THE BLOG
08/18/2014 12:39 pm ET Updated Oct 18, 2014

Fighting Terminal Cancer With Life

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My mom had terminal cancer, and she fought until her last breath to beat it. She had a rare ocular melanoma that metastasized to her liver. For that type of melanoma, only 5 percent of patients will have tumor shrinkage using the chemo cocktails that are available in this day and age, because melanoma is pretty much unstoppable once it spreads. My mom knew the odds and went through a lot of pain to have a few more days of pain. I wish that I knew what I know now and would've talked her out of chemo and into Hawaii.

No one wants to lose to cancer. Her doctor was the best we could've had because he never treated her like she was dying. That's what she needed. If my cancer, that I have beaten so far, metastasizes and I only have a 5 percent chance of adding a few months to my life, I am going to Hawaii. The debilitating pain that my mom endured with three rounds of full body chemo and two infusions into her liver was horrible for her spirit. She wasn't even herself in the last few weeks because of the morphine pills.

Doctors are taught to save people. Period. As patients, we need to be realistic about what we actually need saving from. Does months of sickness in hopes of a miracle outweigh a peaceful, beautiful time spent with family and friends and love? When my mom got sick from chemo and lost her hair, she didn't want anyone to see her. So she pushed everyone away and didn't want visitors. It was the very opposite of what she needed in her last months on Earth.

If doctors were realistic to their terminal patients and said, "This isn't a cure, it's treatment to add time to your life, to hopefully slow down the tumors, but it won't stop them forever," would that change the fight? Fighting cancer is the hope of winning life. Doctors join our side of the fight with chemo, radiation, surgeries and drugs. When the fight is futile and the odds are against us, our fight should be to experience the beauty of life. I'm not suggesting people give up on the fight, I'm only suggesting that you have to realize what you are actually fighting.

A cancer, who always wins, is not worth losing the little life you have left. Becoming so sick that you stop enjoying the life around you is not really living at all. When a loved one decides, "No more treatment, I can't do it anymore," it's not giving up on life, it's living for the life they have left. We will be angry that they are leaving us, we will be sad to lose the relationship we had with them, we will bargain that if they try a little harder, they can win. We will deny that any of the cancer is happening, but in the end we will accept that with life comes dying. We know that it's our fate from the first time we lose someone we love. Death is birth in reverse -- we go back to which we came.

When we are the caregiver to our loved one who is experiencing cancer we need to be there for them. Don't talk about death, just talk about life and try to keep a smile on their face. Watch comedies, tell jokes, be upbeat and make them feel good about themselves. Be compassionate, understanding, and a good listener if they want to talk. Giving of your time is the best gift as they are only too aware of what a commodity time is in life. Sending cards, flowers, or drugstore gift cards (cancer meds are expensive) to someone who lives far away reminds them that they are loved.

Everyone has to make the right choice for themselves. I made some decisions for my mom that I regret, because I was making them for my own selfish reason of not wanting to lose her. Each generation of my family has helped their parent deal with cancer and then got cancer themselves. My grandmother begged her father to fight harder to beat colon cancer and he quit the fight of cancer and fought for what life he had left. At that moment, she vowed that if she ever got cancer, she would win, and she beat breast cancer. Sometimes terminal cancer patients do win against cancer, and I'm so grateful that miracles do happen. All I know is that for me, if I ever get the unfortunate news that I only have a 5 percent chance of living a few extra months, you will find me chemo-free on a beach. It will be the first time I won't be worrying about melanoma for myself, but I'll make sure my daughter is covered in sunblock.