Sunday, February 10, 2008

Experience is Overrated

One of the most surprising things about having cancer is that you often have to choose your course of treatment. Of course, like any other medical issue, you expect that once you're diagnosed, your doctor will sit you down, tell you exactly how to deal with the problem, scribble a prescription and send you on your way. But treating cancer is alot more like plotting military strategy. Depending on the nature of the enemy, the terrain and weather conditions, there are several battle plans that offer promise in overtaking the enemy.

I was faced with planning my own offensive at the very beginning of my adult life. I had just graduated college and was in the midst of searching for my very first "real" job. Once I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkins disease, though, it became clear that starting my life would hinge on saving it first.

Because the disease had spread to several body parts, we had to take a carpet bomb approach and I had to choose between three different chemo cocktails. One cocktail had been the proven treatment of choice for decades. It gave me the greatest guarantee of a cure, but it was also the most toxic and I would face almost certain fertility problems later on. The second cocktail had only been around for a decade or so, but it had shown some very real promise in offering a cure with few serious side-effects. The third option was a combination of the two. Bottom line, I had to choose between a guaranteed cure or a likely cure with the probability of being able to bear children.

It was an excruciating choice. Having a family was still years away for me, but I'd always envisioned being a mother, raising my own biological children. But having children wouldn't even be an option if I wasn't alive in the first place. My family and I ultimately put the decision in the hands of someone infinitely more qualified. Thankfully, my doctor was not only a brilliant physician, but a warm and wonderful human being. My parents asked, "If she was your daughter, what would you do?" He didn't hesitate, "If she was my daughter, I would want her to have the best chance for a full and normal life. If you want to have children, I'd choose [the newer, less toxic combination]."

As I look into my daughters' faces, I often think of this fateful decision. Had I not taken a chance on the newer, less-proven option, I may have found other ways to become a mother, but I would have never known these two beautiful girls that my husband and I created. My life is everything I imagined it to be and more.

I'm also reminded of this decision as we Democrats try to choose between two highly qualified candidates to heal our country. Once again, I'm taking a chance on a newer, less proven choice. But I know that it's one that will not only get the job done, but will offer the best chance for the positive and hopeful future that we all envision for our country.

1 comment:

selfmademom said...

what a crazy story! so glad you are OK!