IAmA terminal cancer patient in my mid-twenties refusing treatment...
First off, this is a throwaway, since I don't want friends, family or co-workers to know.
I went to the doctor about six months ago complaining of abdominal pain and digestive tract problems. I had problems for several months before I finally went. Two months later I was confirmed to have early onset pancreatic cancer (stage II), which developed in the tail of my pancreas and has already begun to spread to nearby organs and tissue. The tumors are inoperable.
The abdominal pain can be pretty bad, and I do take pain killers frequently, but I have chosen not to proceed with chemo and radiation therapy. I was told that the success rates would be pretty low, that basically my oncologist would do everything to improve my quality of life, but that remission of my cancer was very slim. I decided I would try what I can with diet to improve my chances, but that I didn't want to be hairless and half-killed for very little chance of aiding me to remission.
I haven't told family or friends, and I even broke up with my girlfriend... I've resigned myself to the fact that I am going to die within the next few years (at best), and I don't want to be treated differently by everyone I know. I do miss my girlfriend, and I feel very lonely living with this secret. I do want to share it with someone, but I know that as soon as I tell them, that's all they see when they talk to me.
It also really sucks knowing that I will never accomplish many of the things I wanted to do, education, career, or family.
I went through the "stages" pretty quick, well, except depression -- I still get pretty depressed. I was angry and felt cheated, went through the worst of the depression, and I think the diet change is a bartering with the world and myself more than it is with "god." I suppose I have come to a kind of acceptance. I will die young, I will not accomplish the things I wanted, and I will die in pain. I do wish I had someone to hang out with or talk with this about without affecting the rest of my life anymore than I have to.
I've also been considering what things I want to do before I die -- I'm thinking that I did not experiment enough with drugs or sex, but I am desperately trying to finish writing at least one novel (I doubt it will ever get published, but I am trying to address my reasoning and logic to my friends and family in an abstract sense, give them a last parting gift).
Ask me what you would like, but I don't want to reveal too many specifics -- fear of co-workers, family, or friends finding me out.
edit: TL;DR I'm dying, I'm trying to hide it, but I have to tell someone.
edit2: A couple of the first people to comment mentioned dietary changes, herbal supplements, etc. I do appreciate people wanting to help and offer advice, but my survival rates are less than 20%. I'll try what I can, if it doesn't effect my quality of remaining life, but I am resigned to my fate as well. It is okay. It sucks, but it happens.
Also, I am not looking for any kind of hand outs, potential procedures, miracles. I just wanted to get it off my chest, maybe meet some cool people that can be understanding or offer a good time without the "Oh my God, I'm so sorry, Kenny [let's call me]" look in their eyes.
I'm trying to approach it with as much a sense a humor as I can, it makes it easier to deal with it. I have bad days, but this isn't one of them.
edit 3: I know reddit has downvote bots or something -- only thing that explains some of the downvotes in GW, heh. But, I can't help seeing them and wanting some kind of further explanation.
edit 4: Thanks to those that are trying to be understanding. I do appreciate the few virtual hugs I have gotten. I've been trying to respond to every comment, but I can't anymore. I've got to get out and go do something -- just not up for sitting around any more. I'll try to peruse and respond to questions and comments that are particularly meaningful or new (things not already addressed). Might try to go through everything again later, but I don't know if I can keep up.
edit 5: I came back and tried to respond to some of the interesting posts. I'm going to be going to sleep soon, but I noticed a couple of themes in the comments and wanted to address them:
1) I will not be taking chemo. The 20% chance of survival isn't based on taking chemo versus doing nothing, and chemo will wreck what life I have left. I've decided to pursue natural cures, and I have been told that modern medicine really can't do that much for me anyway. The cancer has already spread into my system, and it is pancreatic.
2) I really appreciate it more than you can know, but I don't want any gifts, money, books, or cures for myself. If you can invest that energy into helping someone else that has more time, a better diagnosis, or a greater need -- please, please do all you can for them. I'll be happy to correspond with you, and I would love to have some understanding friends, but I don't want anything else. Your money and your energy can go towards someone with more potential and better chances. I'm just being utilitarian, not altruistic -- the effort can go somewhere else better.
9/27/2010 at 9:45pm UPDATE 1: At a bit of goading from the Reddit community (you guys are awesome), I have been thinking pretty hard about some of my decisions. I do still think I am right in how I am handling things with my ex, but I also think that maybe I should reconsider giving friends and family a little more time. I had already planned to let my mother know, once I moved back a little closer to her in the coming weeks/close to a month (still same general geographic area, just a little closer to home), but I am considering telling some of my closer friends that have moved away and I have been out of touch with for the most part until recent phone calls. I'm not entirely sure if I should tell them or not, but I am considering it. They are the ones I can't really bullshit and say I want to spend meaningful time with them just because -- they are a little too far away for that. We've had some "reconnect" phone calls lately, but seeing them and letting them see me might be a good gesture.
A LITTLE RANTY 1: I'm still not going to do chemo -- some of you are pretty vocal in thinking that is a stupid or fearful decision, and while I am confident in my decision and don't really feel a big need to defend it, I did decide to jump in and do this, so I figure I owe a little more explanation. I've seen what chemo does in addition to the cancer, and I don't want that. Also, I do have my oncologist, who is a pretty supportive and awesome person, but I did see two other oncologists also (I went through a denial phase and hoped my original oncologist was mistaken, but he wasn't). The consensus was that chemo won't do much of anything for Pancreatic Cancer Stage II-B. I could have invasive surgeries, try chemo on a remote chance that it may help, be unable to use the next year or two how I would like, and still probably die. I was told the chance of medicine helping was pretty near nil, that a placebo would do me about as much good. I am resigned to death and no longer in denial, but that doesn't mean I'm too inhuman not to at least hope some random study on turmeric, vitamin c, tomatoes, cannabis, a low carb diet, etc. might offer a glimmer of hope -- I seriously doubt it with my logical mind, but there is little else I can do but try -- and those have the additional benefit of leaving me able to use some of the time in the near future the best I can. Well, that and try to spend as much time as I can with friends and family and doing what I think might have some value. Chemo and a series of surgeries to try and remove a few of the masses will rob me of what energy I do have to do what I can.
I appreciate those that offer a more genuine encouragement to fight, but I really doubt I can win this one directly. I can try to win it indirectly with going with a little dignity and concern for my loved ones, trying to use my time in a meaningful way, and appreciating life for what it does have. Call me a hippie if you want, hell, I would have thought similarly once upon a time about the chances of any natural medicines, but somethings can and do change your views and priorities. The instinct to survive isn't everything to me -- living meaningfully during what time I have left is. I'm a strategist in some ways, and the only strategy that gives odds I like for some kind of success is this one. /RANTYNESS