Sunday, July 29, 2007

Freaky Science vs. Traditional Medicine

I have been trying to figure out how my mom would feel about my adventures with bio-tech aka “freaky science” . My mother died of breast cancer 15 years ago and some might say that her death was a result of a profound distrust of “freaky science.”

When my mother first discovered a pink discoloration on her left breast, she really thought nothing of it. She did eventually go to her dr who really did not seem alarmed. But the pink spot kept growing.

Eventually, my aunt, who is a nurse, caught glimpse of it in a department store dressing room and ordered my mom to get a biopsy. When she learned that she had to consent to a mastectomy if the area proved cancerous, she refused.

After months of searching, she found a doctor who would do a hairline biopsy. After the test was done, she was told that she had cancer and that he needed a mastectomy and high doses of chemotherapy.

She refused.

She refused to have her breast removed and she refused chemo. Even though I provided her with stats, articles, and support group information, she refused. She had seen an uncle shrivel and die due to chemotherapy. And she swore to herself that she would not be another chemo casualty. Instead she chose to consult a traditional medicine woman from ‘back home’ in the Caribbean who suggested an herb regimen.

When those treatments didn’t work, Mom tried Dr. Akins’ alternative cancer therapies which were expensive and also ineffective. Eventually, as the cancer grew, she tried radiation and finally, she consented to light doses of chemotherapy. But it was too late.

About two years after spotting the breast discoloration, she succumbed to cancer. And throughout the whole ordeal I was very angry with her choices, but I understood that she had a contempt for western medicine, which is not uncommon in black or immigrant communities.

In fact, I hold that contempt whenever I go to the doctor, get a prescription filled or hear about anyone's surgery. Let’s face it, medicine in this country is big business and we have heard stories about the casualties of the medical industrial complex. Immigrants and blacks have a history of being used as guinea pigs in this country, so I think it makes sense to be a little paranoid. Additionally, I have also heard first hand stories about the wonders of herbalists, so I get it.

But I still get angry when I think about how she died. I still get angry when I think about how she could have made different choices and lived longer. And, most importantly, I still miss her every single day.

The circumstances around my mother’s death serve as the back drop to my story. Nadia may or may not completely understand the depth of my conflict with bio-tech aka "freaky science". I definitely feel ambivalent about all of this medication I’m on. On the one hand, I feel self-indulgent and spoiled. On the other hand, I feel like this is my only shot (no pun intented).This is my only road to conception, pregnancy and birth. And I really want to have that biological connection to my child and to my mom.

So even though I know my mom would be completely repelled by the whole egg drop drama, I am convinced that she would be psyched for me to give birth.

And I think that that's what keeps me going.


Lo said...

I'm sorry about your mom. I can understand your frustration. My uncle was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and he is also refusing all Western medicine, including a test to see if the tumor is operable (he will not get operated on, anyway). The mistrust is understandable, but the choice by a family member is hard to live with.

Co said...

I'm sorry about your mom. My mom died of ovarian cancer 25 years ago (She was only 34 when she died. I'm now 34 and pregnant. It's weird that my body is involved in creating and nurturing life at the same age that my mother's succumbed to death). My mom did everything the doctors told her to ... chemo, several operations... but in the end, it wasn't enough to save her life.

This past year, it was weird for me to think about how I was paying an R.E. to overstimulate my ovaries in hopes of getting pregnant. It seemed kind of counter to what my mom had to do at the same age.

Anyway, good luck this cycle.

oneofhismoms said...

Don't forget the medical abuse and use of Native Americans!

It is tricky to think about your mom's situation. You have every right to be angry even now, because perhaps if she had gone the chemo route she'd still be with you. But she also could have gone that way and lost her dignity along with the fight against cancer. It seems like a huge obsticle to overcome... her choices and the result.

Now you're a lot like her, because you know what you are willing to do to get what your body needs.