As you know if you follow this blog, I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 39. I followed every bit of the Oncologists advice. I had disfiguring surgery (a double mastectomy), a year of chemotherapy and four years later I still take hormone blocking medication. I was thrown into menopause during chemo, and now have no sex drive to speak of as well as far less confidence as a single woman. I have hot sweats all day and night which I can’t medicate due to risk of cancer recurrence.
All of this you don’t see, but I sure do feel. My hair has grown back. I have implants (which look in no way like the real thing). My life is whole lot more easy to manage than it would be without an arm and shoulder.
Do I regret it? No. In fact I think my oncologist is amazing. Do I understand why Jess didn’t want to radically disfigure herself in the hopes it would buy her more time on this earth? Completely.
Now let’s take the story of one of my best friends. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 months after me. She too followed every bit of advice from her team of Oncologists. And they were a great team. She had a single mastectomy and 6 months of chemotherapy.
But she was not one of the lucky ones. A year later, her cancer had spread. She tried no less than five other chemo regimes in the 18 months she was alive after that. She spent most of that time sick not from cancer but from the chemo drugs. And none of them worked. She was given reasonable odds along the way and she followed everything to the letter chemo wise. Cancer is not fair. Even her Oncologists wish she had LESS chemo in retrospect. You see odds are just odds and every single person is different.
So I speak from considerable experience here when I say Jess was coming from a place of hope and belief. Which is what we as cancer patients and survivors desperately hang on to. As you well know there are plenty of cases of radical remission. In her heart and soul, she chose to focus on her being one of them, with the help of alternative ‘natural’ treatments. As a result, instead of spending her limited time here being armless/sick without a guaranteed outcome, she was happy – at least for another 6 years. So were her family and friends and those who followed her journey.
The alternative to how she lived is fear. Living in fear is soul destroying. It robs you of the ability to enjoy the moment. It causes anxiety and depression. Add in the trauma of recovering from such a huge surgery, side effects from chemotherapy and learning to live without a shoulder and arm and you have a picture of what was ahead for Jess following a purely traditional path.
Jess from what I can undestand never told anybody that they should ignore their oncologists and follow natural alternatives exclusively. If others were inspired by her hope and belief to choose her path, that was a decision only they could make. And everybody has the right to research all of the options and proceed with the one that they feel most comfortable with. They can blog and talk about it too. As for making money in the process? We all need money, I’m glad she made enough to enjoy her short life as much as possible.
Finally on the photographs of Jess not showing her arm, I don’t for a second think she was being deceitful. If anything she was being human. And us humans are vain, or at least she was (and I am too). I also imagine she was avoiding cancer pity. I know first hand that all you want during and after cancer treatment is be considered ‘normal’. I wore wigs, and got breast reconstructions for the same reasons.
Jess was a beautiful soul who was faced with a terrible challenge. She did her level best to rise to it with dignity and grace. She had a huge heart and all that met her and connected with her felt it. It’s a tragedy that she lost her life so young. It’s a blessing that she made such a big impact in her short life.