Riding the cancer coaster

Two trips to The Park this week.  Two visits with oncologists – medical oncologist on Monday and radiological oncologist on Thursday.  The 240 additional miles put on the odometer of my re-animated shit mobile brought very promising news.

Stage 1 (ie: localized) non-small cell carcinoma.  Just a cancer nugget – about an inch and a half long – in the lower lobe of Mom’s right lung.  This was discovered almost accidentally in November as a result of a chest x-ray ordered to see if she had pneumonia.  Accidental discovery. 

Given that Mom has already told us she would not be having any sort of surgery for this, nor did she want to do chemo*, it is even MORE miraculous that the oncologists agree that this particular cancer is quite treatable.  Only radiation.  Stereotactic radiation, to be specific.  Like a ‘gamma knife’ procedure, only using very localized x-rays, it will only hit the cancer, leaving no burns, no systemic effects, and quite possibly no substantial side effects.

One ‘planning’ visit.  Four treatments of 30 minutes each over the course of 2 weeks.  That’s it.

Scheduling is underway, and the radiation oncologist was rather optimistic that this procedure will ‘control’ the cancer.  As in, it won’t spread.  It won’t grow.  It won’t cause her any further trouble.


Some snippets from the past week:

– Flipping through Mom’s medical charts, she is classified as a “98 Pack Year Smoker” – given that she smoked 2-3 packs a day for about 65 years.  At 82 years old?  i almost want to ask that cancer nugget “what took you so long?”

– My niece, DQ, is stepping up to the role of “Number One Son” for this particular journey.  She is earning that house.  But it’s frustrating… The docs will ask Mom a question – “Why did you have the initial chest x-ray? What were your symptoms?”.  Mom will start to respond with a long story about how she was sick with some breathing problems, but it was just because of the inhaler, and that stupid breathing machine she has to use to sleep…. and then DQ will jump in with more details, about how Mom didn’t want to go to the doctor, but we made her…  The two of them, full of nervous energy, will go back and forth, overwhelming the doc as he tries to pull the pixels together into something useful.  And i sit on my hands and shut up…

– Waiting for the radiation oncologist to review the PET Scan results, we were asked to have Mom fill out a ‘general health’ questionnaire.  Questions such as “How many surgeries have you had?”, “List your medications”, and “Do you have diabetes?”.  There is also a section on mental health.  As i read through the questions, i asked Mom “Are you generally happy with your life?” and she immediately said “No”.  Improvising a question, without breaking cadence, i asked her “Have you ever been happy with your life?” and she immediately said “No”.

– There was a section of the health questionnaire that asked about pain.  Three questions:  “Do you have joint pain?”  “Do you have back pain?” and “Do you have neck pain?”  She replied affirmative to the back pain question.  i added “Carrier” on the line next to the neck pain question.  i hope someone reads it one of these days and laughs…


* When talking with my niece, DQ, and me about possible treatments prior to our first visit to the oncologist, Mom stated quite clearly that she would not consider chemotherapy.  Her reason?  “Eating is the only thing I enjoy, and if I can’t eat, or I can’t taste anything?  Life isn’t worth much.”

27 thoughts on “Riding the cancer coaster

    • i would probably have an easier time putting up with your version of ‘pain-in-the-neck-itis’ as you are unrelated to me. something about family that makes the ol’ head melt…

  1. Boy! That IS good news! All that smoking and that’s all she’s got? That means she was able to enjoy decades of smoking and hasn’t really paid a price for it. Hardly seems fair, does it? And well done to DQ. Did you think she would rise to the occasion?

    • it’s pretty fabulous news, all things considered… the smoking has taken a toll on all of her systems, no doubt, and she’s carrying a degree of physical misery as a result. if she led an active lifestyle? there would have been a price. but she doesn’t…

      DQ? i’ve seen her under duress before – when dad was sick – and she did well. doesn’t entirely surprise me. just glad that she’s doing it… so i don’t have to.

    • i still consider myself to be extrordinarily lucky – just having a bumpy start to the new year. things may be looking better. we had an entire weekend with sunshine. that helps considerably. thanks for the hugs!

    • she could have bought her own iron lung with what she spent on smokes. but if she’d done that? she wouldn’t need one….many, many shitmobiles. i don’t spend much on them!

  2. Sounds like she might be happy if she is able to taste and eat…that’s something. You might have to change one of her “happy” answers….maybe.

    • i’ve tried taking her out to nicer restaurants – to really expand her joy a bit. but she’s more driven by ‘quantity’ it seems than ‘quality’… so a trip to the ol’ China Buffet seems to make her happier than a trip to a gourmet restaurant…

  3. As already stated above, good news for sure. However, now I wonder if there’s a correlation between surviving a cancer diagnosis and not being happy with your life. Hmmm.

  4. Yes, doctors do make a lot of money but listening to family members natter at each other isn’t helping the situation. Like you, Daisyfae, I have to make myself shut up when I’m with my mother at her doctor’s and let her answer the questions herself if at all possible. The doctor is not only getting info. from her, but he/she is also getting clues about the patient’s mental health and overall understanding of what’s going on around her. If a family member is always jumping in to correct her or answer for her, the doctor is being stymied. With my mom, I try to be just the “translator” when she can’t hear or doesn’t get what the doctor said. But it’s hard to do that. Really hard!

    Glad your mom doesn’t have to undergo a lot invasive procedures. That’s great news.

    • that’s exactly right… the docs can learn a lot of ‘meta data’ from how the story is told. and i literally sit on my hands as a reminder to keep my damn mouth shut. but it’s hard… good luck with your journey with your mom as well…

  5. i’m glad you do these posts about your family daisyfae.. the news is much better than it could be considering how much she smoked over the years…yet mom seems generally depressed…curious, any mention of an antidepressant in any of the drs visits? sending love from florida!

    • on the phone with mom tonight, she was complaining about having to stay still for almost an hour while they made the mold for her radiation treatments. i reminded her that it was far better than chemo, surgery, or letting the cancer run wild and eat her lungs…

      we’ve discussed antidepressants. she’s already taking xanax – mostly to deal with her living conditions. she’s a retired psych nurse, and has a strong aversion to psycho-active meds, but it’s not for lack of encouragement on the part of her kids. i think i’m the only one not being medicated for anything in the entire family…

    • i like to think that when i’m older and feeble, i can keep myself entertained with internet access and a large-print monitor. there will still be things to see, even if i can’t ‘do’ any longer. so long as my eyes hold out… sorry your mom’s crabby. we should feed them tequila and teach them to bar fight.

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