Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Quality or Quantity - Dilemma of Treatment


I remember being nervous about leaving my children behind without a mom when I was diagnosed with cancer. I clearly recollect telling the doctor very clearly, “I don’t mind what quality of life I will have, I want quantity. I want to be there at least until they are teenagers. I am willing to undergo total radical mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation or whatever it takes to get me a few more years to ensure my children are taken care of”. He was giving me the option of breast conservation considering my age, but I had no qualms losing a breast to get rid of cancer. Back then I was very sure and did not face a dilemma in making my call for the treatment I felt was my best option.

It was much later when I went for my follow-up that I had a conversation with another highly experienced oncologist who told me that he focused more on quality of the life the patient gets after cancer treatment more than on quantity in years. He told me that he would have advised me not to go ahead with total radical mastectomy if I had consulted him at the age of 29, because I did not have to compromise on my body structure at that age. I assured him that my doctor had informed me about the choices I had and what difference it made, but I had chosen total radical mastectomy of my own will. I was not misled.

He later showed me some examples of breast conservation surgeries after which with little help from reconstruction, the body looked almost like before the surgery. The scar was almost invisible. So , it was almost after 16 years of my surgery that I was set to think, should I have considered the quality as well and not blindly cried for quantity? It was not easy for a woman with size 36 C to live with one breast.

Back then in my panic to be with my children, I hadn’t thought much about anything else but to get rid of cancer and live for a few more years. But then I had got 25 years to live now and that I have done with a huge scar and leftover flesh hanging loosely on my chest. It is not a beautiful sight. I am not ashamed of it, because it is something that saved my life, but then I am also embarrassed of it to some extent. Keeping the aesthetic part of it aside, I had to face a lot of pain due to it. Even a mosquito bite to the spot causes a lot of trouble because I cannot scratch the itch without hurting or feeling weird. I have developed terrible wounds or rashes when I have overworked a bit with my left hand. 

My spine has been hurt as well due to my lopsided posture which I carried on for 10 years before discovering the prosthetics with weight which helped. It looked like all the problems were a quagmire of my own making and I went through pangs of guilt. Now that I was considering the pros and cons, my decision looked a bit quixotic to me. I began to question my wisdom in making hasty choices. But then I am not sure, how much my choosing quality over quantity would have helped? Maybe it would have brought in different challenges to deal with, but now I will never know.

In a few months, I brushed aside my doubts because I had lived to achieve a lot of my goals which I had set for myself while I fought cancer. My children are both grown up and my son is happily married now. I am grateful to life, the scar and whatever quality of life I got for myself.

Keeping my queer case aside, I would suggest anyone making the treatment choices to consider all the pros and cons and not jump into action pushed by fear. No matter how old you are, you deserve a good quality of life despite fighting cancer. If you can have the best of both quality and quantity, why should you choose just one. Go for both. In the long run, quality matters. Another important point to remember is, never question your choices which cannot be undone. It will only bring in bitterness. Instead, look what you can do now to correct the mistake, if you made a wrong choice earlier
I wish everyone fighting a battle a happy good quality long long life…..


  1. I agree, it's not wise to regret a decision taken for good reasons long ago, moving forward is also accepting and adapting. You are very brave.

  2. I agree, regretting what can't be undone is only adding to the pain. I think you made the right choice back then. You wanted enough years to see your kids through. You ended up getting way longer than you even "bargained" for, and you can't know what would have happened if you had taken a different approach. You might not be here to tell us all about it.

    My friends who is going through radiation, following chemo and a double radical mastectomy, told herself "better be safe than sorry".

  3. Hi Farida,
    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    I didn't know what the post would be about till I read it. You're doing a great service by sharing your story and your questions about your treatment choices.

    All I can say is that the decision you made 25 years ago was the best you could've made at the time given the information you had and your children's age.

    With advancement in medicine and the improved treatment protocols, especially in oncology, there are more choices now than ever before. Your posts will help those who may be struggling with their decisions.

  4. I like what you said, "I would suggest anyone making the treatment choices to consider all the pros and cons and not jump into action pushed by fear." ... I have such a difficult time making decisions when fear and/or anxiety are pushing it. I can't think straight during those times.

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