(Hot Chemo Bath: Patients See Hope, Critics Hold Doubt)
To the Editor:
In five weeks I will undergo cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC for cancer of the appendix. It's a daunting and frightening prospect. I understand this procedure is far more invasive and difficult than two previous surgeries I have been through in the last year. And the recovery will take considerably longer.
I am fortunate in that I have an exceptional surgeon (Dr. Laura Lambert of University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA), good sources for support, and contact with six others who have been through the procedure.
While everyone has described a miserable and exhausting experience, not one, with the most direct experience possible, was anything other than positive and encouraging. Unlike the Times article, fear and cynicism was not in their message. The language of the article struck me as crude and provocative. And treatment of the patient, who was extremely generous in allowing the journalist to witness his surgery, was nothing short of contemptuous. Slit bellies and waterbeds?
Cancers of the appendix and peritoneum are rare, research is limited by a lack of funding, misdiagnosis is common, experienced surgeons are few. And cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC, though controversial, offers us the only hope of a cure. So why print an article that sensationalizes the dangers of the surgery, offers no information on the disease or outcomes of treatment, and implies (with no supporting evidence) surgeons are doing it for the money.
Cancer is frightening, and less understood rare cancers are even more frightening. A well researched article that informs is needed, not the shamefully irresponsible one published in last Friday's New York Times.
I hope the Times will correct this injustice to those of us who undergo this surgery and to those who work to treat a truly terrible disease.