Battle Fatigue: Deciding When to Stop Fighting

Not every cancer patient sees themselves as a warrior, fighting a battle against their cancer. They say they are merely trying to survive something awful that happened and don’t think of themselves as being brave, but rather doing what needs to be done. I thought this way the first couple of years in my struggle to stay alive. But almost seven years, and 16 failed lines of treatment later, you better believe I am a fighter, a warrior, who was thrown into a war I never chose, but had to fight none-the-less. Consider me a soldier who was drafted. I did not sign up for this fight, I don’t want to go to war, but if I desert the battle field, I will die as surely as the soldier who leaves his post and is put to death by his own squadron.

Finding my myeloma tribe

In the myeloma world, my voice is heard by many. I chose to write my thoughts, trials and tribulations down very early on. At first it I did it for me, as a form of therapy, trying to keep my sanity through it all. In my book, A Pilgrimage Without End, I say that “Writing has been the best therapy money never could have bought me." This is as true today as it was when I came up with that phrase. Not only is writing itself very cathartic, but the feedback I get from an ever growing population of fans has given me more support than I ever could have imagined. I belong to a tribe. My people are people that did not want or chose to have this common thread, cancer, but we are bound together by this nasty disease called multiple myeloma, and I think most of us can agree that with all the bad that comes with it, the comradery, as it is with the men and women in the trenches, we too have a brother and sisterhood that comes with an understanding of Love and support. Something most of us have not felt before.

Deciding to stop treatment

Up until my last relapse, I was in the game to not not only fight this enemy, but to beat it as well. I had such hope to be of the generation that would witness a cure. After my CAR-T therapy failed, a trial that felt like a miracle, my desire to fight took a deep plunge. Since I have gone through so many different treatment options, there are now very few available to me. As a myeloma advocate, I am pretty familiar with the way this rodeo ends. The chemos will get heavier, while the body gets weaker. The time of response will get shorter, and the side effects will get worse. The ER will become like my second home, and family life will be greatly disturbed.

Medical Aid in Dying

This is something I decided very early on I did not want to do to me or my family. I am not the only one who has battle fatigue, my husband, who is angry and frustrated with this disease, shows his frustration often, and in ways that does not help me or my daughter. My daughter, who is dealing with PTSD and other cancer-related diagnosed mental disorders, is afraid of losing the mom she knows and loves. She has told me she would rather see me pass peacefully and with dignity, than withering away as my bones break and I will be unable to function. It is for those reasons that I decided to make use of a law that is now available in nine states in the USA. Medical Aid in Dying is a way in which a terminal patient has control over the way his or her end of life happens. I reside in one of those states, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to have this law available to me.

In my next article, I will discuss what I hope this end will look like. I will delve deeper into the reason why I chose this route, and I will attempt to show you why, to me at least, taking this route is no more suicide than hospice and its use of large amounts of morphine, is murder.

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 23, 2019, Cherie Rineker passed away. We are honored that Cherie shared her experiences with our community and beyond. She will be deeply missed.

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