Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Facing up to chemotherapy


Bottom line, the oncologist felt, statistically, in the case of my size and type of tumor and my age of onset etc, that without chemo followed by hormone therapy, that I had a 25% chance of dying from recurrence within the next 15 years. He felt that statistically chemo followed by hormone therapy would reduce that chance to 10%. This was based on this occurring in someone without my immune deficiencies, meaning the prognosis would perhaps be even tougher in that context if I don’t do chemo followed by hormone therapy.

Of course they did take out my tumor and my lymph node showed no cancer, but when tumors become invasive they are solid at their core but the cells at the outer margins are as able to float away into the blood stream and lymph as dust particles on an old sweet retrieved from under a sofa where its been for 10 years. Can you envision retrieving that solid sweet without a single dust particle becoming airborne? Well, that’s the analogy. Left alone, those stray cancer cells have a 25% chance of killing me if we don’t get to them first, before the develop into new tumors. So in 2-3 weeks time we will start a 12 week chemo run. I will get chemo for 3 hours on one day, then get 3 weeks to recover. Then I’ll do that again, then again, then again, then I’m finished. Yes, my hair will fall out, I will likely have problems with my mouth, throat, digestive tract and bowels. But I will be killing any stray cancer cells before they have a chance to develop again. If I wait and take my chances, survival rate would be significantly lower.

As for white cells, they will give me injections that will stimulate production of new ones. And IgA, well apparently if we give me enough white cells we can probably compensate for the impact of IgA deficiency on poor white cell activity.

I will double check my recurrence risk through the Oncotype DX test before we start to be SURE the benefits of chemo will outweigh my risks.

I will shave my head before treatment. I have some cool hats. I am well stocked to try and recover between chemo sessions. Chris is right there with me. My friends are a great team. Wish me luck. I’m off to battle.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.