368. The Purpose of Chemo

Got to work a bit alone in the borrowed house no. 2, for existing clients, since Char and Jay were out to varies mum-baby activities. So another day of trying to balance everything, but at least it did not feel stressed. I even got time to think about my mum’s upcoming chemo.

To reiterate, my mum is clear of cancer according to scans, biopsies and a recent op that removed her remained breast (and the tumor in it). So chemo is just an offer to ‘make sure’ – or more precisely to give the average person like my mum a 10 per cent higher chance of reaching 80 from 70. Could by my mom is not average and there’s probably a higher chance of her getting killed in traffic.

So this is as much about fear management as it is about cancer management, in fact more so I’d argue. My mum is not ill. But she has to face her fear again. And perhaps it is better.

I mean, the op was over pretty quickly. 3 weeks after her initial diagnosis of her life being in potential danger, she is all clear, at least from a perspective of operating and finishing that.

I’m not complaining, but I mean – it hardly gives you time to think about what happened and find a part for it  in your life story. It’s like almost getting hit by a car and then having to go home and mind the kids and there’s nothing more you can do. Unless you are forced to take time to think about it.

And I think chemo, if nothing else, forces my mum to consider – and the rest of us to consider – more in detail how we all want to deal with this spectre of cancer and live anyway. Instead of just doing the tempting thing if she had not had chemo and bury it and get on with it right away, but still … from time to time, getting overwhelmed with sudden fear. And maybe again with more fear, if cancer resurfaces.

Maybe that balance and that getting forced to think and create a more ‘solid’ part in your story for this bout of cancer, maybe that will come more to the fore now and help my mother in years to come to feel less fear – and to be able to handle her fear better when it comes, as it inevitably will – whether or not she ever gets ill again.


Or maybe it is just 4 months of really hard trying superfluous treatment that will make her ill in so many ways, even if it does not kill her.

We can only wait and see, but the important thing to me is that even though I feel personally (and I would never argue this to my mother) that it had been best to let it go without chemo, since this is her choice (as it should be) there may be an important gain here.

There may be a blessing in disguise here. Something that we can call out, if we want to, and if she doesn’t get to ill and too obsessed with being ill from chemo and what to do for daily relief.

And I’m putting a big parenthesis around the fact that we may – may – have bought her x number of more years to live. We will never know that. But if cancer ever resurfaces she will be more ready, I believe. She will also, importantly, know she has done what she could.

The opposite side of that coin is to feel cursed, of course. But avoiding a guilt trip if your life is threatened again, that is more important now. As is finding a place for this ghost in our souls.

I believe the path my mother has chosen now can be useful to find that place. It may lead to even more and more blessed places I cannot yet imagine.

But first we have to deal with the everyday illness and insecurity and Christmas and all the practicalities that arise from poisoning your cells in order to achieve a result worth the pain.

And so we will.