Monday, August 18, 2008

It's not my plan to let cancer take over this blog... Sorry to be "Debbie Downer" (as my daughter would say). I'm just going to post the latest news here because there are a couple of kind souls who've sent me such nice letters and I haven't written back. I hope you'll understand.

I went to the oncologist last Friday (the 15th) and he says it's advanced breast cancer and a mastectomy is advised, plus some lymph node removal. He does more lumpectomies than mastectomies but in my case it doesn't seem to be an option. Today I got an 8:15 am call from the CAT-scan booking department, telling me that the doctor had ordered a scan for completion "no later than tomorrow afternoon". From that I would infer that the mastectomy is tentatively booked for a pretty near date. Of course, that would be assuming that there's not excessive spread revealed by the cat scan.

I suppose I could find something to be thankful for whatever the scan results. If the surgery's a 'go' it would mean that the prognosis seems more hopeful. However, if it's a 'no go' I would avoid an ordeal and not be subjecting my body to excessive trauma. Sometimes I wonder if surgical intervention really is helpful - remember the old joke about the Irish woman at the Pearly Gates ? "I was at death's door and the doctor pulled me through!"

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went in for a biopsy and the hospital resident examined her and said "Your doctor's a respected specialist, but there's nothing there". They went ahead with the biopsy and found cancer, recommended a mastectomy. The next day, they decided 'no mastectomy' because it's Cancer IV. So they opted for radiation, forgot (really!) all about her for over a month, then did two courses of radiation. A year later she was in the Cancer Clinic for followup and asked the doctor there how she was doing. Now, before I continue let me explain that my mother's own doctor had decided to withhold the entire story because he knew she was fragile. The doctor in the Cancer Clinic ignored that and told my mother "I think you deserve to know. Nobody expected you to come out of the hospital last year; a quarter of one percent survive the first year..." Then, in response to 'how long?', she shrugged "Two months?" I think her name was Dr. Ellison. Damn her. I cold-bloodedly decided that I would beat her up after my mother had died. (I'm not normally a street fighter, you know...) My mother promptly went into a major depression, probably lost over sixty pounds, and was back in hospital dying. They brought food to her bed while she slept and took it away while she still slept. She became quite disoriented. My sister made the decision - "We have to bring her home. They're not doing anything for her here." So Mum came home. She was ninety-five pounds and the one doctor I trusted said we were 'on the home stretch'. I became the chief care giver, reading diet books and doing the opposite of what was recommended. I didn't allow her to stop trying. (My sister said that Mum told her "Susan would have made a good Nazi." I'm so proud...) Well, it doesn't matter. I gained weight myself with demonstration eating, but I also got my Mum up from ninety-five pounds to a hundred and forty-four pounds. And she lasted another nine years, in spite of the damned doctors. You know what killed her? Depression. She made contact with the Hemlock Society (a suicide group) and decided to stop eating. And she issued a DNR to the doctor. In hospital one day she coughed and her long-standing cariac arrhythmia stopped her heart.

And on that negative note, I am off for my Cat Scan tomorrow. I feel like punching someone in the nose. A guy butted in ahead of me in line at Costco today. He doesn't realize how lucky he was. (Think Dirty Harry - "Go ahead, punk...make my day!")

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Even horrible experiences can have good moments. It's amazing how kind people can be. Sharon Sahl is a lady I met online. We've exchanged a couple of letters, but she barely knows me. I owed her a letter and I didn't have much 'write' in me, so I sent the briefest note explaining that I was waiting for biopsy results. Look what she sent me! And the nicest accompanying note... Thank you so much, Sharon. Here's a link to her ornaments. My pictures don't do them justice because I messed up the focus. The detail on the figures is amazing! You can make out little stitches on the quilt and clothing pieces and the painting is just lovely. They're on my bedside table now and it makes me happy just looking at them.

Sunday Salon - The Yiddish Policeman's Union

So, I got run over by a bus on Friday. Saturday, I'm standing in the kitchen with my sister, a stupid grin plastered on what's left of my face, reading her a paragraph from this book. She looks bewildered. "Didn't you just get run over by a bus?" she's thinking. "Yeah, but this is a great book!"

The previous paragraph has a faint echo of Michael Chabon's writing style. With apologies to Michael Chabon, of course. What do you call that kind of writing? I don't know the technical term, but I call it amazing!

I'm a little distracted right now, so I'm not reading very quickly. I think I've read about eight chapters so far. I love Michael Chabon's writing! This is a very 'ethnic' book, peppered with Yiddish. (There's a glossary at the back of the book, so that's not a problem.) The story is interesting and well crafted and this is the perfect book for me right now.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

This hasn't been the happiest of days. I went in for a biopsy last week and today I was told that I've got breast cancer and there's lymph node involvement. Perhaps I waited too long to go in about it, but the funny thing is I never for a moment considered the possibility of cancer. I've always been a pretty good physical specimen and I just don't believe in 'illness'. Well, like the old joke, I 'ken the noo'. (That's a Scot's dialect phrase, don't know if I've spelled it correctly...the joke is about an old Scot who is regretting something or other, wailing "If only I'da kenned!" The voice of God comes down "Well, ya' ken the noo!", meaning 'you know now').

Peter and I were sitting in A & W, just finishing off coffee and bacon'n'eggers this morning when the call came telling me that the lab results were in. Less than an hour later we were sitting in the doctor's office while the poor young woman squirmed and tried to get me to say the "C" word so she didn't have to. The office had already made an appointment for me to see a cancer specialist next Friday.

I've told my sister and two of my children. (One lucky child has yet to receive the surprise bucket of icewater over the head. ) Everyone's been very sweet and supportive. And look at the dear note Jon left on the whiteboard.