Saturday, March 17, 2007


I've gotten the results of the various scans now. The cancer is localized and has not spread to the lymph nodes above the breast, but oddly enough the Pet scan indicated the lymph nodes on the opposite side were affected even though that breast is not. My oncologist doesn't know what to make of it. But in any case, the results from all the tests are encouraging.

The chemo schedule is set up. A week after the port is placed--which will happen next week--chemo will begin. The most bothersome side effects anticipated are hair loss and being tired. They seem to think the nausea can be controlled. I have the wig ordered.

Ironically today I feel fine, but expect not to feel as good in the near future, and that promises to last for 8 to 12 months at least. So I'm going to devote a few days to dedicated play before embarking on this unwelcome journey, and probably will not be posting during playtime.

While discussing treatment with my doctor, she happened to mention that one of her patients with the same condition I have and who is in her 70s has decided not to treat it. I said I could well understand that, and my doctor said she could too. Considering the situation with the Spanish woman who had to leave a Catholic hospital in order to be disconnected from her respirator, I wonder what the Church would say is the moral implication of deciding to reject treatment? The two are certainly connected in my mind.

In the process of getting ready to treat this cancer, we have been working with an attorney to change the way our finances are set up, to write updated wills, powers of attorney, etc. Naturally the Living Will is part of this package. The language of the Living Will has changed since the last time we did them. Some of it was objectionable in the first draft and will have to be changed. The entire concept of writing that document is not to end up in the situation that the Spanish woman endured. Yet if it is wrong to disconnect, isn't it also wrong to refuse to connect in the first place? How can one be immoral while the other is not?

But at the same time the Church allows the refusal of burdensome treatment, and leaves it up to the patient to determine what is burdensome. In the case of the woman in her 70s, cancer treatment is burdensome for her and she has refused it. And if truth is going to be told, after looking squarely at what lies ahead for me, I gave serious consideration to requesting only palliative care. From this vantage point the next year looks unendurable. I am going through with this treatment because my husband and daughter are adamant that I must.

We say that God is compassionate and merciful and then tell the Spanish woman that she has no right to seek relief from her horrible situation. We say that burdensome treatment can be refused, and then refuse to allow a patient to refuse it. Do we really want to believe that once we permit ourselves to be hooked up to something, we have no right to unhook? And if we do, what impact might that have on the decision to hook up in the first place, even if doing so is intended to be only temporary?

There is something inconsistent in this moral position that I can't quite get a grasp on, but it is a nagging question because of my current situation.

Life is a death sentence. None of us gets out of here breathing. Yet we know that this is not the end, and that this life is intended to prepare us for a life of eternal happiness with God. We say that God, and only God, must determine when we are to leave this life. But we don't practice what we preach. We cheat death with all of our science and technology. We cheat it for a while, at least, though in the end death is always victorious.

Do we cheat God when we cheat death? He can certainly call our number whenever He wishes. Likewise, we can disconnect from all of the science and technology and throw our hopes into His corner alone. He is capable of working miracles. In any case, we hope that the next life will be better than this one, and so why fear it? Why run away from it? If we are to be consistent, we must believe that death is a welcome relief. A welcome relief that we must avoid at all costs, as though we must somehow earn that relief by suffering sufficiently before we go there. But only the suffering of Christ is redemptive. We cannot save ourselves. So what are we suffering for? What was the Spanish woman supposed to continue suffering for?

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