“Last week,” he said calmly. “A major study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago saying the use of chemotherapy is the way to go now.”
I let that loll around in my brain for a moment trying to put my journey in perspective. I’ve already had surgery to remove my cancerous prostate. Then I received radiation to kill any leftover cancer cells. Now I’ve been on intensive hormone treatments for a few years to keep the disease at bay. I’ve even done a six-week Provenge treatment to enhance my immune system to fight the bad guys.
Over my seven years in the system, only once did the topic of chemotherapy arise. That was early on in relation to a clinical trial for which I did not specifically qualify.
Now, when I’m miles down this road, they’re throwing up a detour sign.
“This study by the National Institute of Health says we should have been using chemo all along,” my doctor said. “We all had moved away from it as new hormonal products became available. It sort of got pushed down the treatment list. But now, the evidence is overwhelming. It can add up to a year to your life.”
I thought about that and said, “Is that a drooling year or a good year?”
“A good year,” he said, somewhat convincingly.
But chemo is tough. This particular treatment lasts 20 weeks. I’d be really sick for the first time since diagnosis. It’s got a list of side effects as long as your arm. And, I’d lose my hair and be tired and nauseous.
So is it worth five months of hell to gain perhaps one year of life down the road?
I don’t like them changing the rules in the middle of the game, and I told my doctor that in no uncertain terms. One week we’re on course. The next week, oops, the rules have changed.
Now I’m caught between anger and angst. I’ve got to make a decision, and soon.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current Provenge treatment for prostate cancer. This is the sixth in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now.