Sunday, January 14, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0417 - Are We Worth It?

As many of you know, I read Leroy Siever's blog almost everyday. Not only is Leroy a very good writer and a person whose reflections on battling cancer are thoughtful and insightful, but we are almost the same age and have both had colorectal cancer. Sometimes, I have to admit, especially when I am feeling sorry for myself, I turn to his writing as a kind of tonic and wake-up call - things are simply better for me in my struggle with cancer than they appear to be for Leroy.

By way of example, I am worried about tomorrow's consultation at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre with my medical oncologist during which we will review the MRI from last Monday. The images should help determine whether or not I am in any danger of recurrent rectal cancer. But Leroy has not only had recurrent cancer, he has had additional tumors appear in his brain, lungs and spine. His doctors have suggested he take his trip to Hawaii soon while he is still well enough to enjoy the vacation. And his consultations, while they are sometimes better than expected, usually would tear me apart emotionally.

But we also share something else. At some point or another, the cost of our treatment has come into question. Leroy's blog entry from yesterday put the issue of whether or not we are worth the effort into stark, almost brutal, perspective.

One woman, named Pam, commented on his blog to "question the morality of expending unknown amounts of resources extending the life of one adult 'victim' who, it appears, has lived a privileged life up to this point." She adds, "Am I alone when I ask this question?"

No, Pam, you're not alone, despite what many have written condemning you on Leroy's blog yesterday. I ask myself that very question. In fact, my family and I have discussed the nature of what we call "problems of luxury" that we have in the western world, including cancer. As Pam knows, if I or Leroy happened to have been born somewhere else in the world that is less privileged, we would probably already be dead from the ravages of cancer, if not something else.

I believe that we have a responsibility to become citizens of the world. I believe we need to grow, well beyond adulthood, so that eventually we can begin to identify with those who suffer, not just in our own family or neighbourhood, but with those half a world away. I believe a global perspective and respect for all humanity, in fact for all life, is one of the omega points for which we strive.

But how do we take that perspective, that sense of moral obligation, down into the details of a life lived here-and-now? It doesn't make any sense to me, for instance, to suggest Leroy or I refuse treatment in the hopes that somehow that money will be spent saving the lives of children in Iraq who might be the victims of a suicide bombing. In fact, try as I might, I can't even imagine how one might renovate our own communities so that someone like me could redirect medical funds to less privileged persons here in my own city.

I don't think, Pam, that the problem is a failure of imagination or morality. I think it is simply a matter of doing what one can with the resources available at the time. I really do believe, despite my occasional misgivings, that my responsibility here-and-now is to fight for my own life as hard as I can and with all the resources I have at my disposal. I have a great deal left to contribute to my family and my community and I am worth a very substantial effort and, dare I say it, a large expenditure of funds to do so.

And so I approach tomorrow with trepidation, realizing that my focus will be parochial, it will be narrow, it will be personal. My wife will come with me, because she too has a focus that is specific to my predicament. My doctor will focus his attention on me and my MRI. And should the news be bad, we will regroup and begin the battle anew, spending money, time, effort, and emotional currency to fight our little battle against cancer, my cancer.

I know I'm not explaining myself well here. But I really do believe that is all we can do, that is what we should do, and that is what we will do.

1 comment:

gentleascent said...

Don, you have explained yourself very well. You have made salient points on what it takes to be a survivalist at this time in this place. Be assured, gentle has you on his mind as you share your unwanted journey.