I’m sat next to patients waiting on their chemotherapy treatment – the “Chemo Ward” sign above the door gives it away. I’m here for my 28-day cycle injection of Lanreotide which will hopefully keep my Neuroendocrine Tumours at bay. I look all around, the temporary beds and the waiting room are full and all I can see is people who don’t look as well as I do.
No matter how many visits I make, I can’t help feeling out of place on a Cancer ward. I’m not sure why I feel like this; after all, I’ve had some very scary surgery and I’m still being treated after 6 years. However, this thought doesn’t seem to balance it out – some of these people may also have had surgery and are now having adjuvant chemotherapy to get rid of remaining cells. Others could be heading for surgery after their chemotherapy treatment reduces the tumour bulk (neoadjuvant).
But isn’t that the same as me having 2 months of somatostatin analogue treatment plus a liver embolization in preparation for my surgery…. and then a further (albeit aborted) liver embolization after? Perhaps the same principle but somehow this still doesn’t seem to balance out as some may have been undergoing palliative treatment to extend life. Perhaps administration of somatostatin analogues can be considered palliative in the brave new world of ‘incurable but treatable’? Additionally, I suspect most of the people I saw today are probably destined to lose their hair – at least I didn’t have to suffer that distressing side effect – although I do put up with many others – it takes gut to Live with Neuroendocrine Cancer.
I guess there’s just something conspicuous about chemotherapy and its side effects that aligns with most people’s view of a standard cancer treatment regime. People automatically assume you get chemo for any cancer and I have been asked by one or two people why I’m not getting it! I wish all those people I saw today well and hope they all get through their chemo treatment.
I think the perceptions of cancer patients can be somewhat stereotyped and people generally expect to see ill and poorly people when they see people with cancer – both at the point of diagnosis and during treatment. That said, some cancers can be as invisible after the treatment as they were before diagnosis. I have metastatic and incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer but I looked well at diagnosis and I look well today.
I actually love it when someone, having found out I have incurable cancer, says “you look really well”. I’m not annoyed by that. I’m glad I look well, I mean, who wants to look unwell? But please don’t tell me I have a ‘good’ cancer!
I’m not after their pity and I guess they are just being kind despite any obvious awkwardness. So I just smile and say thank you. If I’m feeling mischievous, I wink and say “yes, I may look well but you should see my insides”. Sometimes they ask about that which then presents another awareness opportunity 😅
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