On Tuesday I had chemo again, an 80% dose of gemcitabine + carboplatin, hoping my blood count will recover more rapidly this time. We skipped ahead to Cycle 2 and just gave up on the second dose that should have been on Day 8. I feel relieved to be back on track with my treatment!
It went ok, not too sore in my wrist, and so far I'm feeling quite reasonable afterwards. I was up and down the first night but have just slept well through the second.
No one really wants to have chemotherapy because it is a very drastic measure to poison healthy cells as well as the cancer cells! So why am I so happy about it?
Chemotherapy is the treatment for which there is the best evidence for success in treating the disease which I'm facing. The bottom line is
my body will recover from chemotherapy
usually people don't recover from untreated ovarian cancer!
Do I consider alternative and complimentary therapies?
Yes, of course I have thought about alternatives, especially each time a dear friend recommends something. I read what I can find, ask my sister to help look up medical information, ask my specialist and also check with the hospital pharmacist for advice. They have a database of medicines and have been helpful in passing on to me the results of clinical trials (if the product has been tested) and any warnings.
I realise there are always unknowns, as well as commercial biases. Pharmaceutical companies make money from drugs, but then so do healthfood shops, not to mention the online suppliers of unproven mixtures. We all need to be a bit skeptical when we are asked to fork out money!
For me it comes down to levels of evidence. An anecdote is evidence, but at a very low level because it is just one datapoint, no replication and no controls. For example, “Mrs T was told there was nothing more the doctors could do and advised to get her affairs in order. She changed her diet and lifestyle, tried herbal supplements and now 6 years later she's still well.“. Usually there are very few details available for such a story, no control sample to show whether she would have recovered anyway, nor any way to know if it was the herbal medicine that produced the recovery, or something else. It isn't even easy for me to find out how similar Mrs T's medical history might be compared with mine.
I find I am more confident in trusting the oncologists' advice because it is backed by higher levels of evidence. My background in scientific research leads me to trust the rigorous testing required before making claims of efficacy. The oncologists can tell me statistics, eg if there were 100 women just like me (severity of the initial disease, cancer cell type, cancer-free time since last treatment, sites where the tumours have regrown etc) then 60-80% of us would respond successfully to chemotherapy this time.
Of course it is a personal decision and peace of mind counts for something too in any healing process. Did you know the placebo effect accounts for 10 – 30% success in treating ovarian cancer (according to my specialist)? This is the contribution of faith or belief towards recovery.