Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fighting The Fight

Someone I know is in the midst of battling throat cancer. She was diagnosed last December. Unlike breast cancer--that has no known cause--throat cancer is often brought on by smoking and drinking.

That would make sense. This person smokes cigarettes around the clock. I have never seen someone smoke as much as her--not even my dad. Her smoking is accompanied by alcohol, which I understand helps dissolve the nicotine deeper into the throat membranes. It's a lethal combination. Upon her diagnosis, she was told to quit smoking and drinking immediately. She didn't. She kept on with her deadly habits even as she started radiation and chemo. I wanted to say: "Why bother with treatment when you are counter-acting the purpose of it?" But I held my tongue.

Now, only two weeks into her cancer treatment, she is hospitalized indefinitely because her body can't withstand the combined radiation and chemotherapy. Her white blood cell count is dangerously low. The pain is so immense, she must take morphine intravenously--constantly. These are the reasons she has been laying in a hospital bed for more than a week.

I understand that some cancer treatments are more rigorous than others. There were days when I felt nauseous from chemo. And towards the end of radiation, I got really tired. But for the most part, I carried on with life--even working. Perhaps I was lucky.

Luck is not on this throat-cancer stricken woman's side. But I believe she spent so many years abusing her body, she doesn't stand a chance. I am beginning to wonder if the treatment will do her in before the cancer does. That's what happened to a neighbor when I was a kid. The neighbor ultimately died in the hospital due to all the complications brought on by the cure, not the cause.

As I watch this woman become progressively ill, I think about my own state of health. I recall how--unlike other women in my chemo ward--I was never hospitalized for a low white blood cell count. The only thing I got was an ear infection due to diving in my pool. For the most part, I was healthy at the outset of my cancer diagnosis.  What's more, there was no way I could have prevented it. Today I try to take care of myself. I am not perfect, but I do make an effort to eat well and exercise. I don't smoke. I don't drink. When you get to be in your fifties, every little bit of self care counts.

As for this woman--who is a business associate, not a friend--I  can't help but feel she brought on all this herself. I have no respect for someone who deliberately destroys her body. It is utterly beyond me. As far as I am concerned, she has chosen a slow path toward suicide.

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