Much has been made of Cassandra C. – the almost 18 year old girl who was diagnosed with a curable form of cancer but has refused medical treatment for it. Her Mother stands by this decision and says they want to investigate “alternative” methods to treat this disease and are frustrated at the lack of support they are getting from the state do make this personal decision. At Vertava Health, we find this whole thing to be rather offensive. When someone has the disease of addiction and they refuse treatment there is much that can and is done to remedy that situation. In fact, because there are only three outcomes to addiction – recovery, prison or death – most families work tirelessly to encourage, threaten and force their loved ones into treatment. It is only in treatment where the person struggling with the disease of addiction has the veil lifted – and healing can begin. A good addiction treatment program is the difference between life and death. Just as cancer treatment is for Cassandra C. Will it be easy for her? No. Will surgery be a great, chemical-free experience? No. Will she enjoy getting chemotherapy? No. Will she be emotional, sick, overwhelmed and afraid? YES. Will she have her family to support her? YES. Will she have a solid medical team whose sole purpose is to see that she LIVES? YES. Will she live? Overwhelmingly – YES. With the right treatment plan for her cancer, Cassandra C. will LIVE. Isn’t that the best outcome that you can envision? Don’t we want our loved ones to live? The way we see it, Cassandra C. needs a strong intervention to get her into cancer treatment. This is what we do for those who have the disease of addiction. Drug addiction, like cancer – can be treated and the person can live a long, healthy life – free of the disease. But sometimes people don’t think they need treatment. They think they can stop on their own, or can limit their intake of alcohol or prescription drugs. Like Cassandra C., they think they can manage their disease on their own without real medical help. Unfortunately, this rarely works. One of Cassandra’s arguments against going to treatment is that she’s focused on the quality of her life, not the quantity. It is painfully obvious that living with a progressing disease means the quality of life decreases at an alarming rate. If quality is her focus, she needs to recognize that cancer as it progresses makes everything worse. She will not be happily attending school, work or events with ease. She will not be feeling well. She will be sick. There will be no quality – only quantity as her time gets shorter and shorter. It doesn’t need to be that way. And she needs to get into treatment so that she can see that for herself. Just like we tell those who are struggling with addiction. Treatment isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity. We support the state for intervening and mandating that Cassandra C. get the help she needs to survive. In fact, we’d like the state to consider the same type of intervention when it comes to those who have addiction. Imagine how many lives we could save if addiction treatment intervention was encouraged by our individual states and if people who were sick – maybe they are addicted to Xanax, benzos or even heroin – were mandated to go to drug addiction rehab. We’re not there yet – but Cassandra C.’s situation is an opportunity for us to continue to change the thinking of our law makers, our insurance companies – and make addiction treatment and addiction intervention a part of our state laws. If someone is sick – they need to follow the advice of doctors and therapists and get treatment to get better – no matter what the disease. Addiction, like cancer, isn’t going away. We can’t arrest it away. We can’t talk it away. We can’t find “alternative” methods to send it away. No matter what the disease, I ask you, shouldn’t LIFE be the outcome when possible? We wish Cassandra C. the best in life and pray for her success. Many of those struggling with addiction also don’t realize how LIVING is better than a slow death. We pray that with this necessary treatment that she lives well and that her life after treatment is better than what she imagined it could be. That’s a lesson we teach our patients in rehab every day. Treatment may not be pretty at first but living free of disease will be worth it beyond measure.
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