It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.

Sometimes, I really am really, really tempted to record a cancer/illness version of the 1963 hit It’s My Party.

It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.
So shut up. And fuck you.
I mean that with love, too.
You’d do this too if it happened to you.

One shitty day I was told I was sick
And there was a chance I might die.
But wait, there might be a cure if you
Submit your body to science…

(I’ve really hit my stride here…!)

You might lose your hair perhaps vomit all day
Be sleepy, angry, hostile.
Brutal long operations
But hey, you’ll still be alive.

Ok. Maybe just one verse.

But why would I entertain such a thing?

Last month I read a forum post which broke my heart. After 13 months of chemotherapy, the person had decided that they were done. They couldn’t live with the side effects anymore. Their partner accused them of being selfish and not trying hard enough to be there for their family.

Maybe you think the partner is a bitch. Maybe you think the cancer patient is a quitter.

The sad truth is likely that the partner can only see their own desire to not lose the one they love. And that chemotherapy can be such an awful treatment that love and family is not enough to maintain a desire for life.

When we’re sick, we’re at our most vulnerable and too often, we put the wishes of others ahead of our own needs. Sometimes it’s because we love them and we want to feel like we did everything we could. Other times it’s because the voices of others are loud and pushy and we feel like we have no option.

When I was first diagnosed with appendix cancer, I got carried along on a wave of good intentions. A few months in I realised that others (specialists) had made decisions for me that they had no right to make, no matter how well-intentioned and well-informed those decisions were.

For others, it’s not medical practitioners but family and friends that prove the barrier. They put literature in front of you, or recount stories of their work colleagues best friends brother-in-law who simply got a whiff of chemo and was cured. Or who ate only green food and was cured. Or who hopped on their left leg whilst rubbing their tummy and patting their head and were cured. It’s tiring. It can be fucking annoying and sometimes you might want to punch people in the face.

But it’s also sweet. No matter how out there the suggestion, or how unwelcome, their main intention is to stop you leaving them; to keep your special brand of humaning around as long as they can. As the sick ones, sometimes we need to remember that.

When I decided a few weeks ago to stop chemo treatment, I was nervous about how people would react. The effects on my memory and brain function after 4 post-op cycles are already too much for me and I don’t want it any worse than it already is. Most people accepted my decision, probably partly because they know I’m too stubborn to be talked into something I don’t want to do. But many don’t understand it.

I wasn’t vomiting all the time, it didn’t make me too unwell physically. All the side effects you hear about from chemo – the bad ones – weren’t happening to me. Was I just being silly, defeatist, soft?

We all have our line in the sand. The thing that will tip us over the edge. Some women avoid treatment for a range of illnesses because they can’t bear to actively choose to bring an end to their fertility. For others it might be if they are in bed more than they are out or can’t keep down food. Others will fight to the end of their days, seeking out experimental treatments and happily accepting any and all side effects if it means more time.

For me, my brain is my tipping point. I could handle food tasting like cardboard and the neuropathy from oxaliplatin. I could handle the nausea and the tiredness. I could handle the mouth ulcers, and the aversion to sugary foods was actually a positive. But take away my ability to hold a simple conversation or steal simple words from my vocabularly and I’m out. At least for now.

Whether someone shuns traditional medicine and chooses to be guided by prayer, or follow a ketogenic diet, or take tumeric pills or visit a clinic in Mexico, or choose to continue treatment past what you feel is its useful limit, it is the decision of the individual. By all means share ideas or articles you come across, but don’t push. You may think we’re foolish; bloody idiots who don’t know what’s best for us. But we are the ones who live with the consequences. And yes, death is potentially one of them. Our choice may have consequences for those we love, but it is us who pay the ultimate price.

To family and friends – we know it’s hard. If we make a wrong decision and wear the most final of consequences, your suffering begins where ours ends. But in sickness and in health, we are the masters of our fate. It is our right to take the well-worn path or the road less travelled.

It is really hard to stand up when you’re at your most vulnerable to tell your loved ones that enough is enough or that you want to try something different. It’s really hard to admit you don’t have the fight anymore or that you want to live while you’re living and come what may. So again, I sing…

It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.
So shut up. And fuck you.
I mean that with love, too.
You’d do this too if it happened to you.

**Some people were worried that stopping chemo meant I was on my way out. Clarification can be found here!



3 thoughts on “It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.

Add yours

  1. Oh wow! That must have been a really hard decision to make. But you’re right, it is you’re body and do whatever the hell you want to! I don’t think anyone can say you haven’t given it your all. Look at that damn scar. Lots of love and hugs to you xxxx


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