Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Perception matters

Brent began treatment Monday.  I said 'treatment,' rather than 'chemo.'  I have thought about this quite a bit, and it really shouldn't matter what I call it.

But it does.

Brent, as we were heading down to the hospital corrected me about Interferon.  "It isn't chemo, Mom."

Chemo, in his world, means poison...and neutropenia, and hair loss and weeklong stints in the hospital, nosebleeds and vomiting. With Interferon, we are making daily trips to the outpatient clinic after he finishes his classes at school for infusions of something that is a bit different.  And to Brent, this distinction matters. Kind of a lot.

I wasn't in a great position to argue with him, as I explained, because I hadn't done much in the way of research on this.  Brent found this positively shocking, because I am always reading up on the latest research that comes my way. 

I explained that my research on interferon was limited to listening to the opinion of all of the doctors that we had contacted and consulted.  They were all in agreement about this course of treatment for him. I had learned about other treatments of course, but these were for more advanced disease than he has.  These other therapies are not appropriate for Brent, sort of the equivalent of dropping a bomb on a city that has a couple of criminals in it.  We would learn more about Interferon when we went in.

So, when we arrived, I asked Dr. Stearns to clarify for us. "Is Interferon considered chemotherapy or immunotherapy?"

He smiled with a twinkle in his eye, and responded "Yes."  Because it is a bit of both, killing melanoma cells as well as causing an immune response to be mounted against them.  Well, then.

I always aspire for clarity.  But for Brent, calling this chemo is problematic.  We settled on Chemo-Lite, given that it will be much easier than the very harsh treatment that he received for osteosarcoma.  If calling Interferon 'treatment' rather than chemo makes this more palatable to Brent, well, 'treatment' it is.

While the semantics do not change the truth of what we are doing, it does change his perception of it.  His focus is on the ways that this is far easier than what he has already done, rather than on the ways that this is hard.  I do not want to in any way minimize what he is doing, but I can certainly embrace his philosophical position.  This is doable. This is manageable.

Most importantly, this is what Brent must do to get better, the microscopic cancer mop up. Call it whatever you like.

And I have always said “Whatever gets you through.”  

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