Cancer – Side Effects

There are many things that are difficult when having treatment for cancer. Not least among these are ‘side effects’. It’s a common cry from cancer patients ‘don’t ask me about the side effects!’ The implication being that they are a nightmare. Until I had cancer I didn’t really know why they said this.

I don’t want to talk about my particular situation in detail but rather the inadequacy of the phrase ‘side effects’. The connotation of the phrase is that the effect of the treatment is peripheral to the cancer (in all its hideous varieties) when in fact it becomes central. 

I my case, I was going along pretty well with my treatment plan with tiresome (literally) side effects but I was pain free. It was then suggested that I start taking an additional cancer drug as it would provide ‘marginal gains’. After five days I knew why people said ‘don’t ask about the side effects’ – my side effects are awful. 

The side effects are now the centre of my battle with my tumour (who’s called Alowishus by the way). It’s ridiculous to say this but it feels like I’m a victim of my treatment side effects rather than the cancer itself. Is all this pain worth it?

The leaflets that come with drugs can’t predict what each patient may experience but the suggestion remains that the effects are on the side, like French fries or a green salad, and generally you’ll be fine if you avoid the shellfish.

Why not change the wording to ‘Treatment Consequences’?

Finally, it seems to me that the issue of ‘side effects’ is all part of the obfuscation that is still used, possibly with the best of intentions, to avoid the painful truths of being terminally ill. That’s for another day.

The best quality of life must remain central to cancer treatment because as ‘normal’ a life as possible hugely helps the ill person’s supporters – there is something very debilitating in seeing one’s loved ones suffer as one suffers.

Go well.

© Phil Cosker 08.06.2020

15 thoughts on “Cancer – Side Effects

  1. It’s sad to read this Phil. However the description you give is in line with the other obfuscations of the modern world and our seeming wish to minimise impact (collateral damage when related to people killed by bombing springs to mind). As you say it may be done to try and mask the truth rather than be more open and prepare people for a more challenging time from the treatment offered. However I guess those using the phrase will say that they cannot predict individual responses. Whichever doesn’t really help and I am sorry that you are now having a worse experience than you were. I am enjoying the stories and, I guess, as long as you can write that must be helpful as well as enjoyable. I hope things improve with time. Take care

    • Thanks, Nigel. Your kind words are appreciated. I wasn’t teen to solicit sympathy (but that’s very welcome) but to point out something all of us face. I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my stories, I’m certainly enjoying writing them! Go well.

  2. Hi Phil, This most recent post is very troubling.
    As I read on, I was hoping it would evolve into another piece of fiction. You’re a storyteller after all. But it annoyingly stuck to auto-biography. No, more than annoyance. Anger, that’s nearer the truth.
    Those who (unintentionally perhaps, but somewhat glibly) talk about ‘the battle with the big C’, should also see that it’s an uneven fight.
    You’ve gifted me a peculiarly ironic side effect with this post. I’m angered by something out of my control, and not mine to be angry with.
    And yet, Phil, you continue to teach me, and I’m thankful. That’s a positive effect.

    • Hi Gavin
      My intention was not to ‘trouble’ you, but then again I suppose it was. I guess as it wasn’t branded as a 500 word story it might be read as opinion.
      Your remarks about its effects on you are, indeed, positive.
      And thank you for your kind words.
      Go well.

  3. Go well dear bro, May one positive side effect – of knowing that you and your family are achingly loved and held in gentle mind, drench your heart, keep up your spirit… and help shrivelshift this tumour (as a warm wood fire dries a damp hearth). X

  4. I posted this for you before my walk with Bess, the Labrador, in the dripping wet woods at Spalford. Your words followed me all the way around the walk.
    I touched the leaves, felt the rain on my head, smelled the wet dog, squelched through the grass.I was grounded by your words.
    I thought of your problems and felt guilty for concerning myself with the piffling ‘issues’ in my life.
    Thoughts as ever.

  5. Ah, the use of language in medicine …… I think ‘marginal gains’ might fall into the same category. You could ask your consultant to be a bit more precise (name the gains please and grade them from one to ten) and then you can decide whether to munch on the side salad or send it back with a complaint to the chef. Your Sunday Stories are a generous gift to us all Phil – a brilliant example of grace under pressure. Hope you feel a surge of warmth each weekend as we all tuck into them. Thinking of you.

    • I shall be doing as you have suggested when I speak to him on the dog and bone next week.
      Thank you SO much for your very lovely words about my stories – they gave me a huge burst of energy when I read them just now. Go well.

  6. It’s a tough read so I can ’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be to live through it, for all of you. No words of wisdom I’m afraid but sending love & strength in bucketloads. Simon x

    Simon Hollingworth 07795 416149


    • Thanks for the bucketloads Simon, much appreciated! I think I made a mistake with this post. I was trying to talk about side effects and what they’re like – not just for me but for many – inevitably, I guess, I used my own situation as an example. I wasn’t seeking sympathy but appreciate it nevertheless. Go well. P X

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