and its host will develop symptoms like exhaustion and night sweats. When such symptoms develop, this means nHS1IL has gotten a little ambitious and may be working its way out of indolent Stage 1. At this point, treatment that shrinks the nHS1IL tumors in the lymph nodes is called for.

Which is good – no one wants big ole tumors making them all sweaty and tired. However, treatment will only shrink the tumors. It does not make nHS1IL disappear. Many of the tumors will get so small that they might as well have disappeared. But inevitably, nHS1IL will return.

This means that the goal for treating nHS1IL isn’t achieving remission. It’s achieving asymptomia. A non-symptomatic state. Which Dan is currently in. How healthy he is right now is as healthy as he could ever be, with the exemption of a few bad habits and general effects of aging.

Here’s another reason nHS1IL sucks. Early treatment – treatment before the sweats and the tiredness starts – hasn’t been shown to actually prevent or delay the eventual onset of such symptoms. Now ain’t that a kick in the crotch?

It also goes against every popular portrayal of cancer we know. Cancer is something we fight, not live with. Cancer gets better when treated early, not later. You never wait for symptoms to develop. You take action now before it’s too late and the cancer spreads and multiplies and begins to shut down your major organs. No matter the cost, no matter the side effects, no matter how sick treatment makes you, it’s all worth it to have your body free of cancer.

So how would you feel if you found out that no matter what you did, you will always have cancer in your body?

It takes some getting used to, Dan says.

Part of getting used to that has been finding a doctor who will work with Dan and sees not medically treating his cancer as an acceptable form of patient treatment, rather than seeing Dan as a patient who is resisting treatment for his cancer.

But Dr. G echoes what up to now has been our gut feeling – any chemo is going to be a bitch. It’s going to be a pain to go through, it’s going to take time and energy from a person who doesn’t have a lot of either to spare, and there’s little reason to go through it right now.

So, this is kind of it for now. I hope that Dan will continue to use this space to share his thoughts with you. And of course we’ll let you know if any new information comes available or if Dan’s condition changes. But for now, we’re going to concentrate on other stuff. Cancer is, like, so 2006, already.

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