'A real dilemma - the choice between quality and quantity'
PUBLISHED: 06:43 11 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:50 12 October 2015
Do you tolerate all that chemo can throw at you for an extended life-span, or a shorter prognosis off it with more good days than bad?
Nine weeks ago, Kingsley Squire told the story of his terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Many readers joined friends and neighbours in responding with uplifting messages of support. In this further update, Kingsley, 78, reports on his continuing treatment.
Well, I’m still very much alive, getting on with life and enjoying every day. But it hasn’t always been like that.
Far from it when I was on chemotherapy.
Without chemo I had a six to nine months overall survival prognosis, which extended to a year with chemo and perhaps a few more months. Really, I wrote, it was a no brainer.
Much as my wife, Monica, and family did not want to see me suffer the debilitating side-effects, just another day, let alone another month, would be so precious to us all.
So began a six-month course of Gemcitabine, which is generally well-tolerated. I was determined to seize every day on chemo because, said my oncologist, it improves quality of life for patients in my situation and, what’s more, would add a short number of months to my overall survival. But you cannot seize the day if you are in bed feeling exhausted for much of the time with no appetite or energy to do anything, watch television or read the papers - which for a journalist like me is some sacrifice.
I know patients respond differently to treatment for pancreatic cancer. No two chemo treatments are necessarily the same. It does work for some. But it made me so ill that, after four effusions, I came off it to enjoy what time I have left with Monica, bless her, and my family and friends, who are such a comfort and support.
The decision poses a real dilemma, a choice between quality and quantity. Do you tolerate all that chemo can throw at you for an extended life-span, or a shorter prognosis off it with more good days than bad? Four months, six months, another year? I really don’t want to know now I’ve made my decision.
I have read that with pain-killing palliative care, great things can be done in helping to make a patient feel comfortable towards the end of life. That is so gratifying to me, for I am now in the care of Sidmouth Hospiscare, whose nurses - all experts in palliative pain and symptom control - administer my treatment regime. It is so comforting to know they are going to be with me every step of the way. Not that I’m thinking of going anywhere any time soon because I am very much in the land of the living right now, enjoying, as I have already said, every precious day.
Yes, I am so much better off chemo. I have got my appetite back. And what an appetite! Diets are out. Anything I fancy - steak and kidney pie, Indian curry, pasta, bangers and mash, roast chicken and sundry cold meats, are back at the top of the Kingsley menu.
I still have much to do around the house and hopefully plenty of time to do it. I’ve still to make absolutely sure that Monica knows how to switch on the confounded boiler, not to mention how to work the programme timer. She hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet.
But, as always, she’s getting there.