“Cancer therapy is like beating the dog with a stick
to get rid of his fleas.”
—Anna Deavere Smith
One of the ironies of modern oncology is that most everything given to fight caner is carcinogenic. In my case the treatment for lymphoma has punched a gaping hole in my immune system.
A retrospective study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that 39% of patients with B-cell lymphoma like mine who got the drug rituximab had hypogammaglobulinemia.
I’ve had thirty-two doses of rituximab. As a result I’ll have to get monthly IVIG injections for hypogamma. IVIG retails for $10,000-$15,000 an infusion. I’ll see if the insurance company balks at that.
In her book, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, neurosurgeon Katrina Firkin notes that,
Anything strong enough to help you is strong enough to hurt you. No treatment, at least no worthwhile treatment, comes without risk.. … There are plenty of medications that work wonders without us having a clear idea as to how or why they work. To me, that means there are probably other things those drugs are doing that we may not expect. It would be unlikely for a drug to have one and only one effect on the body. That’s not how the body works.
Chemo is a Faustian bargain, but one I would make again since it’s kept me around long enough to write this.
“I’ll take a medication when I need it,
if the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
But I won’t expect to get something for nothing.”