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Strength to fight

May 6, 2002

Michael, I just finished high dose chemo and my cancer returned within 3 weeks,it's resistant to chemo.I'm so tired and need the strenght to fight because i don't want to die yet,I want to live .The treatments have made me so weak and they are going to try an experimental drug on me.How can i fight ths battle been so tired,i love my partner and love living .Please help.Thank you.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The combination of having an aggressive cancer and chemotherapy are both exhausting and drain both the body's vitality as well as the psyche's strength. The issue here is how to adjust and adapt to these changes. You need to talk to your oncologist about anything that he or she may suggest to give you more strength and energy.

Additionally you may be experiencing an understandable depression that also may be sapping your strength. So you can certainly consult with a psychiatrist who is an expert in working with people who have life threatening and terminal illnesses in order to try antidepressant medication. Depression always makes a person tired.

If you have not already done so, one thing you can do to help give you and your partner much needed additional support is to enroll in a home hospice program.

But another crucial thing is to begin to accept that though you do not want to die, you may in fact be dying and your cancer may not be treatable. You have to very carefully, in conversations with your partner, talk about quality of life for you at this point in your illness and what makes sense. You have to evaluate any possible trade offs between quality of life and gaining some additional time. There are not any one right or wrong responses to these painful and enormously complicated questions.

Each individual is different. Some people prefer that in order to gain some additional time they are willing to put up with becoming very sick from the side effects of the chemo. Others would rather not live as long, but not have their final days be where they are terribly sick and uncomfortable.

No matter what decisions the two of you make, there is absolutely no reason for you to ever be in pain. If your cancer causes you pain, talk to your doctor about this immediately in order to alleviate this. The physicians who work with hospice programs are all experts at pain management.

Since you say that you love living so much, engaging with your partner in disucssions about these issues will hopefully help you maximize the quality of what ever time you do have left.

I hope that this has been helpful.

Michael Shernoff, MSW


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