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Has anyone opted not to receive treatment when diagnosed with breast cancer?

By Anonymous January 22, 2009 - 8:59pm
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Has anyone been diagnosed with breast cancer and decided not to receive treatment? Or do you know of someone who chose this, but has since passed?
I am just wondering if the "quality of life" is worse with the treatment than if you would just live with the cancer until you die? The side effects of the treatments sound so awful that I wonder if the side effects of the disease are worse? I am probably going to die either way anyway because of the cancer, I just want to suffer the least and enjoy what time I have left the most.
Any comments either way would be appreciated.

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I had BC 10 years ago and had 6 months of chemo. and 38 treatments of radiation plus a mastectomy and I am still kicking, I saw my grandson born the day before surgery and now 10 years later I get to see him play soccor, so yes it was worth the year of treatments and all the days of being in bed. Unless you are over 70, I would go for it. I was 52 at the time. I have had 10 wonderful years and still going. God Bless and keep fighting.

February 20, 2009 - 5:49pm
HERWriter Guide

Thank you for your SHARE.

I do know someone who elected no treatment for breast cancer. I believe she was stage 3 at the time she was diagnosed but probably would have lived had she elected for surgery and treatment but she was in her 70s, although seemed like she was in her late 50s.

I was in my mid 20s at the time, and couldn't understand why on earth she didn't want to fight like the devil to live. I was her drama therapist, and used the creative arts to help in healing. Mostly, I'd end up sitting by her bed and chatting. She had been a flight attendant, had been very attractive but had also had a lot of emotional roller coasters in her life that left her penniless with no money or family/friends to speak of. She just felt her time was up. She seemed ok with it. She didn't seem particularly sad, but not happy either. I suppose she just had a rather flat effect although she always told me that she thought I was beautiful and loved my clothes and the way I spoke! I think she saw me as a much younger version of her, which made me want to take her by her shoulders even more, and insist she get treatment. But it was not her wish.

On the day she died, I went into her room. I was a little afraid to see her body there in her room, like everyday, but not saying "hi" this time. Not admiring my gypsy skirts or telling me how white my teeth were. Just there, like she was sleeping. I can still almost smell her room now, and I see it like I was there yesterday. I can hear the noises from down the hall as I stood by her. And I still wish she had chosen differently.

I never forgot her. She made me feel really good about myself, even though my job was to make HER feel good about HERself. It has been maybe 12 years and I still think about her, despite getting married, having kids, and moving out of state. Her name was Dorothy. She made an impact on me, even if she chose to leave this earth on her more radical terms. They were still her terms. I didn't understand them but I respected her decision and now that I'm a little older, maybe I understand her decision a little better. But a part of me still wishes she had elected treatment. I always think there is hope. But we all have our reasons for doing what we do and it's not for me to tell another how to live - or die.

Anon, how advanced is your cancer? My friend's mother has breast cancer and is 70. Her chemo is making her tired but other than that she gets out everyday, she walks daily and even enjoys the odd glass of wine! Cancer treatments now are a lot different to even 10 or 15 years ago! Treatment is not fun, but it is not always so terrible either. There is ALWAYS hope.

Can you update us a little?

January 23, 2009 - 2:10pm

Anon, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I hope breast cancer patients, families or friends will answer your question through their eyes and give you some of the answers you're seeking.

Is there a reason that you believe you won't survive the disease? Was it a recent diagnosis, or was it given by a doctor who was pessimistic about your chances? If so, I'd say -- and I know I'm not alone in this -- that you should absolutely seek another opinion, if not another doctor altogether.

Breast cancers are more and more curable all the time; the weapons that they have to throw at the disease are wide-ranging and potent, and there's a very high chance of a cure. Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can be rugged, but remember, they are usually only for a period of time.

Here's one page that talks about the desire to opt out of breast cancer treatment:


And here's a story that ran on ABC News on the same thing, featuring a breast oncologist:


Do you have people who are dear to you who you can talk to about this? What has been their reaction?

Are there any other issues that are going on for you right now? Do you have access to health care? I surely hope you are not trying to juggle the needs of your treatment with financial worries over health care, because I know that can be devastating.

If you are primarily worried about the side effects, you might want to explore a place like the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, who emphasize their whole-person approach to fighting the disease:


It sounds like you are an extraordinarily thoughtful person who might be a little short of hope right now. Please tell us a little more about what's going on, and let's see if we can find you even more information.

January 23, 2009 - 10:13am
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