By now, you’ve probably heard about the state of Connecticut forcing a minor to undergo chemotherapy against her will. If not, here is the gist: The young woman, named “Cassandra C.” in court documents, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma but instead of doing chemo had requested to look into alternative therapies. She tried chemo before, and she said she thought the treatment would do more harm than good.
Doctors reportedly sedated her, tied her arms and ankles to the bed, and surgically implanted a port device, a common mechanism used during chemotherapy. Can you imagine waking up to such a scene?
The family immediately hired an attorney. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the girl's rights had been violated by the state forcing her to undergo chemotherapy because she was 17. She was allowed to return to her home because her treatments were to be spread out over multiple weeks.
But when she returned home, the Department of Child and Family Services knocked on her mother’s door. Cassandra ran to her bedroom and cried while her mother argued with officials. Eventually, the girl had to leave her mother and was subsequently placed in a foster home. Caregivers at the home would take her to her chemo appointments.
Although Cassandra was 17 but just six months away from turning 18— when she would legally be able to make her own decisions regarding her health— I do see the state’s argument. Certainly, from a legal standpoint, she is a minor and thus deemed to be not in the proper place developmentally to make decisions such as the one she has been faced with.
With chemotherapy, doctors told her she had an 80 to 85 percent survival rate. No one can argue with that. However, having undergone the treatment myself, the idea of anyone— regardless of her age— being forced to do chemotherapy makes me ill.
After experiencing six different types of chemotherapy over the course of two years, I can attest that, though effective, chemo is a nightmare, and I am outraged that anyone would be made to do it against her wishes. Something is very wrong here.
When it comes to health issues, perhaps states should lower the decision-making age to 15. I don't know the solution. All I know is that I felt sick— and then outraged— after reading this young woman’s story.
As far as my cancer treatments go, I will have a CT scan on Monday, which will determine if doctors were able to freeze and kill all the cancer cells on my rib. If yes, that will be a grand day. I know cryoablation is not new, but I marvel at the advances being made to control disease, (as slow as it seems for us to find cures).
Today, a heart attack is one of the easiest medical problems to treat. The medications that prevent more injury to the heart muscle, angiograms, stents, bypass … it's amazing. My husband has undergone all of these and shows no sign of slowing down. Since his bypass 25 years ago, he has undergone four or five angiograms and six or seven stents.
For the first eight years after his bypass surgery, I was a nervous wreck when any of these situations presented. The tears and fears that my toddlers would not have a father ... and then, one day I said to myself, “This man has far more than nine lives! He is going to live to at least 100!” I never looked back. Today, he is 80 and healthy.
The twist of fate is I now have Stage 4 metastatic cancer, and my life span is on the downside (so they say). I was initially given three years to live, but I have survived 14 if I count the two years when I was diagnosed at Stage 1.
Oh well, life is a crapshoot. My husband has been lucky. I have been lucky. Our children are lucky. We are still all together, and so are you. Have a great weekend!
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Noreen can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.