This morning the first thing on my Facebook feed was a memory from 1 year ago. It was a video I’d taken of myself at the hospital when Mom had been moved from surgery to the ICU.
Mom had just had a wedge resection of her left lung to remove a malignant tumor. We knew that following her recovery from that surgery doctors would be addressing the mass that had been found in her pancreas, but was determined to be a different type of cancer – not metastatic.
Prior to her lung surgery the surgeon had indicated it would be an easy in and out procedure. “No big deal” the surgeon said.
The reality was much different.
She spent three days in the ICU and due to over medication. We thought we were going to lose her once when she became unresponsive with shallow breathing.
Thankfully she returned home to recover. Dragging her oxygen hose all over the house, she struggled to get her strength back. Slowly the pain in her back subsided and she was able to leave the supplemental oxygen behind.
Next it was time to deal with the elephant in the room – pancreatic cancer.
Some Months Are Worse Than Others
I hate February.
I have hated it since February 4th, 1985 when my Dad died from colon cancer. And every February since that time, there’s been something shitty going on to reaffirm my dislike for the “F” month.
This February it’s been a couple of things.
Mom has felt exhausted, weak, shakey and pained 24-7. She gets up, eats, takes her chemo pills and falls asleep in her chair before taking a shower and going back to bed. She eats what she can in small meals, but nothing really tastes good and knowing it will all hurt makes eating a job that must be endured, not a pleasure. If she does stay awake it’s tough to concentrate, which is very frustrating for her.
Other than for medical appointments she doesn’t go out much now. Part of it is a lack of energy and the other part is our desire to limit her exposure to bugs that her weakened immune system could not fight off.
She did venture out last week though, to the memorial service of a friend who recently died of pancreatic cancer. It was a tough day physically and emotionally for her, but a good one too. She had suited up and showed up, not letting cancer win on that day.
I suppose the best news is that the new chemo is causing few side effects – nothing as bad as expected. Unfortunately we don’t yet know if it’s working.
The protocol chosen for this attempt to slow the growth and spread of her cancer is one that is used for cancers of the digestive system: stomach and colon primarily. This is due to the fact that there really are not too many treatment options for pancreatic cancer short of surgery for which Mom is not a candidate.
Mom’s CA119 numbers have risen to 3600, the highest they’ve ever been. While Dr. Savage says this is normal when changing therapies, it’s damn tough not to see that as a discouraging sign. Despite this her other blood tests look good.
I’ve been trying to encourage the use of marijuana to help increase her appetite and alleviate some of her pain.
She wears a transdermal pain relief patch, supplements with oral narcotics, takes pancreatic enzymes and eats very small meals, yet is in pain all the time. I know that somewhere in her brain there’s still a stigma attached to the use of pot, but despite my own lack of use, I still push for it as I know it has helped her in the past.
Next week Mom continues on her oral chemotherapy, and then she will have a week of taking no chemo before an infusion of another chemo drug and beginning the current oral chemo again.
It will be interesting to see if she gets any of her energy back during those seven days off chemo.
I hope so. She deserves a break.
It’ll be really nice when it’s warm enough to go out on the patio to enjoy the freshly planted flowers, sniff the air and feel the warmth of the sunshine on our faces.
In Other News
In addition to Mom’s struggles, there have been a few other challenges.
My dog Brownie was diagnosed with oral squamous cell cancer.
X-rays indicate it is in her jaw bone, so next Wednesday she’ll go to a veterinary oral surgeon to remove a portion of her lower jaw in hopes of stopping the cancer’s spread. It’s an expensive surgery and the only option to save her life. Seeing my dog Maize’s ashes in an urn on my shelf, I just couldn’t bear the idea of euthanizing another furry family member without a fight.
My husband is dealing with some medical issues that continue to be investigated, and I had a punch biopsy to see if something that’s been on my face for two years is skin cancer.
At times it is all laughable.
How can there be so much all at once? But then I wonder why I think we should be immune?
Have I mentioned…“I hate February.”
Thanking God For Another Day
In an attempt to thwart the cloud of negativity that can decent unannounced at any time, I wake up and start praying prayers of gratitude.
Beginning my day from a place of peaceful acceptance versus warrior mode seems to help every aspect of my life.
Today I thought about how in a couple of weeks my beautiful, smart, funny daughter will turn 19.
I remember bringing her home and taking her back to the hospital days later. I remember the sleepless nights and medical challenges that followed. But those memories are nothing I dwell on as I have so many more happy ones of our years together.
I also thought about how close my daughter is to her Grammy. How watching them grow together has been one of my life’s greatest joys.
And how despite having to let go of a career, the decision to move closer to my Mom when I found out I was pregnant has always been the ‘right’ decision.
I cherish being able to see my daughter grow into her own unique self, and I cherish the many, many moments in which my Mom has enveloped us both in her love.
Despite the ‘ugh’ of February and the associated struggles, spring is coming.
Time to rise to meet it.