“Chemotherapy” is a scary word. It’s probably the most dreaded treatment of cancer because of its infamous side effects and damages done to the body. Fyi, chemo kills fast growing cells regardless if they are healthy or unhealthy cells; cancer, hair follicle, lining of gut, bone marrow, etc.
Before chemo was prescribed to me, I’ve heard many chemo success stories so when I first saw my surgery report stating that I need chemo, I thought, “If everyone else did it, why can’t I?”
The hopefulness and strength didn’t last long though. Once news about me being prescribed with chemo went out, somehow stories of people avoiding chemo or of people being devastated by chemo started surfacing and alternative treatment started taking center stage. Fear engulfed me every time I thought about undergoing chemotherapy and this was evident through my mood swing.
Scary things I’ve been told about chemotherapy:
- My immune system will be knocked out completely — I’d fall sick from little things
- I’d have to avoid crowded places (due to high risk of infection)
- I’d have to avoid old people and children (because they are prone to sickness)
- I’d feel like a pregnant woman, the crappy part of it
- Chemo does not help — strengthening my natural immune system will do more good
- I’d get another cancer from chemo
- I may not walk out of chemo alive
These are very stressful things to hear for a 25-year-old who wants to achieve so many more things in life. The last thing that I want is to cause irreversible damages to my body while I try to extend the longevity of my body.
And when we talk about the short-term, the 6 months of the treatment, it sounded like I’d be stuck at home most of the time and will be wearing mask whenever I’m around people. Food reviews, travel promotions and social outings will be none of my business too.
I’ve met my oncologist, Prof Dr Ho Gwo Fuang from University Malaya Specialist Center (UMSC), for the first time yesterday and apparently, I’ve been scaring myself too much. While the scary things I heard were true to a certain extend, chemo for colon cancer is less destructive and thus far from the usual faces of chemo patients that we’re familiar with.
Prof Dr Ho says side effects will be manageable. I’d get to live life like normal and just have to watch out for serious side effects like long fever and severe diarrhea. I’d be able to work during the treatment if I can manage the fatigue and discomfort, even though he prefers if I can stay away from work for 6 months.
I don’t like the idea of taking leave for 6 months because it makes me feel unproductive, ill and weak. I’d want to try coping with work for as much as I can while getting the rest I need. The current plan I have in mind is to take 3 days off during my chemo week; these are the days the drug will be pumped into my body continuously. I’d then utilize the weekend to regain my energy before getting back to work again. I don’t want to give up work before I try.
Unfortunately, there’s no other alternative treatment verified and recognized scientifically in Malaysia. My options are:
- Listen to doctors and go for chemotherapy to reduce risk of recurrence by half; or
- Listen to non-doctors and go for non-verified alternative treatment and pray the treatment works for me
I don’t like chemotherapy but I’m wary of my own natural immune system that has been compromised once and my organs don’t look ideal for my age so I guess I better trust these toxic killer drugs than my natural killer cells? What do you think?
For now, I’m gonna comfort myself with this quote:
It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave. \ Mandy Hale