Although I have the utmost respect for scientists and all things scientific, my life choices are almost always decided in the heart, not the head, and this has generally served me well so far. But what if the choice relates to health and well being? What about when it comes down to life and death?
A little over a fortnight ago, after an entire weekend of talking through the options, Mags concluded that maybe six cycles of chemotherapy was enough. The constant fatigue, the increased regularity of low platelet counts, the pins and needles in her fingertips and a frightening episode of atrial fibrillation. All this at the halfway point. What shape would she be in after twelve cycles?
At the outset, the oncologist made clear that the regimen would be particularly ‘intense’, and if Mags could complete all twelve cycles, that would be great, but he’d be happy if she only managed six. On decision day, what we were looking for was a proven scientific reason to carry on. Complete the twelve and increase your chances of a good outcome by a certain percentage figure. That kind of thing. But the coldest fact of all was that Mags was in what one registrar called “an evidence-free zone”. Figures may be extrapolated from trials done with bowel cancer patients, but no such trial had been conducted for pancreatic cancer patients. All they could offer was an acknowledgement that bowel cancer patients receiving the same chemo cocktail did as well on six cycles as those who had twelve.
So the upshot is no more chemo for the foreseeable. But a few weeks to allow the body to recover and regain strength before a scan in mid-January.
As Mags sat with her back to our lounge window on the morning of that oh so important consultation, two magpies flew straight towards us, only swooping up to perch on the gutter (we’re on the first floor) at the very last second. In the absence of science, a line from an 18th century superstitious rhyme may be regarded by some as no credible substitute. But sometimes the heart says, “That’ll do. Hold on to that.” And we obey, gladly.