I have two dear friends both of whom had operations last summer for cancer.
U had breast cancer. She chose to have a lumpectomy and to manage her post-operative care using homoeopathy. She’s a homoeopath herself but she is at least getting someone else to prescribe. S had ovarian cancer, probably a result of her genetic inheritance. She had an operation to remove the cancerous ovary, a course of chemo, a full hysterectomy, and she is about to start a second course of chemo.
I admire U’s integrity, though her personality is such that the decision to reject chemotherapy was barely a decision at all. She believes chemotherapy to be poison, western treatments for cancer to be based on false premises, and western medicine to be based on a faulty model. She could no more have accepted chemo than I could drink sulphuric acid. At the moment the decision looks good – she’s fit, she’s healthy, she’s working, she’s in a good relationship, the future’s exciting, she has the health and the energy to live life to the full.
I admire S’s fortitude. The chemo has made her very sick, she’s been unable to work during it, family members are struggling with the pressures of her illness, she’s dealing with it all because she has no choice. She’s also aware that you tend to catch her brand of ovarian cancer very late, and that even the hysterectomy didn’t manage to cut it all out.
So here we have U – apparently healthy but I fear that the tall hooded chap will tap her on the shoulder with a bony finger sooner than she expects, and S, who knows that the rattling noise behind her is the sound of his feet on the path.
I don’t know which of them is wiser. Such important decisions – how to live your life, how to face up to death – I worry that U will regret her integrity, and I worry that S will regret choosing weapons which make her so ill to fight the disease which is killing her.