'Would I be cured?' My doctor told me the seriousness of my Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC) (the stage number is out of a maximum of 5, the lower the less serious) and the probable 5-year cure rate (in %). I had a Stage IV NPC and therefore a pretty low expected cure rate (less than 50%). The staging allows the doctors to document and to compare different NPC patients under different treatments. The cure rate is the knowledge the doctors gained from treating many patients over many years. It gives the average number of survivors after 5 years. The cure rate is the overall average and does not take the patients' individuality into account. Every one of us is different, some of us might be younger, stronger or simply more determined to survive. One should not take too much notice on the cure rate, as it is a mere statistic. It is important for us to think that we are not a percentage, we have only two outcomes - to survive the next 5-years or otherwise. Of course, being positive, you should think that you are working to stay on the good side. Indeed some of us might not respond well to the treatment. However difficult, one should remember that the treatment is a life extending process. By not going through the radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, you are denying yourself a possibility of extending life.
'Am I going to live?' This is the same question as 'How long I am going to live?' There is no answer to this question whether you are told you are suffering from a life threatening illness or not. It is simply beyond our control, on the issue of life and death, it has never been within our control. This fact of life might be incomprehensible to a generation who have been accustomed to the illusion that they are in full control of their lives, an instant gratifying cyber generation. However 'life is beyond one's control' is simply the fact and the fact that it will remain. Therefore we mortal do not have an answer to the question.
Let me borrow a fellow cancer patient / journalist's comment on this issue:
' íK I have no idea if the cancer will come back and I have no idea when I will die, but I never knew that anyway. I cannot find any essential difference between then and now. I decided a long time ago that there was little point wasting time and energy worrying about events I could not alter or which may never happen.'
Celia Hall, The Daily Telegraph's Medical Editor, describes how she faced having breast cancer. 17th July 2000, Sydney Morning Herald.
K T KO, Last updated: 1st September 2001