So, some time has passed since my first blog post and the crazy whirlwind that it is to be re-diagnosed. I’ve had a lot of time to think, a lot more opinions voiced from close friends and family and things have changed quite a lot. As I mentioned previously I had a PET scan to check if there was any more active cancer and unfortunately the left side of my neck lit up. For those who have seen The Fault in Our Stars you may remember Augustus talking about his PET scan when he found out he had relapsed:“He flashed his crooked smile, then said, ‘I lit up like a christmas tree, Hazel Grace.”
Fortunately, I didn’t light up like a Christmas tree – or maybe one on a budget with only two lights – but nonetheless potential cancer was detected, the survival rate went down and surgery is now no longer an option.
In the time between finding out this news, dealing with it and thinking about the next step I had the ‘palliative care’ talk with my doctor, nurses and radiologist. They discussed with me the brutal side affects that come with a growing tumour, especially in the area mine is, and the things we would need to put in place to care for me when that time comes such as hospital staff coming to my house to administer pain relief. Facing the idea of death is something I’ve found most difficult lately. Prior to all this news, at twenty years old I felt like I was an adult, I’d had many experiences, gone through my schooling and begun University education. I had surrounded myself with friends and weeded out those who were not, I was working in a stable job, supporting myself, whilst still living at home and planning for the future. If you’d asked me back then what I’d achieved I’d have a long list to rattle off to you. But once a cancer diagnosis comes about it’s almost as if I’m back as a toddler, feeling too young to be going anywhere and too inexperienced to have future chances and experiences taken away from me. It’s hard not to contemplate all the things I’d be missing out on; simple, mundane tasks such as working a full time job and getting my first apartment were things I’d never considered that I’d miss until they were taken away from me. I couldn’t help mourning things I never got to have such as live my twenties, thirties, fourties, etc and then grow old, get married, have children, have grandchildren, make something of myself and be someone people are proud of. I felt like I was leaving nothing behind; a life half lived (if not only one eighth lived), a room full of clothes, a second hand car, and a half finished journalism degree.
The hospital staff told me how to access my superannuation, linked me up with a counsellor, told me to write a bucket list, think about my will and plan my funeral. As you would assume, these are hard and confusing tasks many terminal young people are not familiar with, or ever faced with; so they gave me a booklet (almost like a comprehension booklet you fill out in primary school) that covered all the bases. It had questions and answers such as: “How do I want to be remembered on my birthday?” “Do I want to be revived?” “Do I want to try life support if deemed applicable?” “What song do I want to play at my funeral?” “What outfit would I like to be buried in?” This was super confronting for me and I decided not to fill it out at all. Yes, these were important questions that needed answering, but I’m not quite ready to go there just yet. I’m not going home to die or ‘live it up for the last few months’ as suggested. I’ve begun alternate medicine: Chinese Herbal Medicine, to be specific.
Whilst initially I laughed at the idea of alternate medicine I’ve begun to embrace a different and more open mind frame where I understand the science behind the immune boosting practise. This isn’t something that came about lightly: I have always been pro western medicine. Every headache I took panadol, every cold I got anti biotics, I’ve had 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 40 doses of radiotherapy and countless surgeries along with IVF hormone treatment. I’ve had a needle in every vein to draw blood, a cannula or injection in every other. I do believe chemotherapy and radiotherapy saved me from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, unfortunately it was just probably the cause for my secondary cancer – of which I knew was a risk the whole time, but you have to do what you’ve gotta do at the time. Of course I needed evidence before agreeing to this Chinese Herbal Medicice, I googled and googled for days on end, reading studies that either endorsed it with Western medicine as a way to lessen symptoms such as nausea or hair loss or articles that agreed it prolonged life for those who were terminal. There was no hard evidence that it offered a cure, or was the future of cancer. I’m not sure what I believe when it comes to the ‘Big Pharma‘ conspiracy – of course you hope that a cancer cure doesn’t exist, that the public is being looked after and not having things hidden from them – but who really knows. Cancer is a 124.6 Billion dollar industry, if there is a cure out there being hidden from the public these companies are making a killing, by literally killing (or allowing those terminal to die.)
Of course, there is no hard evidence of this conspiracy, same goes for the 9/11 conspiracy and the ‘Katy Perry is actually Jon Benet Ramsay’ (some are clearly more ridiculous than others.) Something that did convince me a little was the fact that the more people I told about my decision to do Chinese Medicine, the more stories came forward of friends and family members who were cured and recovered via the TCM method. Two of which I know of that went to the same lady I go to, and are now recovering and still living when given months to live. Each case of cancer is different and each body responds differently, so this is still a gamble, but a few success stories were better than none and when it comes down to it I have two choices:
1: Try alternate medicine
Which one would you pick?
I’ve been on the medicine a week now and initially I was tired and not feeling the best. I take 15 capsules, three powdered sachets and 2 liquid shots a day – it seems like a lot but when you plan your day and schedule the medicine in, it’s really quite easy to assimilate into normal life. Well, as normal as you can get whilst eating 100% organic. Combined with the organic eating I am living chemical free which means no hair dye and no makeup (a big sacrifice for me!) but no sacrifice is too big when it comes to saving your life.
It is too soon to tell whether I have made any progress, I am an impatient person so this is really testing my coping skills. I go back to see her in one month and she will assess me and adjust the medication accordingly. I am feeling positive that I am doing the right thing and have chosen the right path. Initially I was concerned – was I wasting time doing alternate medicine? Should I be ‘living it up’ not wasting time doing medicine, being tired and sick for my last few days? But I have decided that no matter whether this works, or not, the most important thing in the world is that I tried, and never gave up, surrendering to death.