Decision-Making...It Ain't Always Easy
I am a person who always prided myself on being able to make a firm decision and then stick to it. This generally worked pretty well. Occasionally, I might get a decision wrong, but I wasn't afraid to make it and take responsibility for the end result.
A new decision making process with cancer
During my trek through lung cancer land, however, I have sometimes found this process to be more challenging than before. In the early months, I found myself sort of semi-consciously dividing my life and all the decisions that came with it into a 9-part grid. Whenever something came up, there was always that 9th piece of the grid, the block called cancer, that needed to be acknowledged and considered before reaching any final conclusions. Even so, the decision process went on and continued to work pretty well.
Fast forward to my most recent treatment period 4-5 years into my journey. I spent 13 months in a clinical trial that combined an immunotherapy drug with a trial drug aimed at cutting off the tumors' blood supply. In most of my previous treatments, my tumors either began slow growth following the treatment, or even continued slow growth during the treatment. With this trial, however, after some initial shrinkage, I remained stable for a solid year. The problem was that I struggled with significant gastrointestinal side effects the entire time.
I'm glad I did or I wish I had
For the last few months of 2017, I analyzed and debated with myself about whether I would stay in the trial or pull out. I wanted to travel and resume a more normal life than I'd been able to enjoy. I sort of hated this trial drug, but I also hated the idea of quitting something I volunteered for...something that was keeping my serious disease at bay.
In the end, when cancer is in the mix for decision making, it truly is potentially a life and death matter. Quality of life vs. length of life are serious issues we must contemplate. Through conversations with my trial nurse and one of my infusion nurses toward the end of the year, I was able to make the final decision. When I asked one of the nurses to consider all of the things I was laying out in my decision-making process and tell me how she would think about things if it were her, she said that if she reached the point in her disease where she was too sick to travel and enjoy the things she'd been unable to do while on the treatment, she would want to do what was required to be able to look back and say "I'm glad I did" rather than "I wish I had."
That was the advice I had often given young people over the years, and it was perfect advice for me at this stage of my journey. As I start 2018, I am no longer on the trial drug, or any other cancer treatment (for now), and I am planning some very exciting trips and activities. Live in the present, right? The future will take care of itself.
Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.
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