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Pros and Cons on Chemotherapy

January 22, 1987

I feel absolutely compelled to respond to Shapiro's article. I am a lung cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy. Having just completed my third treatment, I am feeling rather ill, but not nearly as much as when I read the article .

Had I refused chemotherapy I doubt that I would even be here to reply to the article. I am really concerned that the doctor's article may have caused untold damage, a shattering of any hope held by other cancer patients. He seems to give the impression that one should simply give up and die.

Well, doctor, methinks your remedy is the real snake oil! There's an old Latin phrase that has always served me so well-- Dum spiro, spero , which, freely translated, means "Where there's breath, there's hope."

Doctors gave up hope twice on my own son, once in Vietnam and later in a serious accident, which resulted in a coma and paralysis. Today he is alive and well with no paralysis or brain damage. After the second accident the doctor had removed all life-support systems, which I insisted be reconnected after my arrival at the distant, out-of-state hospital to which he had been taken.

In my own case, after only two chemotherapy treatments, there is no X-ray evidence of one tumor, 2.5 centimeters in size, and the other of 1.5 centimeters. My diagnosis is small cell (oat cell) carcinoma of the right lung, a most lethal, rapidly spreading and inoperable form of cancer.

Ten years ago, without treatment the average survival rate was only two months! Thanks to chemotherapy I am presently in remission. Please understand that I have no illusions about the future. I recognize that the cancer can occur again elsewhere, such as in bone marrow or the brain. In the meantime, I feel I've been given another lease on life, the freedom to do and say so many things that might otherwise have been impossible. My husband who has always been a source of strength and comfort is particularly so during this most precious time of our lives. God bless him!

BETTY LOU HOUSTON

Alta Loma

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