Concerto for Emilia

Adam has late diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer. On being told he has, at the most, sixty months to live (years are not used in calculating life expectancy when dealing with cancer – a year is too long a metric), he says, Sod that. 

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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