Four people close to me in 2012 were diagnosed with cancer. Two opted out of all (or most) of the recommended oncology treatments. Two opted in.
The two who opted IN were heavily pressured by doctors, their family, or both.
The two who opted OUT have people around them very supportive of the opt-out, and holistic treatment. Both of them got cancer-marker tests ONLY in the oncologist’s office, and found routes out of the clinic that did not put them in the chemo-drip rooms.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, I weighed in–in all four cases! Because I was asked. In one of the “opt-in” cases, the patient did not choose to read my writing or ask many questions. She talked to me only once, initiated by her, and I told her all the ways I’d love to consult, help, point her to resources. I told her books to read.
She didn’t speak to me about her cancer again and went forward with medical treatment upon heavy pressure from family, as she told me then and later. The other three listened a lot and took a lot of notes and did their own research, too.
The other opt-in was heavily steeped in oncology’s published studies. I will share, on this blog, the long letter I wrote her. Because she asked me to tell her “what would you do if you were in my shoes.”
Of course I will change her name. But I will share it because I write about the manipulations of oncology’s published ‘studies,’ and I share how illogical and fear-based the decision-making process of the cancer patient becomes in some of the most important decisions they will ever make.
My point is, a lifetime of observation leads me to this hypothesis: what you do, when you’re diagnosed with cancer, seems more related to your social support system than to anything else. And secondarily, patients are influenced by how much information they’re exposed to, especially BEFORE their diagnosis, on the “alternative side.”
In Europe I met a breast cancer patient who didn’t tell her husband she was getting a mastectomy. Did it while he was out-of-town on business. She had just landed in Germany without telling even her daughters that she had cancer. Didn’t want the pressure. Wanted to make her own decisions.
My mother did an interesting thing several years ago. She sent us all a typed, two-page, single-spaced letter. (My mother is a person with a lot to say. Long letters are not unusual when she has an opinion about something.)
In it, she designated the two of her children she wants to make decisions if she becomes incapacitated. Both of her parents died of cancer, so she thinks of that eventuality often.
She stated in very assertive language that she will never do chemo and radiation, and that she does not trust the medical profession. She asked her children to know in advance, and please support her firm belief in other methods and traditions.
My mother doesn’t want to be in the position that my friend was, this year, the one who talked to me once and then succumbed to pressure from her family. I’ll call her Janet. She is 51 years old. She said to me, tears in her eyes, after being diagnosed with lung cancer despite never smoking a cigarette in her life:
“I don’t want to do this. Everything in me says, ‘Don’t do this!’ I asked the doctor, why are you using the same treatment that was used in 1974? But my family is very upset that I would even consider not doing what the doctor says.”
I think what my mom did is a great idea. If it were me, I’d sit my kids down and talk to them. I will do this, when my kids are adults. Tell them how I feel. Ask them not to pressure me into a specific treatment if I’m ever diagnosed with something. Tell them I need their love and support more than their opinions, judgment, and pressure.
Tomorrow: A letter I wrote to a friend with a new cancer diagnosis trying to make choices. I did not write it for this blog. As such, it is one of the most personal things I have ever posted here.