Last week The Independent, re-shared a story about a a 90 year old American lady, Ms Bauerschmidt, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer in the summer of 2015 and rather than go along with the standard treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, she decided that she would, instead, go on the roadtrip of a lifetime. After a year on the road, driving 13,000 miles, staying in over 75 locations in 32 states, she died in October 2016. The article wasn’t a sad one, it was a happy one. Ms Bauerschmidt’s motto was “Say ‘Yes’ to Living”, and she packed in so much that year. It looked like she had a blast.
After reading the heartwarming article, it got me thinking about my treatment and if saying “No” to it was an option. (Spoiler Alert…it’s not.) Ms Bauerschmidt was 90 when she was diagnosed with her primary cancer. I was 36, and at the time, Imy and Felix were 5 and 7. Ross and I had been married for less than 10 years. So, I decided to comment on the post and said:
"I think if I was 90 and told that I had Stage 4 Cancer ( there is no Stage 5, it's already spread outside the primary cancer site) I would do that. But I'm not. I'm 40, with two young children and I need more time."
Now, in Internet Land, we all know there be ‘Trolls’, I’m not completely naive, but I didn’t expect, what I thought to be an innocuous comment, would receive some of the attention it did. But I learned the hard way.
The headline of the article was “91-year-old who inspired thousands by skipping chemotherapy to go on end of life road trip dies”. It’s slightly misleading. She didn’t refuse chemo alone, she refused all treatment options. So my response wasn’t just based on a refusal of chemo, it was all treatments: biological; hormonal; chemo; radio; surgery.
I didn’t expect anyone to even look at the comment, never mind give me their opinion on it. The majority of the comments were positive, encouraging ones: “I wish you well with your treatment.”, “You’re in my prayers.”, “All the best.”, etc. Thank you people.
So far, so good. And then this:
Hold on… what? Chemo gives you cancer? I need to find out what “caused” my cancer and cut it out? Kill off the elderly? Holy Moly! This was something else!! I have learned over the years I’ve been on Facebook that sometimes it’s not about retaliating, it’s about just leaving things alone. Except, how can I leave it alone? This person has just jumped to huge conclusions about me and my treatment and decided to tell me how I should be living my life. Erm…no. I think not. I had to acknowledge the comment as it was so preposterous and I think I was rather restrained in my reply! FYI, when she is talking about MIM, she is referring to a directory that medics can refer to when they are prescribing drugs. As ‘Normal Folk’, we won’t have access to it, or generally know what it is, but this lady is “Educated” so she knows what she’s talking about. (Sit down at the back…)
My original comment has been like over 300 times. Most people get where I’m coming from. And yet, this person comes back again. Really?
I know I'm going back on what I said about not commenting further by writing this blog post, but I'm still astounded that someone would say something like that. Keyboard Warriors, Trolls, whatever you want to call them hide behind a keyboard, spew their bile and vitriol, tell other people how to live their lives and what? Expect to be thanked for it?
I'm so sorry that this woman's mother died from cancer. It is an unforgiving and nondiscriminating disease. But millions of pounds are being poured into research to find a cure. There is no conspiracy. The drugs companies are not hiding the cure. They *are* researching cannabis (but it's not a silver bullet). The management of these companies are as affected by cancer as anyone else. They will have friends and/or family that are diagnosed with it. They gain nothing by sitting by and watching people die. Five to ten years ago, without Herceptin, my prognosis would have been bleak. I may not even have been here to write this blog post. Where did Herceptin come from? A big drugs company that ran proper clinical trials, and now it is a standard treatment for certain cancers. More trials are being run as I type, so that treatments and maybe a cure are found. My role in *my* Cancer Story has not been that of a sheep. I have grilled my Oncologist at length about the treatments I have had and currently having.
One in two people will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their life. But! We have more screenings available, more treatments are available and as a result more people are surviving the diagnosis and go on to live full and healthy lives. The statistics tell us that people are living longer, but everyone has to die at some point. No one is immortal. It's one of the two givens in life. That and taxes. Life expectancy was "three score years and ten" or 70. I'm 30 years away from that age, and the odds of me getting there are slim. But, I'm here for the foreseeable. The treatments are doing their job and we are more positive about things. Long may the treatment continue to work.
And as the Queen song goes, "Who wants to live forever...when love must die?"