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.
It is a curious treatment. And normally I’m for using most medicines, but what chemo does to people, I’d almost press for those hokey “alternative medicine” treatments. I think there’s also a high relation between stress and cancer… but really, I have no idea on the matter.
Hang in there.
Thanks, Saint. I’m doing my best.
Hi Beth, thanks for posting this. For people I know who had cancer there seems to be no “reason” for getting it, and it seems self defeating to go there. You got it, you didn’t deserve to get it. Period.
I hope you’ll not worry too much about the food you are /are not eating during this time and can just focus on resting. Since I’ve never gone through chemo I can’t know how awful it is, but I’ve seen what it does…I’m so happy to hear that it seems to be working. When it’s over and you feel better–and you will!–you’ll be able to enjoy life again.
Sybil, after I wrote this, I thought that people might interpret it as me trying to find reasons for my cancer. I wasn’t, really. I know I’ll never figure it out. My point is that we keep throwing chemicals at problems, and it would be best if we drew back from that in a major way. I know this won’t happen anytime soon, but I’d like to be part of the beginning.
Beth, I do agree with you on that–we breathe, ingest, and slather on so many chemicals with no idea of what they might do to us. And I admire you efforts to avoid chemicals as much as possible in your daily life as well & to start the conversation.
I’m sorry that anyone has cancer. I’ve often wondered about chemo and the quality of life in some patients. HOWEVER, what I want to stress is that drug companies spend fortunes getting drugs approved and on the market. They do lots of testing, i.e., the effects on the heart, the liver etc., and in order to get the drug to the market they have to spend an enormous amount of money because of the governments guidelines that if they get any worse we won’t have drugs at all. Some people want drugs for cures so we can’t take away those rights. You don’t have to take them, I often wonder if I would if given the choice because I’m like you and avoid anything other than natural remedies when possible. Enjoy the spring season – it should be a good one.
It’s true that the approval process for a new drug is long and expensive. However, my main complaint is that the medical mindset leans toward chemo and considers anything else to be an “add-on.” And I certainly didn’t say anything about taking away chemo. I was emphasizing how little testing most chemicals get. I would bet that medical chemicals get tested more thoroughly than agricultural chemicals, but still we often hear about drugs being pulled from the market because of “unforeseen” side effects.