The Chemo-Chemical Complex

The post I wrote yesterday about chemo was so reasoned, so calm. But later that night, after watching Bright Star by Jane Campion, my true feelings came out.

First of all, I have to explain that it’s been very difficult for me to cry about this diagnosis. At times I would have liked to sob for a few hours, just to release some tension, but it doesn’t happen. Except, I guess, when I watch sad love stories.

And, of course, in Bright Star, John Keats is dying of tuberculosis, a loathsome disease. (That same disease has just been found in a school in Longmont, by the way.)

I started thinking about the disgusting nature of chemotherapy. How it follows this insidious path in my body. How the effects make me feel less than human and certainly not female anymore. Something more like a test case. I’m not sure why the weakness, the stomach upset, the hair loss, and the brain fog produce this reaction. It’s just that they all feel so wrong for a person who prided herself on her health and her ability to get by without medicine.

When I was a teenager, I did a few drugs. I smoked cigarettes, I drank a lot of coffee with milk and sugar, I smoked pot, and I did mushrooms once. As I got older, I realized what should have been obvious: I don’t like being drunk or stoned. I don’t like smoking. I don’t really like altering my body’s natural functioning at all.

And now I’m on these drugs, supposedly to save my life, that are trashing my body, far worse than the cancer has until this point. Setting aside the certainty of what cancer would have done in the long run, I want to talk about the perverse nature of chemotherapy. Why is it that the medical establishment chose this route to cure cancer instead of a more natural approach?

I think it happened because of the postwar mindset. Because we were high on creating new chemicals that could fix our world for us, solve all our conflicts with nature.

Have you ever noticed that since World War II, poisons have worked themselves into every corner of our lives, thanks to corporations? Some 80,000 new chemicals have been created since that time. They’re used in agriculture and industry and cosmetics. But are the pharmaceuticals in use today part of that group of 80,000 chemicals? After a very small amount of surfing, I would say that chemo drugs are in those ranks.

Here’s the quote I love best from the second link: “With advances in technology that improved the ability to detect and quantify these chemicals, we can now begin to identify what effects, if any, these chemicals have on human and environmental health.”

Yep, I am a guinea pig. And so are you and your kids. Because most of these new chemicals haven’t been tested. Why? Because it’s just not important to the US government to understand the health effects of all those chemicals. That might restrict corporations’ ability to sell them.

I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life trying to avoid chemicals. I cleaned my house without them. I managed without bleach (yes, chlorine is a poison). I ate organic food. And so on. My main lapse was to use Roundup on my yard, but even that involved using smaller amounts of chemicals than if I’d used Weed and Feed every season.

And still I got cancer. For all I know, it may have been caused by smoking in high school. Or by not having children. But the presence of 80,000 new chemicals in the world, mixing together in our bodies in ways we don’t understand, certainly does raise hard questions.

And now I’m using more chemicals to clean up the mess in my body.

It’s insidious, don’t you see?

So here’s my pledge: I am never doing this again. If my cancer recurs (and triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to recur than other subtypes), I won’t do chemo again. I hate it.