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!")


At 6:40 PM, Blogger Debra Hamel said...

I'll be thinking of you tomorrow, Susan! Let us know what happens.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Tom P. said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

At 12:04 AM, Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Susan, you are magnificent!

You're right, doctors don't know everything.

Like Debra and Tom, I'm thinking of you...

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me too, Susan, my thoughts very much with you.
Things have changed so much since your mother's day, both regarding the attitude of the carers (and doctors), and the treatments available. The surgery is good as it will stop any future worry about those areas. You are correct that they would not suggest surgery if they thought it would not do the trick. You are going to pull through 150 per cent from this.

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming to this on Wednesday, Susan, I hope it all went well yesterday. When will you have any results?

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Kimmy said...

Doctor's definitely don't know everything!

Keep up that positive attitude, Susan. I agree with Clare, you are magnificent!

I am praying for you!


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