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Posts Tagged ‘chemotherapy’

Toby Keith Quit Chemo

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“I quit chemo…and it probably did more damage to me than the cancer did….” This was Toby Keith’s feelings about chemotherapy, according to his friend Brett Favre.

So, is the takeaway to never do chemo? Absolutely NOT.

Photo by Hiroshi Tsubono on Unsplash

Country singer Toby Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2021. About six months later, he announced to his fans on social media that he was receiving chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

“So far, so good,” Mr. Keith wrote in a June 2022 statement on multiple social media platforms. “I need time to breathe, recover, and relax. I am looking forward to spending this time with my family. But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can’t wait.”

Keith’s last concert in Las Vegas, (

Indeed, he got back out there and played a series of shows in Las Vegas less than two months prior to his death a few weeks ago. In an interview right before he died, he said, “Cancer is a roller coaster. You just sit here and wait on it to go away — it may not ever go away.”

“[Keith] handled it with grace and faith and family and stood up to the cancer as good as you can,” said the former Green Bay Packers quarterback. “[But] I think in the end he was just tired,” Favre added.

We can hardly base treatment decisions on one man’s experience. Mr. Keith, diagnosed at age 60, made his decision based on the type of cancer he had and his own unique goals of care at that stage in the disease.

I am guessing if, during that last phone call, Favre asked, “Do you regret getting the chemo?” Keith might have responded, “Not at all.” Perhaps it bought him some time. Maybe, earlier in the treatment, he did not think it was causing “more damage… than the cancer.”

In my years as a hospice chaplain, I got to see patients after they had stopped treatments that were meant to cure the disease. Heck, you can’t get into hospice unless you stop curative treatments. Many expressed similar sentiments as Toby Keith. In medical-speak, “the burdens outweighed the benefits.” There, perhaps, was a time when the benefits were greater, but no more.

Or, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible, “There is a time for chemo and a time for no chemo.”

Let go and let be.


Author Chaplain Hank Dunn, MDiv, has sold over 4 million copies of his books Hard Choices for Loving Peopleand Light in the Shadows (also available on Amazon).

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“How effective is chemotherapy?” — That is the Question

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Would you spend $100,000 on a cancer treatment with many painful side effects that might help you survive 6.24 months as opposed to 5.91? That is 10 days longer in greater pain and suffering?

What if the doctor told you just that “this treatment will help you survive longer”? This is a true statement even though you might only survive 5.6% longer. That IS longer.

I have just discovered two great videos with Dr. Michael Greger discussing this very topic. Each video is less than seven minutes and worth every minute of your time. One is called “How Effective is Chemotherapy?” and the other is “How Much Does Chemotherapy Improve Survival?”

Let me be clear. I have no idea what I would do if I had a cancer diagnosis. I have close friends and family members who had advanced cancers and have been treated very successfully and are living active lives years after their treatments.

On the other hand, I have had patients, and, again, close friends and family members who received brutal chemotherapies and died. Many of those seemed to have received no benefit from their treatments and suffered great burdens. Many patients go bankrupt in order to pay for treatments.

Dr. Greger, in the first video says, “A large proportion of cancer patients reported their willingness to declare bankruptcy or sell their homes to pay for treatment. I mean, look, aren’t the high prices justified if new and innovative treatments offer significant benefits to patients? But you may be shocked to find out that many FDA-approved cancer drugs might lack clinical benefit.”

In his second video he referred to a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “In fact, the most expensive drug they looked at, the one costing $169,836 a year, did not improve overall survival at all, and actually worsened quality of life. That’s $169,000 just to make you feel worse with no benefit. Why pay a penny for a treatment that doesn’t actually help?”

I am NOT giving medical advice here. I am encouraging all of us to ask questions of our physicians. If a recommended therapy is said to improve survival, ask, “How much improvement?” Is it just 10 days over six months while suffering uncomfortable side effects? Ask about cost. Would I be willing to spend my financial legacy for those 10 days?

This all reminds me of the importance of our own emotional and spiritual preparation for dying. When “our time” comes we will be ready to die… or be healed. Either way, we’re okay.


Cover Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Chaplain Hank Dunn is the author of Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Feeding Tubes, Palliative Care, Comfort Measures and the Patient with a Serious Illness and Light in the Shadows. Together they have sold over 4 million copies. You can purchase his books at or on Amazon.

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