I wrote the following a couple weeks ago, but it's still pretty accurate in terms of what I'm thinking and feeling (and edited slightly) --
Okay, I am having a rare panicky moment. For the most part, I have been surprisingly calm and centered, in terms of dealing with the cancer diagnosis... Surgery is in 8 days and I am not even all that scared. I've been preparing well, both in practical ways and emotionally.
But at this very moment I am freaking out about the thought of chemo. I nearly cried in the surgeon's office when she suddenly said that she can't rule out the possibility of chemo. She said we won't know until after the lumpectomy surgery, about whether chemo will be recommended or not, because it depends upon my post-surgery pathology report. She recommends having my tumor sent off to CA for the Oncotype DX test, which predicts how likely recurrence is and whether or not I'd benefit from chemo.
At the moment I am feeling like I would refuse chemo no matter what, so what's the point in getting the (THREE THOUSAND DOLLAR) Oncotype DX test. The test cannot say, YOUR CANCER WILL RETURN, SO DO THE CHEMO... all it can do is predict is whether my risk for recurrence is low, medium, or high. And if I am high-risk for recurrence, then chemo would be recommended. But like I've said before, predictions are rather meaningless to me now. Everyone predicted that I wouldn't have cancer right now, and they were wrong - thus, people predicting that the cancer will return could be just as wrong!
Chemo scares the hell out of me. Radiation is at least targeted to just the area where the tumor has been removed from...whereas chemo is systemic. I will not POISON MY WHOLE BODY, dammit. I will not allow doctors to flood my body with horrible toxic chemicals that kill not just any lingering cancer cells, but all of my GOOD cells. Even if I have a high risk of recurrence and still forego the chemo, it's possible that the cancer would never return. Or if the cancer DID return, it's possible that it would take 6 or 10 or 25 years to return, and by then, there would be awesome NEW treatments and technologies that are better than today's horrible chemo. Because treatments for BC have been rapidly progressing for years now - as horrible as today's chemo is, it's SO much better than what was available a decade ago.
If the cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes - and I don't think it has [IT HAS NOT!! :)] - I can't think of any good (enough) reason to agree to chemo. Merely being at "high risk" for recurrence would not be enough of a reason for me, because that makes chemo/poison into a "preventative measure"... which is so the opposite of everything I believe in. Preventative measures are things like NOURISHING my body with GOOD things, resting, laughing, playing, eating well, exercising, checking my breasts regularly for the rest of my life with various technologies (i.e. my hands and doctors' hands, MRIs, mammos, thermograms), putting my energy into fulfilling relationships with friends and family, meditating, doing yoga, praying, dreaming, getting enough vitamin D, keeping my immune system strong, becoming more of an environmental activist, eating organic and overhauling my diet, etc. Poisoning my body in an attempt to prevent the recurrence of something that MAY OR MAY NOT come back is so counter-intuitive. I've been trying hard, for a long time now, to love myself and be a good friend to myself, and allowing myself to be poisoned seems like the ultimate self-cruelty. Cancer might come back and hurt me in the future, but it might not, whereas chemo would FOR SURE hurt me NOW. NO THANK YOU!
I understand that I run the risk of having cancer come back, by refusing chemo. I know that just a few days ago, I was ranting about the foolish belief (at least, I consider it foolish) that cancer can be thoroughly cured and/or prevented by things like visualizing oodles of white light, healing painful childhood memories, and eating mushrooms. So I don't at all think that a healthy lifestyle would be enough to prevent a cancer recurrence. I believe that the healthy lifestyle I try to maintain is worth it for its own sake, and I'll continue doing all the good things I do REGARDLESS of how high my risk for recurrence is. I don't need to know that my risk of recurrence is high, to be convinced that it is worthwhile to eat organic vegetables and exercise, nor would I think that having a low risk of recurrence means I can switch to a diet of Twinkies and beer and never get off the couch. I'm gonna continue my healthy, "anti-cancer lifestyle" because that's who/how I am.
I'm worried about offending women who have chosen to undergo chemo. I'm certainly not saying that chemo is never the appropriate choice. Every woman is different, every body is different, every cancer is different, and what's right for one woman may be wrong for the next. We all have to make our own choices and decisions, and I'm well aware that chemo saves lives. Right now I'm just at a point where the thought of chemo seems worse to me personally than a possible recurrence of cancer. Life is so full of uncertainties, and there is no way to know for sure whether the cancer would come back, whether I undergo chemo or not. Chemo is no guarantee that the cancer is gone for good!!
All I DO know for sure is:
1) I currently have a cancerous tumor in my breast that is big enough for me to feel when I poke at it, yet my body and spirit feel just fine. WONDERFUL, in fact. I am strong and healthy. Even with cancer in my body, I am doing handstands, laughing, enjoying my life.
2) The present moment is all there is.
3) No one can say that chemo would definitely kill all of the cancer cells in my body entirely and forever, but chemo would definitely kill good cells in my body and do many unpleasant, negative, harmful things to my body, mind, and spirit. Chemotherapy drugs are toxic.
To me, chemo does not seem worth it. I would rather run the risk of having cancer return years down the road, not really knowing whether it will or it won't, but fully enjoying my life in the present moment NOW, since the present moment is all that is real...than put myself through a dangerous poisoning that will DEFINITELY have negative effects. I am more concerned with the quality of my life than the length of it, which is to say, I am immensely grateful for this beautiful life I'm living, whether it continues for another 70 minutes or 70 years. None of us know when we are going to die. Or rather, when the body our spirit is currently inhabiting will expire. ALL WE HAVE IS THE PRESENT MOMENT, AND THAT IS NOT A TRITE CLICHE, IT IS REALITY! The type of cancer I have is early-stage, non-aggressive, and of the least dangerous type, so I am totally not worried that I am in a life-or-death situation in regards to chemo, so I don't want to sound melodramatic. It's just that the word "cancer" inevitably makes one start philosophizing about life and death. And seriously, I have no idea when death will come...all I know is that I plan on keeping my body full of sunshine, chocolate, laughter, delicious food, love & hugs, nourishing herbs, clean water, joy, beautiful memories, music, salty ocean air, voices of loved ones, and vitamins and minerals... for as long as my body is here, however long that may be. And I'll be staying as FAR away from drugs, smoke, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and toxins as possible, which includes chemotherapy drugs. The earth is already so full of pollutants and toxins that go into my body and I can't control it. But I can certainly say no to allowing poison to be pumped through my blood via IV.
If the cancer comes back, I'll deal with it then. For now, I am going to enjoy life and all of its uncertainties, and trust.