I’m honoured to host this post by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Please have a read and offer any advice or support you can.
This is a hard story to tell, but one which getting down on paper will help. Assuage the guilt, get some perspective. I’ve asked to remain anonymous because my family read my blog and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
My sister has cervical cancer. My wonderful, intelligent and amazing sister, my friend and inspiration had been in remission for over 10 years but it came back earlier this year. If life wasn’t cruel enough, she also discovered an, up until then, hidden heart condition, the one you read about previously fit and healthy people unexpectedly die from. So on the one front, she’s lucky it was found. But on the other, it’s meant treatment options are more complicated.
She’s too sick for chemotherapy. She may not survive surgery. The heart condition needs to be stabilised before any stressful treatment can be administered. And cancer treatment is stressful.
The plan has been to conservatively manage the cancer while the heart condition is treated. As her cardiologist said at the moment your heart will kill you before the cancer.
So for six months my wonderfully brave sister has undergone numerous tests, several laser treatments to keep the cervical cancer at bay and heart medication regimes which make her feel ill and seem to be changed every few weeks as they aren’t working. She’s also endured a five week course of radiotherapy. It didn’t work. It did however made her heart worse. Fatigue is crippling, the nausea debilitating and the pain sometimes unbearable and never ending.
Through it all, she has been amazingly strong.
But last week, she broke the news to me. She’s reached a point where she can’t go on. She needs a break. Time to recoup. To gain strength, physically but more importantly mentally. She’s agreed with her oncologist and cardiologist to stop treatments, to stay on one heart medication regime and not to change it for 3 months. To recoup and recharge.
I said all the right things and agreed with her on the phone. Fighting cancer is as much about the mental battle as the physical. I can see she needs a break.
But inside I’m breaking.
I’m a horrible person.
I know where she is coming from, I was there myself earlier in the year fighting through my own cancer treatments, but was lucky enough for symptoms to ease.
But my head is in a jumble, its all upside down, things are going round and round. What if the cancer gets worse and becomes untreatable in that three months? Why would she do this to me? I did it, so can she. Does she not realise how stressful this is?
To feel powerless
To not be able to help or take away the pain
How can she stop fighting?
She’s being selfish
How can she risk not being here anymore?
To give up
There, I’ve said it. If she stops, takes a break, will it’ll mean there’s a greater chance the cancer will take over.
I’m a horrible person
And I’m scared, I feel out of control. I hate to think how she feels.
But I have to be strong
Swallow down the guilt
Her decision, is hers alone
I can’t change it, I can’t change her. That would make her something she’s not.
She’s my rock, my inspiration, my friend
And I’m lucky to have her in my life
Do we, as friends and family have any rights to feel like this? To insist a patient tries every treatment, endures all the rounds of chemotherapy the medics allow. To be consulted in making the painful decision to stop or in my sisters case postpone treatment.
Or are these choices only the person, the one in the moment, living through it, can make?
What do you?