‘Don’t want to be a burden’: Woman opens up on decision to refuse treatment

Oct 13, 2020
The woman shared her views on forum site Gransnet. Source: Getty.

Being diagnosed with cancer at any stage of life is devastating and can be hard to come to terms with, and that’s before you’ve even considered potential treatment options, impacts of said treatment and how the diagnosis will affect your life, including how long you might have left, and the lives of those dear to you.

For one woman, the daunting prospect of enduring treatment seems too difficult to comprehend, leading her to feel inclined to consider refusing treatment should she be diagnosed with any serious health concerns. The woman – who has not yet been diagnosed with any form of cancer or terminal illness – began considering the idea when she was invited to attend a colonoscopy after suffering repeated bouts of diverticulitis.

Writing on forum site Gransnet, the 61-year-old woman confessed she is reluctant to attend the colonoscopy, which she described as a frightening prospect. She continued: “It’s not even the examination that’s stopping me. But the fact that I have no intention of having any operation, invasive treatment or chemotherapy if they find something bad.

“If I do not intend to have treatment then really what is the point of having a colonoscopy that someone else who needs it can’t have, because I’ve taken up one of the appointments.”

The woman revealed she came to the decision after watching her late husband battle stage four colon cancer for seven years, adding: “As I am now on my own I know that I could not cope with any of that.” She then asked fellow users whether they would consider refusing treatment.

“I am 61, with health issues already that aren’t fatal but painful,” she wrote. “I do not want to burden my children with any of this so would welcome your opinions, if you would care to offer them.”

A number of people chimed in with their own thoughts on the matter, with he majority of people saying that it would depend on the scale of treatment required. “I think it depends on how much treatment,” one user wrote. “For example, if they found something easily removable would you say ‘Oh just leave it there’? If you were going to become incontinent, would you reject a colostomy?”

Another commented: “I just don’t know if I would or would not have treatment. Depends on a lot. One of my offspring is in regular contact but lives far away and I’d like the chance for some real hugs. However, if all your affairs are in order and it’s what you would wish then that’s ok. Would you tell your children?”

While another suggested she investigate the issue further and speak to her doctor, because it could be something that is easily resolved.

However one user, aged 80, admitted they felt exactly the same and said they would most likely refuse any treatment, excepting palliative care. They wrote: “I think I would probably have the colonoscopy, though like you I would be scared about it. After all, you could discover there is nothing much there at all. It’s very difficult to guess how anyone would feel in any given situation. You don’t know until it happens.”

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Would you refuse treatment? Can you relate to how this woman feels?

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