How many months ago was it that I was worried about a little radiation in the form of chest x-rays, CT scans and mammograms? Then how long before that was I anxious about simple x-rays at the dentist? How many times have I resented being prescribed antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-painful-swollen-infected-whatever pills to help what was ailing me? Or not.
My body is now teaming with health warriors going about their business, wearing their muddy wet combat boots inside, beating the crap out of my cells or out of each other. The theatre, as the battlefield is weirdly or aptly called, goes well beyond the neighbourhoods where my tumours live. Soldiers are duking it out in my toes. Armed amphibious mercenaries are paddling through my blood stream taking aim at anything that moves.
I’m lying on my bed tweeting and hoping my number of followers will go up. What else am I supposed to do?
I agreed to this course of action. But my opinion on the matter was as informed and useful as what I’d contribute if Obama invited me into the war room to help with strategy. “But are you sure you want to invade?”
So the radiation decision really freaks me out.
I’m in a far better state of mind to think through my options than I was 4 months ago when I was grabbed off the street and thrown into the cancer van. But I can’t help feeling like the choices are false ones, weighted heavily in favour of radiation, placing a massive burden of risk on my risk-adverse shoulders.
I ask the radiologist about research into outcomes, with and without radiation. She makes it clear (very nicely) that treatment opinions are not her domain. Radiating is her thing. She’s in favour of her thing. She tells me to ask my oncologist.
I prepare my argument which goes something like this: If the lymphoma is in my blood, swimming around, waiting for an opportunity to pop out anywhere and grow another hot dog or Barbie dream house couch, or hiking boot (cause anything’s possible, right?) then what’s the point of radiating the spots where the tumours used to be?
I anticipate this will be the beginning of a lengthy back and forth that will equip me to make my you can stuff your radiation decision. I’ll bolster that argument with some research from my friend Tae, then I’ll be armed to win the debate.
Turns out there is no long-term research on outcomes with and without radiation. The Bendamustine/Rituximab chemo combo I’m on is too new.
Statistics indicate (I have to focus hard not to hear bla bla bla, when someone says statistics. I perk up for all the I got diagnosed with lymphoma in 1987, and then it just disappeared stories) Statistics indicate that cancer is more likely to grow back in a spot where it has already been en masse.
The oncologist’s answer leaves me, in my opinion, choiceless. I’m demoralized but almost convinced. It’s not a debate. It’s a crapshoot.
“You can chose not to go ahead with radiation, BUT…”
Is there more than one answer to that? I don’t even bother to ask how much more (statistically) likely it is to grow back.
“Sure. Go ahead. Invade.”