How do you feel hearing about potential cancer cures? Many claims are made. And I don’t want to single out any one in particular here. As someone living with cancer, I want to talk about what it’s like hearing about potential cancer cures.
I must confess, I try not to get too excited. I pay attention and I hope. And I believe that one day there will be treatment for all cancers. But too excited I get not. Here is why.
Cancer treatment has come a long way. As someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and lives with the disease I have benefited from progress. Here in the UK, the mainstream treatment approach I received first in 2012 has already changed for people diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer now. Something similar may apply to wherever you live.
But this is not to say, progress is shared evenly across the world, countries and even regions within the same country.
What is on offer or not can depend on your diagnosis and prognosis, where you live, your health service, finances, your own health circumstances to mention a few variables. It can even depend on your hospital and medical team. Different oncologists or consultants may have different views on what is the “right” treatment approach for you.
Indeed, you may need to get different opinions, and then make up your own mind. I know. I have. And I can tell you, it is not easy. Because I am not a specialist. And I don’t want to come across as a “difficult” patient.
I am not medically qualified or trained in biochemistry and such to know how likely it is, to come up with a potential cancer cure, that applies to some or even all cancers. Perhaps it will be a gradual thing. Even if it does happen, how long before it may become available to all who need it?
And then, more often than not, you come across arguments why potential cancer cures may be floored. Medical and research terms are used, which I don’t always understand. Claims and counter claims, accusations, even inflammatory language … It can all be quite disheartening to follow, when you are the one with the illness.
Then there may be conspiracy theories, about why certain cancer treatment approaches may not be further developed, more widely available or affordable.
Talk about power, money and influence. And all the while people are suffering and dying.
What about the cost of such a drug, the international and local approval and funding processes new drugs need to undergo?
I am trying to be realistic and ask myself: “Would I get it? Would it help me?” I would like to think so. But I find it difficult to think so. Because it takes hope, determination, trust, possibly also advocacy skills, money and energy.
Right now, in the UK, I cannot even get the blood tests I think I should have, not to talk of scans. Even though I have cancer, the medical reasons for some control investigations are not given…. so I am told. Therefore, forgive me, if I don’t get excited. Believe me, I would love to.
Cancer brings uncertainty in our lives. Wondering about potential cancer cures, that is more uncertainty and actual and potential disappointment draining energy. That’s why I tend to pay attention to such developments mostly from afar.
I have been here before. When media reports do not necessarily share the small print, which may say that a treatment is not suitable for all cancers, results may vary from patient to patient, treatment may not (yet) be available where I live, and I cannot afford it privately etc.
Chronic illness like cancer can make you cautious, even with “good” news.
I sometimes find that those around us (relatives and friends) can get more excited than us, who have the disease. Because theirs can be a helpless place. Researching options, willing us on to hold out, not to give up – that is often all those around us feel they can do.
But let’s not forget the many of us, who have no such support, who may be on their own. And those of us who may prefer to be left alone.
As someone living with cancer, who also works in the field, I am no stranger to sudden health deterioration and death due to cancer. While I am trying to be open to hope and possibilities, I also have to be open to sudden change and death. This can make living with cancer a surreal experience, when you try and juggle extreme emotions and points of view.
Having said all that, I cannot ignore new treatment choices and medicines that may become available. Whenever I see something about it, I try to find out at least a bit and file it away for future reference. The time may come when I need to know, or need to challenge and ask why I don’t get “XYZ” and what it may take to get it.
I feel I owe it to myself to remain informed about potential cancer cures. Rightly or wrongly I feel I cannot fully trust others with decisions affecting my health. It is my responsibility, and one place where I need have a say, while I am well enough to do so.
Getting excited about possible cancer cures should be straight forward. But for me it isn’t. It is as complex, surreal and unpredictable as cancer itself.
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