Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The C Word

Hearing that a loved one has cancer can be emotional, heart-wrenching news.  When it happens to the person who brought you into this world and and has loved you unconditionally from the time you were conceived, it can be terrifying.  My mother has lived her life the right way; never smoked, in good physical shape (still mowing the lawn at 71) and doesn't drink except for the occasional glass of cheap sweet wine. She always took care of her teeth, got regular physicals and had any available preventive health screening done.  She's tall for a woman of her generation, 5'10", slender, and still has her original hair color without the assistance of Loreal.  She's easy to envy with her natural beauty. 

So what's the point, many may ask, of doing all the right things when you can still get cancer?  I don't know, but I guess one could project that since our family is predisposed to cancer, bad habits like smoking would bring about problems a lot earlier in life.  My mom's mother died from stomach cancer in 1982, soon after I started college.  Grandmama also did all the right things, but back then we didn't have colonoscopies and CT scans.  Her cancer was found with exploratory surgery, but by then it was too late and she passed a few months later.  There seems to be a genetic component, obviously, but my wish has been that by the time I get to be around that age, we will have a cure.

We're getting there.  A good friend who works on research for cancer drugs at Pfizer reassured me that with all the progress we're making, the day will come when we manage cancer the same way diabetes and high blood pressure are managed now. 

Fortunately, even though my mom's cancer has metastasized from her small intestine to her liver which is covered in malignant lesions, there now exists a treatment which should enable her to live another 20-30 years without a lot of negative side-effects.  The fine doctors at the UNC Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill will do a localized chemo treatment called chemoembolization on half of my mother's liver tomorrow.  They will do the same thing to the other half of her liver in a couple of months as it's important for the liver to function while its other half is being blasted with chemo.  It reminds me of the "one to wash, one to wear" philosophy for the liver.  All without surgery, utilizing the major artery in her leg to access the liver, the meds will be injected and sealed within her liver.  Being ever positive, Mom reserved tickets for a Caribbean cruise in October and expects to have a great time. 

When visiting a few days ago, I set up a blog for my mother so she could keep all interested parties informed of her progress.  Her blog is titled "The Organ Within Me"; a play on words since in addition to being a high school choral director, mom was also a church organist for most of her life. 

Sharon, Ruth (Mom), Paul and Diana

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