There was a great article today in the Globe. It focused on one of children we knew – Alexander’s “girlfriend”. It talks about the stress families go through as they make choices to help heal, hopefully cure their children.
When Alexander first got sick, someone asked us, “So what exactly is Chemotherapy”. I resisted the urge to smack this person for asking such a question to us – I mean, couldn’t they have looked it up themselves? A textbook answer would have been this (from about.com)
Definition: Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that involves taking one or more of a type of drug that interferes with the DNA (genes) of fast-growing cells. These drugs are further subdivided into specific classes such as alkylating agents, antimetabolites, anthracyclines, and topoisomerase inhibitors.
My answer: “It is Poison”. We choose to give our son poison – poison that we hoped would kill the cancer cells, shrink the tumor and get us back on track to the life we planned. We had to sign consents for everything – and more often than not, under “side effects” one of them was death. Death?!?! You mean to tell me, if I DON’T give my child this treatment, he could die, but if I do give it he could die? Um…hello!?!? What kind of choice is that? Not an easy one at all. We did choose to give him treatments. but what if we hadn’t?
Recently in the news was the conviction of a mother that did that – she choose NOT to giver her child the treatments the doctors told her could save his life. Of course none of the news stories tell the whole story. Why did she stop the treatments? Had she reached her wits end in seeing how sick they made him, loosing hope that he would truly get better? Where was the help for HER, to give these treatments to her son. Some may say, “just MAKE him take it” – well , that is easier said than done. Alexander was too little to fight us, and he had his feeding tube which made it so much easier to give him his medications. But just the SMELL of some of these medications made me gag – I can’t imagine having to take them every day. At one point, he was taking them orally, but kept throwing them up, so I had to put the feeding tube back in just so I could give him his medications. That was hard for me. I learned how to do that, so that I didn’t have to keep taking him to the ER to have it done if it came out. I didn’t want to learn that – what mother does? But, it was something that I choose to do to help him. There were times that I had to give him shots in the leg every day. I hated that – having to give my child pain! Again, because of his age, he couldn’t really “fight” me – although he tried! Some of the other children who are older, will kick, scream, say “I hate you, you are bad”. There were many a time I wanted to NOT give him his medications or treatments because of the reactions he would have. Sometimes, I was actually GLAD we were in the hospital, because then the nurses would do the “bad stuff” and I wouldn’t have to.
Since I do not know the whole story – I can not judge that mom. I can only pray for her and the life she now has to face without her son. I am sure she did not come to her decision lightly. I do question where the doctors were in her situation – how did they not know until it was to late that he wasn’t getting his treatments? And couldn’t they see the stress she was under, and how she would need some help?
Cancer sucks – the treatment sucks – there are no easy answers.