Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Big "C"

For those of you who don't know, my mom has breast cancer.  She was diagnosed in early October, had he mastectomy in November and I just got back from visiting/taking care of her (which was a joke if you know my mom).  She only has it in one breast, it's ductal, it's in one lymph node but not in her muscle (some is hanging outside her lymph node though), it's stage II, blah, blah, blah, and more medical information.  Really, let's leave all of that to the doctors... all I know is that my mom has cancer.

When she was first diagnosed it felt like she had the flu - something she just had to get over by resting and drinking plenty of fluids.  And then she had her mastectomy and somehow it all became real.  And all those years of sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner while my dad was on the phone talking cancer became very very real.  From what I'm told, the good news is that she has slow moving and well-behaved caner (because what other kind of cancer would dare infiltrate my mom) but she still has cancer.  And let me tell you something, having cancer sucks.

It isn't the actual disease that sucks so much, it's everything else.  My opinion is simply based on my observations and the amount of times (I think it was approximately 2, 351 give or take a thousand) that I heard my mom say "Having cancer is like having a job."  Because, you see, when you have cancer you have about 100 different doctors that all "coordinate" your care (and add to that my Dad who is still wearing his doctor's coat at every turn).  Just last week my mom had appointments to see her breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and oncologist.  This week she has / had appointments to get a MUGA (I know I'm so not spelling that correctly especially since all I could think about when they were talking about it was that it sounded how my husband, with his Cambridge accent, would pronounce "mugger"), see her dentist (not specifically related to the cancer but in a way it is), go to her vascular surgeon to get her portacath put in and see her plastic surgeon again.  I know she still has to make appointments with a radiation oncologist and a physical therapist and I'm sure she has to see a slew of other doctors at some point, like maybe an orthopedic doctor or heck, why not a gynecologist just for fun?  But somehow she has to see all these physicians, keep track of what they tell her, and make sense out of all the opinions. 

And now she gets to look forward to 16 weeks of chemotherapy (4 weeks of the big guns and then 12 of the not-so-big guns if there is such a thing), however many weeks of having her expander (a torture contraption they put in her breast so they could expand it - hence the name - a little at a time and stretch the skin for her impending implant) expanded, possibly some weeks of radiation, and then another surgery to put in her new boob.  I mean, I'm jealous of her just typing this all out. 

But, my mom being my mom, looks at all the positives and she has found quite a few.  She is amazed, awed, and humbled by the amount of people who are praying for her and sending her good wishes.  The 2 buffets in her dining room and the dining room table are covered with cards from more people than I think I even know.  When I arrived at her house last week she had at least 5 beautiful flower arrangements out and more were delivered.  I didn't even have to cook while I was there because people just kept bringing her food.  And the phone rang off the hook of people who wanted to make sure she was okay and tell her they love her.  And, to top it all off, my father has started going to church with her again (but much to her chagrin she still has an unbaptized grandchild which I'm sure she is praying about this very minute).

At the moment, I don't know how I really feel about this whole situation.  All I keep hearing is good news from her doctors (even though her breast surgeon may want to rethink the phrase "killer report" when referring to a good pathology report), she is healing well (already driving and reaching her hand above her head 2 weeks out from her mastectomy... what do you want, she is an overachiever), and everyone is positive.  But, my mom has cancer so there is that. 

I'm just glad she allowed me to come up and help her out for a week and I guess, much like her, I'll just have to wait to see what the next step is.  But I know whatever it is she will face it head on with a legion of people behind her supporting her and loving her.  And that is a testament to the amazing woman my mom is (which hopefully someday she will be able to acknowledge and not be constantly surprised that people are affected by her diagnosis).

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