Monday, August 6, 2007

Still Dying to Live

[Follow-Up] In City Weekly’s June 14 feature, “Dying to Live,” senior staff writer Stephen Dark followed the battle of 31-year-old Chris Hutcherson against a rare cancer and a slowly looming death. The story ended with Hutcherson facing a difficult decision: whether to give up his hospice team and try a radical, potentially life-threatening new chemo therapy or experiment with a Chinese herbal tea. Three months later, Hutcherson reveals in the first of a series of blogs what has happened since:

I had a meeting with my mum, my brother, [step father] and I decided I’d try the tea for two weeks and then have a MRI to see if there were any changes [to his abdominal tumors]. If not, then I’d do the chemo. In the end I never tried the tea. Mum never cooked it, I couldn’t find the directions to do it.

On July 18 I saw Dr. Ward [oncologist]. “What do you want?” he asked me. I said “Let’s shoot for two weeks, then try the chemo. My Mum was upset afterwards. “I’ve seen what chemo does,” she told me, “how it affects people, what it does to the body.”

I told her “I’ve done four rounds. I know what it does.”

I’ve got two options. Either I die slowly as the tumor suffocates my organs or I try chemo. It could slow it down or speed it up. My sister said do something you can live with. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t try this.

It will be four days in hospital, 96 hours of straight chemo, continual drips. While I’m doing the chemo, I’ll start going through side effects: irritability, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, constant pain, my joints aching. I won’t be able to sleep that much.

Then depending on how I feel I go home or to a care center. I still don’t know if I can stay in hospice or not. I will do a second round in a month. In five months you see the difference.

I drove down to California with my brother and spent eight hours helping my sister move, going up and down stairs. I took two Oxycontin through the day to function. My legs were swelling. They wanted me to stop, but I kept going. I went out in the rain, got a 104-fever, but I kept pushing through the whole thing. It’s about mind over mater. You just stick it out through the pain.

[Dying from the chemo] is a risk I’m willing to take. I wouldn’t want to spend too much time at home [if he was close to death]. I’d rather go to hospital. Give it a little bit of ease. It’s a feeling I’ve got. I don’t want my family to have to live long with that kind of memory. It was painful when grandfather died at home. My mother hasn’t been back to his home since, [although] partly it’s tied up with legal issues.

You can’t let the illness get you down—bad things start happening. I’m trying all these things to help others who come later, to provide insight. That’s one of the things that keeps me going during the tests. If not I would have given up a long time ago.

But I’m not a give up person. I put a little fight into what I do.

If you want to write to Chris, you can do so at:
Chris Hutcherson
P.O. Box 65704
Salt Lake City
UT 84165

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