Tuesday 5 April 2011

Thought Picnic: A little oncological banter

Age spans of cancer

The other day, I got talking with a friend who spent the early part of his nursing career first in a geriatric oncology ward and then in a children’s oncology ward.

We got talking, my memory quite fresh with the experiences I have had with cancer, the diagnosis, the treatment, my relationship with my consultant and prospects for continued survival.

As the conversation developed we talked about side-effects the time it took me to come off pain medication long after the pain had gone, just because it regulated other things that brought serious discomfort if I suddenly discontinued usage.

Managing treatments

I learnt that it was wise of me not to seek substitutes for those medications like methadone for all the combinations of medication that had both opiate and soporific qualities.

Then there was the problem with severe emesis that the chemotherapy brought on by the time I have had my fifth session that my doctor prescribed a set of anti-emetic pills. I had to take one just an hour before chemotherapy and one each day for the two subsequent days after chemotherapy – they worked a treat but as I said, they did not come cheap at all.

My friend then said none of my other medication compares in cost to the chemotherapy treatments I had and I had 7 of them all by reason of being covered by health insurance in the Netherlands because I doubt I would have had any cover for such in the UK without someone complaining about the cost and definitely not in the United States where insurance companies would have found every trick in the book to avoid paying up.

In Nigeria, I probably would have had a tombstone that loved ones would visit every October to lay flowers if so inclined or a memorial service of sorts until I’ve been a fondly remembered distant memory.

Therapies have great costs

I had seven courses of chemotherapy and one search on Google revealed I had a very costly treatment but one with the most manageable side-effects all coming to a shade under EUR 50,000.

If was not sitting down, I would have had to be resuscitated, I have been fortunate, blessed, lucky and spared, the society I live in has helped me beyond what I can ever be fully grateful for.

I am thankful, grateful, happy and encouraged that I have been given a really amazing new lease of life and despite the present difficulties of returning effectively to the job market; after what I have been through, I do have the capacity to come through this and more – I just have to continually encourage myself that the best is yet to come, I have much to do with whatever time I have left.

Let’s get living.

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