Sunday, 1 November 2015

Statistics, Damned Statistics and Pies


I've nearly reached the end of the very last Chemo cycle and it was time to discuss the next lot of treatments with the Oncologist.  I'd got through the worse days of this cycle and started to feel a little optimistic about getting back to normality as the last couple days have each been an improvement and the only way is up from now. In my head I am only a few days away from being in work each day, whizzing round the shops, catching up with friends, a normal mad paced life.  So my smile was quite big as I sat down in the Oncologist’s office.  She proceeded to tell me all the possible side effects of Radiotherapy, which they have to do and I signed my piece of paper to give consent to the treatment. She then told me I was still susceptible to infection for a while longer and my energy levels would not start to increase until after Rads, probably the new year.  My upbeat optimism came crashing down. I knew in my heart it would take time (plus my friends with experience have told me), I suppose I just didn't want to hear it. Chemo over, that's it, fixed, back to normal, crack on my son!  I suppose I've run out of patience with it all.  It's the mental battle of balancing not actually being ill with feeling so ill you can't function normally.  The cancer hadn't given me any symptoms but the systematic poisoning from Chemotherapy has destroyed my body.  Yet I know it is all for a mighty good purpose, keeping me alive.  I'm just so fed up of it. So I felt a little deflated. I want to run before I can walk! I want to stand before I can sit. Socialise before I can be social. Have a 10 minute conversation instead of a breathless one sentence.  All in good time my friend, rest, rest, rest. (I can hear Juliet’s voice saying this!).  We also need to see what effect the Herceptin injections have and won't know this until the next visit to the Chemo ward for just Herceptin. Humph!  I'm hanging on to my optimism but I can feel it dripping through my fingers like gloopy treacle slowly pooling in a dark brown puddle on the floor.  The other thing the Oncologist discussed was the Hormone suppressing therapy.  If your cancer is Hormone Receptive (this means it is fuelled by hormones) you need to have tablets, to help prevent that type of cancer recurring, most commonly known as Tamoxifen, but mine is a different one.  The receptive levels are assessed and if high enough, the treatment is prescribed. Mine were borderline.  Here lies a conundrum. I asked the Oncologist what percentage difference the treatment would make to my risk of recurrence, she worked it out and it was 2% at 5 years and 4% at 10 years.  It seems nothing does it? 2%??? There are many side effects with this drug and I will have to take it for the next 5 years. So how does one compare the element of side effect risk versus the 2% improval offered?  Weirdly to me it was no contest, I'll take the 2%.  I think this is because Chemotherapy has similar small percentages, I think it was 5% for me, so having been through that, why stop now? Percentages are an odd thing. I had a 20% chance of getting a particular aggressive type of tumour, which I did. That shocked me, I never thought I’d be in that 20%. Let alone that the 12% risk of any woman getting breast cancer would apply to me. But it did.  Perhaps that's why 2% means a lot? It just doesn't seem like something you should dismiss and refuse.  If someone told you that there is a 2% chance that you would be shot and killed tomorrow morning when you left for work, would you go out the door? I bet you would throw a sickie and wait until the next day when you knew it was safe!  Perhaps it depends on your circumstances, how lucky you are feeling.  Maybe I don't feel very lucky, so 2% means a lot? Feeling unlucky and pessimistic, I scrape up as much of my gloopy optimism off the floor as I can and leave the Oncologist’s office.  Never one to dwell in the land of the pessimist, I decide such feelings need to be addressed so it was Fish 'n' Chips for tea washed down with a can of lager and Blackcurrant & Apple Pie with Ice Cream for pudding. Mood instantly lifted. Statistics? What statistics? Pass the pie.