A Few Words...

What is written here is my opinion and personal experience only. I am not qualified to give advice - medical, legal, or otherwise. Please be responsible and do your own research regarding treatments, diets, doctors, and alternative therapies.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Live for Today « Cancer

No, I don't have cancer.  At least not that I know of.  Cancer is on my mind, though, on this day following the death of Steve Jobs.  In the ensuing media coverage, I happened across an interesting article written by an oncologist detailing the experience of one of his patients.  I could relate to what he described she and her husband had been going through trying to fight her disease.  I thought others with Meniere's might relate to this, too.

Even though Meniere's is not a life-threatening condition, it is definitely a lifestyle-threatening disease.  The symptoms, at times, can be so debilitating that you begin to feel as if you are dead.  Or at least life as you know it is.  So when you are able to sit up and read again, it is easy to become obsessed with finding a cure.  It can become all-consuming, this search for relief.

The problem with searching for a cure for, or even relief from, Meniere's disease is the fact that it is classified as an idiopathic condition, meaning no one knows for sure what causes it.  In fact, there may be more than one cause.  And the cause, whatever it is, is likely multifactorial.  So discovering a cure is no easy task, especially for a layperson with only the internet at their disposal.  Certainly if there were an easy answer, it would pop up in a Google search, right?

There are, however, treatments for the worst symptom, vertigo.  The least invasive options available often result in short-term or incomplete relief.  The more permanent, yet destructive, procedures are, of course, destructive, meaning that one ends up with permanent hearing and/or vestibular loss.  And because the progression of the disease in an individual is very difficult to predict, it becomes a tough call whether or not to go that route and when.  Somewhere in between, it is easy to become lost in the land of complacency.  In that place, not only does the physical suffering continue but the mental agony can become overwhelming and all-consuming.

Back to the cancer patient.  In the beginning of the story, she had been afforded a relatively brief remission from her disease thanks to chemotherapy, during which time she resumed living a full life.  But, when the cancer returned a year later, threatening to take her life, her husband dove headfirst into finding a cure for the beast. Together they devoted excessive amounts of time pursuing and attempting alternative therapies which not only didn't cure her cancer, but also contributed greatly to her physical and emotional suffering.  At the end of the story, and by the sound of it, near the end of her life, the patient and her husband returned to the oncologist in despair.  He was struck by the amount of additional suffering they were experiencing through their futile attempts to cure an incurable disease.  The doctor pointed out that she was not living what life she had left to the fullest extent still afforded by her condition and, perhaps even worse, wasting what valuable little time she did have left to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

While I am not a complete pessimist, I have to say that there has to come a time where one must find balance between hope and reality.  The trick is knowing where that line is.  Just as I don't believe anyone should suffer any unnecessary physical pain, I also believe one should seriously give consideration to whatever destructive procedure is available to end frequent, debilitating vertigo.  We can't help ourselves sometimes and become paralyzed by the fear of missing out on the path not taken.  We certainly don't want to intentionally burn any bridges for a future cure but, in the absence of a guarantee, we sometimes just have to accept the best the moment has to offer and carry on with life and all its imperfections.


  1. I prefer the Japanese style of battling such a nemesis: don't tell me :D According to guest on George Noory one night, it is common for cancer patients in Japan to be left out of the loop, as it were. Family members learn of the illness; yet, the patient is often kept in the dark. The belief is that the stress of knowledge is just too harsh.

    I choose this method and, for future reference, would like to apply it to cellulite and grey hair as well as cancer.

    Cheers, pal!

  2. Hi! I found your blog through Picnic With Ants. I appreciate your writing style and perspective!

    I have Meniere's disease among others but also Chronic daily Migraines that have been disabling for six years.

    I whole heartedly agree with your point about a relentless search for a treatment being emotionally destructive in some respects. Acceptance of health status and current treatments available is vital to living a fulfilling life!

    Your post stuck with me and I realized I also felt strongly about another side of the coin. I think it is difficult for me to comment on what I would do if I were in someone else's shoes. I watched my mom go through the horror of chemo last year and I feel that if I were in that situation, I am not sure that I would seek treatment (even though she is cancer-free now) because I've seen how devastating it was to her mind and body. But, I can't say because I don't know what it is like to have cancer.

    I am homebound and bedbound. I have come to a place where I'm daily working on acceptance and seeking the joy in my life. But, I am also constantly reminded of my diseases because of the severe limitations I have and my constant pain and other symptoms that often keep me nailed to my bed. Because of this, I will never stop fighting to find the best management of my diseases possible even though there are no cures. If I did not, emotionally I would crumble from the intensity of what I am going through. I am just wondering if the woman in the article (or maybe a hypothetical woman with terminal cancer) would be even worse emotionally and physically if she had not sought those futile treatments? Just a thought that I'm wondering on myself.

    Perhaps it is also a balance of living when possible and management of treatment/seeking new treatment options as well as what you suggested as a balance between hope and reality.

    Do you happen to have a link or reference to the article?

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I hope you will continue blogging as I enjoy reading what you have to say.

  3. Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. I wish I had time to write more often, but, on the other hand, I am grateful that, at the moment anyway, I don't. If that makes sense.

    If you click on "interesting article" in the first paragraph, it will take you directly to the original story.

    I frequently work with oncology patients and I feel humbled being allowed to witness their experience with being new to their diagnosis and then going through treatment and sometimes facing the end of life. Unfortunately, many do suffer a lot and some don't make it. I am buoyed, however, by their determination and the lessons they often teach me. Many face death with such peace and acceptance. Some, no so much. Those make me sad.

    I am sorry you are having such struggles with all of these chronic conditions. I can't imagine what it would be like to be so sick for so long except that it would be extremely frustrating.

    I have learned a lot about myself and gained valuable perspective from the limitations I have experienced by having Meniere's. I can't say everything has been negative. Certainly not having the prospect of living with a disease that has the potential to be fatal is at least a little reassuring. Though that's hard to remember in the midst of repeated vertigo attacks and being home-bound.

    I see you blog, too. I look forward to reading about your experiences and insights. May I link it to mine?

    Take care and thanks again for taking time to comment!