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.”