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Monday, January 27, 2014

The balancing act

Last week, I read some preliminary results for the chemo protocol I did. (Though the drugs I got have been in use a long time, the combination I did currently still in clinical trial). They made me cry. In a very good way.

See, over the last few weeks I'd been doubting my decision a bit. Thinking that maybe I should have gone for the current standard of care, which is harsher, tougher, meaner. More long term toxicity, in that it is damaging to your nerves, and puts you at risk for other cancers. More cruel, in that there's a 3-6% your hair doesnt grow back. (Seriously? Wtf) That scared me a lot.

So I cried tears of joy when I read that the prelimary results were that my protocol was extremely effective.

There's a weird thing about statistics and a cancer diagnosis. A balancing act. Everytime a new stat appears, it goes on the scale in my head.

When I read the good news about my chemo protocol, I had a few minutes of basking in relief and happiness. And then the scale popped up. These results are only based on three years. And how do these numbers stack up against the ones that terrified me a few months ago?

My extremely unscientific way of thinking about it involves one of those old timey scales with a little gold dish on each side. Good numbers go on one side, bad numbers go on the other. Every time a new number comes to light, my goal is to make the scale tip in favor of the good side.

Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I'm not, and I bite an Ativan in half and try to chill the fuck out. Even if I can tip the scale in my favor, the one overriding number knocks the whole thing off kilter: my chances of ever getting cancer at age 28 in the first place. .05% according to Dr. Susan Love. Add in the liklihood of me getting cancer after Matt also having had cancer in his 20s, and...well, you get my drift. The small odds become less comforting when you're living in a world of tenths of the percent.

So. Well. Is it all just random? I guess. Is there such a thing as luck here? Who knows. There's certainly no control. Just a winnowing a way of percentage points. I did chemo to shave a few off. Radiation knocked off some, herceptin even more. The kale I consume with abandon is supposed to do its part, along with the low dose aspirin, and the mushroom capsules. 

A couple days after reading the promising results about my chemo, I saw another article. This one had a terrifying title, that I won't repeat here. On to the scale it went, and the dance began again.

It's a numbers game, in some ways. Survival, but also feeling okay. Feeling less scared. It's all about numbers. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I suck at math.

Note: I purposefully did not link to any survival statistics or results or studies, as they can be an anxiety trigger for many, including myself


  1. I stopped doing the math too after my diagnosis! It just got too depressing.Though ativan does help. lol

  2. the weird thing is that now I do it for everything else! Chances of being accepted in a writing program, or likelihood of finding something I lost. I'm sick of numbers!!

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  4. Awesome write up you are. I love to read your post very much. A big thanks for sharing with us.