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Cancer Care Chronicles
December 19, 2019

One Patient’s Perspective on Terminal Cancer—Sometimes It Is Best Not to See

Author Affiliations
  • 1Palliative Care, Charleston, South Carolina
JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(3):329. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.5017

She has had a cough for years, but this cough is different. Deeper, harder, louder, more winded. It sounds like the harsh, low-pitched rumble of thunder. And now her phlegm is blood tinged, with specks of clots. And she has lost weight—a lot of weight. I’m too small for my clothes,” she says. “If I turn sideways, I’ll disappear.” And now she is tethered to an oxygen tank. I am worried. I am her grandson and caregiver. “What do you think’s wrong, Grandma? Emphysema?” “I don’t know,” she answers. But like a tarot card, she knows; she just will not say.

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    1 Comment for this article
    EXPAND ALL
    Chemo killed my sister
    Teri Newman, AA, BA, LPN, RN, BSN, MSN | Nurse Practitioner, retired
    My sister, like me, a BRCA1+ died from ovarian cancer 11 months after her diagnosis with 2.2 million worth of chemo that didn't help her a bit and she suffered terribly. She really died from a ruptured esophagus caused by violent chemo-induced vomiting, exsanguinating--in front of our parents who were in their 80s at the time. 90 days to the day after her dx, my RRSO surgery revealed that her fight had become my fight. The oncologists were unanimous that I would die in 6 months without chemo. I refused it anyway because it didn't do a thing to increase my sister's lifespan or quality of life. I will be 4 years post-dx on February 18th 2020 with zero chemo and zero radiation. No matter what happens, I will never regret the the choice I made to refuse chemo for my high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma and papillary uterine carcinoma. I've had 4 years of very high quality life doing exactly as I pleased. I've gotten to have deeply personal conversations with my husband and everyone in the world that I love has gotten to hear from me how much I love them and how much it has meant to me to have them in my life for 61 years. My affairs are in order. I continue to live life on my own terms and, to the horror of the oncologists who did everything but hold a gun to my head to try to force me to have chemo, I am still not dead and not sick either. I put my hard science education and MENSA card to work to stay alive without the chemo that killed my sister. So far, so good! I am the longest known chemo-naive survivor of this cancer known to exist in medical history. Merry Christmas to all! (I doubt JAMA will publish this since it doesn't fit their narrative, but we'll see).
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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