In life we are frequently told that the quality is more important than quantity. When it comes to life itself, I’m not sure that the same holds true.
This all stems from a couple of conversations I have been having in the last 24 hours. Last night I had a catch up appointment with my oncologist, partly to discuss progress and next steps and partly to get the results of my liver biopsy. The biopsy results are not in in full yet, but they indicate that what is in my liver is exactly the same as what is in my breast, therefore no new drug options become available. It’s not the end of the world, although I had hoped that it might be slightly different. When we were talking about next steps, my onc asked me how chemotherapy was treating me and how I was coping with it. He mooted the idea of a chemo break at some point, to restore some of the quality to my life.
Elliot and I picked up this conversation again this morning. Elliot it is very concerned that my quality of life is poor at the moment. He reminded me how many days each cycle I am fatigued and in bed and how this restricts what I am able to do. He thought that my oncologist was guiding me towards choosing to have a break from chemo and this is something that he (Elliot) thinks would be a good idea, possibly sooner rather than later.
My view is different. My view is that my quality of life is not poor – it is not too bad at all given my situation. I am able to enjoy spending time with family and friends. I am able to work, albeit not full-time and albeit that some days I am not able to get to the office. I’m able to enjoy new experiences and I’m able to plan ahead for trips away. Yes, I am fatigued a lot and do spend quite a bit of time in or on my bed. And yes, this is not ideal. And yes, this is not the quality of life I enjoyed before I fell ill. But it is still a life with a good deal of quality in it. From my point of view, if the chemo is working, I don’t want to risk quantity of life for an increase in quality. What I mean by this is that I don’t want to risk giving the cancer a chance to grow again just because I am finding chemo exhausting. Frankly, I would happily saw off my limbs with a blunt knife if it guaranteed me a long life. So chemo really isn’t all that bad if it does the job it’s meant to.
These conversations have made me think quite a lot about what it means to have a good quality of life. Clearly, this is entirely subjective. It depends not only on where you are born but how old you are and what your expectations are, as well as a myriad of other factors. I count my blessings daily. I have a wonderful husband whom I love with all my heart and who loves me back in just the same measure. I have two beautiful children who give me a huge amount of joy. I have amazing parents, in-laws and siblings. I have a job that I love with wonderful colleagues. I have a beautiful house in a nice area. I have an incredibly wide circle of very loving, generous and interesting friends around the world. Financially, we are secure. We are able to buy the food that we want, go on holidays, spoil ourselves at the shops, treat ourselves to nice experiences and generally live the sort of life we want to lead. And that is just the beginning of the ways in which I feel lucky. Other than some physical limitations brought on by exhaustion, I don’t think that the quality of these experiences has been diminished in any way by my illness. And even if it has, I don’t care as I have a lot of living left to do. Quantity definitely beats quality in this instance.