( – promoted by buhdydharma )
In a bizarre post at Salon, Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. says we shouldn’t judge a family that is on the lam, so that their 13 year old son won’t have to experience the hell of chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma:
The story of Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy from Minnesota with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, became tabloid fodder overnight. The boy and his mother are on the lam because the mother refuses, because of her beliefs, to authorize chemotherapy treatments for her son. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a 90 percent cure rate with chemotherapy, and a 95 percent chance of killing a person without it. Chemotherapy will likely save Daniel’s life, and as a pediatrician I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to recommend it.
But I would also like to turn down the volume on the talk-radio chatter and outraged editorials. That’s because nobody seems to be talking about what it takes to beat Hodgkin’s (or any other cancer). What it takes is a grueling regimen that can indeed give even a dying person pause. In fact, the Hausers didn’t refuse chemotherapy outright. They defied doctors and a judge’s ruling only after Daniel experienced some of its violent effects following one round. If you don’t understand why, listen to my friend, Arun Ponnusamy, 36, who beat acute lymphocytic leukemia. “Surviving cancer is one thing,” he says. “Surviving chemotherapy is another thing entirely.”
I call bullshit. First of all, every type of cancer has a different chemo regimen, and because the bulk of his post is actually about Ponnusamy’s treatments, to have any credibility, Parikh must first explain the similarities between Ponnusamy’s cancer and Hauser’s. But more directly to the point, and in direct contrast to Parikh’s absurd approach, we’re talking about saving the life of a child. Hodgkin’s treatments are brutal, but they usually “cure” the cancer. As in giving the kid a chance at a full life. Which makes enduring probably 12 cycles of chemotherapy not such a terrible prospect. I would know. I am a Hodgkin’s survivor.
I endured those 12 hellish chemo cycles, and then five weeks of weekday daily radiation. That was seventeen years ago. I’ve mostly enjoyed those seventeen years. I now have two small sons. I met and married my wife. I’ve done a ton of writing, and played a ton of music. I’ve traveled widely. I’ve experienced every kind of culture, seen sunsets that made me shiver in ecstasy, and I can cook you a feast that will make your eyes water from purest joy. Who knows what this kid will experience over the rest of his life? Who knows what contributions he will make to the world? Who knows what I will, over the rest of mine?
Make no mistake: Hodgkin’s chemo is devastating. One of the drugs they gave me is called nitrogen mustard. It’s related to mustard gas. My entire body ached. There was a constant background noise of nausea, and a constant chemically taste in my mouth. A lot of foods simply tasted horrible, and yet I had to eat a lot to keep up my weight. It knocked out all the hair on my body, even my eyelashes. Every other day, I had to take four prednisones, which meant a lot of sleepless nights. My white cell counts eventually dropped almost to zero, which meant I had to give myself a daily shot of G-CSF. By the end, I could barely walk from bed to bathroom to couch. I was too weak even to play guitar. Reading made me dizzy. I only had the energy to listen to music or watch television, and when you have cancer, you really don’t want to be watching daytime television. It took months after the treatments were done before I could walk up stairs or up a hill without wobbling. But it is seventeen years later, and I am alive. I had a second cancer scare, last year, but it turned out to be nothing. And I am alive.
I sympathize and empathize with the Hauser boy. I know what he’s facing. But he is a child and his parents should be his protectors. Hodgkin’s Disease is one of the great medical success stories, for it used to be almost always fatal. Now, it is usually treatable and survivable. The process is hellish. But there’s plenty of time for death. This kid deserves a chance to live.