“Chemotherapy” is one of those scary bugaboo terms that makes me want to scream. Have you seen Wit, with Emma Thompson? That’s what most people envision when they hear the words “chemotherapy” or “chemo”…but that’s NOT how it generally is these days. (In that particular movie, she was on massive, massive doses of chemo as part of a study, and side effects for the chemo she was on were dose dependent, meaning more severe with higher doses of the drugs.)
“Chemotherapy” means “treatment of a medical ailment with chemicals”. Technically, using rubbing alcohol on a pimple is “chemotherapy”.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the chemotherapy for your mom’s cancer will be as side effect free as wiping a pimple with alcohol, but I’m just saying…you don’t know. Some chemotherapy agents (drugs) these days *are *nearly side effect free. Some aren’t. The only way to know is to ask the doctor exactly what drug/s he wants to use, what the side effects are, and what the frequency and intensity of those side effects at the dosage he wants to use are.
If the surgical option is a colostomy (as it sounds like it is, if the anal sphincter needs to be removed) then I would strongly recommend you do a LOT of research on that before you push that option with your mom. It’s not an easy surgery - it should be only 3 or 4, but can sometimes go 12 hours in the OR, which can produce pressure ulcers, pneumonia and other Bad Stuff. It requires lots of maintenance after, including emptying a bag of shit on her belly several times a day. The adhesive which holds the bag on can cause skin breakdown, infections, yeast infections (basically diaper rash of the belly) and sores. Fistulas can develop, necessitating further bowel surgeries and removal of more intestine further up. Depending on how much intestine they have to remove, you can run into chronic dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can be deadly in the elderly or someone with a heart condition. Not to mention the body image issues and depression which often arise from having a bag of shit on your belly.
Did I ever tell you about the time my SO’s bag came off in the middle of a TGIFridays and got shit all over the booth and table and his clothes and my purse? Fun times.
Colostomies are life saving and a godsend to people who need them, but after spending 2 years at monthly colostomy group meetings, and 2 years helping my SO deal with his and the resulting medical/psychological/social issues, I would never, ever recommend them if there was another good option available.
Ditto for pouches, reservoirs or other bowel surgery options which cannot preserve the anal sphincter. They all suck, to some degree or another, and have a pretty high failure rate and high complication rate. If your quality of life is already sucky (say, severe Crohn’s disease, IBS or constant bowel incontinence) then it may be worth it to improve your quality of life, but again, it’s still worth considering other options first.