if you had medication to keep a life-threatening disease at bay, but it came with side effects like severe fatigue, diarrhea, rashes, nausea that was sometimes debilitating, and an increased risk of a secondary cancer, would you still take it?
it might sound like a dumb, no-brainer question. after all, who wouldn’t choose life over death?
when i was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (cml), i was prepared to do whatever it took for the best chance at survival. i was driven by fear and anxiety, and excruciatingly aware that things could go sideways at any point. i’d like to say that i leaned in to the uncertainty with grace and fortitude, hoping for the best and feeling at peace with the worst. instead, i let the uncertainty consume me, breathlessly waiting to hear the outcome of each test and biopsy, every time convinced that the moment had come to prepare for the end.
it never came though, that sign of the end. i joined a randomized trial, and within a few months, i was in what my oncologist called “remission,” meaning that as long i took the daily targeted chemo medication, the chances were good that the cancer wouldn’t progress. and in just six months, the cancer cells in my blood decreased so much that the leukemia was undetectable. not gone, my oncologist would always point out, but just harder to find.