Choosing No Treatment for Oral Cancer


Dear Eva,
I write on behalf of a loved one who has been in battle with her squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue since August of 2013. My aunt, who never smoked, drank, spent copious amounts of time in the sun or the latter, has fought unrelentingly against this cancer, and now has reached a crossroads.

Holding her handAfter being given her only options of chemotherapy and radiation, along with a dire surgical prognosis, she has decided against doing those therapies. And I can’t say I blame her. But because she is at the point where she has wasted to bare bones, and can no longer eat food practically at all, I can’t sit by thinking that all other avenues have been exhausted. To watch your loved one waste away in pain is not something I am willing to do.

I do not know what avenues are available for someone in her condition, and at this point, I feel as though any information will be helpful. There has to be another way to fight this without conventional chemo and radiation, especially when the likelihood that that pathway will kill her is imminent.

Please, if there is another way, a trial treatment, something that you could guide us towards, I am sure that we will more than willingly do whatever it takes to get her the help she needs. I greatly appreciate your time and consideration. look forward to hearing from you!


Hi Janika,
I myself prepared my funeral thinking I couldn’t go on with the devastating effects of treatment for oral cancer. But, I was one of the lucky few that did survive. However, I have experience with understanding death. Your efforts to save your aunt’s life is courageous and admirable. We can’t control cancer, but we CAN control the choices we make. Your aunt made a decision and her decision should be honored, no matter how difficult it may be. I have known others who have made the same decision and instead of judging them or trying to change their mind because I don’t want them to make that choice, I accepted their choice and supported them right through until the end.  Actually, it is one of the highest deeds you can do for someone you care about: Honor them. Honor their choice. Support them in their decision.

At this point and at ANY point after her diagnosis, the treatment is devastating. It rages heat and poison throughout the body to kill the cancer. Many who choose that path do not survive. Your aunt’s choice was one that was probably the right one for her. Someone who makes that choice is even stronger than those who just take whatever is given them and suffer the consequences. My guess is that your aunt was ready to accept her fate and walk with God at her time.

I’m always inspired by those who are not afraid of death. Don’t fear it – it is a natural part of living. Spend your precious time with your aunt telling stories, learning from her life experience, and creating a legacy in her name.

When I prepared to die, I worried about how I would be remembered.  Tell her over and over how inspired you are by her courage. Tell her that you will always remember her and the footprint she left on this earth. Remind her you love and you honor her wishes even if it hurts.

Dear Eva,
Your testimony is something that I will hold close to me, and will share with my aunt. Just to see that you have beat this thing, and are using your experience to enrich the lives of others through your public speaking, your various endeavors and your life, is encouraging, to say the least.

My purpose during this whole ordeal has been to support my aunt no matter what choice she decided to make, and I was aware even back in August when she was first diagnosed that she would not do chemo and/or radiation. And at that point, I was at peace with it and actively chose to support her no matter what. However, convincing my mother, grandmother and her siblings to also be supportive of her decision has not been as easy, nay impossible. I don’t know what to say to them to emphasize the importance of autonomy on her part, and they are solely focused on pushing treatments they feel are best for her.

But, I will continue to do as you’ve said and encourage, love, support and walk with her during this phase in her life, and I feel that access to others who have also gone through similar battles will further empower her, knowing that she is not alone.

Again, I cannot express fully nor eloquently enough how much your response has been a blessing to me. I am grateful that a heart of compassion still permeates, and that there are people for whom empathy and enlightenment still flow naturally and freely to strangers in need.

May you and your family be blessed, and may you continue to succeed in all that you do!

With much gratitude and appreciation,

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Comments 4

  1. I too had stage four tongue cancer and the options are devastating. I choose chemo,surgery,and radiation. The cancer was cured but left my quality of life extremely different than what it was before the cancer. That was 2000 and I have not had one bite of food since. That’s tough. I had a peg tube and all my nutrition is from a can. Not Fun. 2012 the cancer returned. No radiation, no surgery was offered. I did the strongest chemo available and it was horrible. But with all that said my God is BIGGER than any of that. I am so glad I put my self thru all the pain. I got to watch my children grow up, move out on there own, and become great people and I’ve had 14 more years with the best wife ever. I wouldn’t trade this life God gave me for anything in the world. Thank you Jesus!! !’m Tim.

  2. Post

    Thanks Tim for your response. You are lucky to have such a supportive wife. I’m glad to hear you got so many wonderful years.Thanks for sharing,

  3. Janika, thank you so much for sharing your
    Aunt’s story with us. I agree with Eva about
    respecting whatever her wishes are, however
    the thought of how it’s hurting you brought me
    to tears. I am currently battling stage 4 tonsil
    cancer, and I have been blessed with a wonderful
    neice such as yourself. The thought of my illness
    touching her life, and hurting her as she supports
    me causes me so much pain in my heart.
    I will keep you in my prayers my dear!! You are
    never alone!!

  4. Post

    That is exactly how I felt, too. It hurt me so much to see how my illness effected my children. It’s my cancer…leave them out of it!

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