Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The C-Word

Cancer has been skulking around lately, bullying people that I care about.

Ken's dad's cancer reoccurred a few months ago. We just got word that it's getting worse. There's no way of telling how quickly it will move, but the news has us thinking about saying that final goodbye in the foreseeable future. He miraculously recovered from his deathbed seven years ago. Every day since then has been a bonus. We just don't want him to suffer. Apparently the doctors increased his painkillers, so for now he's doing OK.

My step-mum* is also in the midst. She had a malignant polyp removed from her intestine a few weeks ago. The doctors are pretty sure it's all self-contained, but just to be on the safe side they're going to surgically remove a portion of her intestine. Not fun. And "pretty sure it's self-contained" isn't good enough, so we'll all be waiting with baited breath until the final results are in after the surgery. I personally have a lot of faith that it'll all turn out fine, but it's a horrible ordeal for my step-mum to have to go through.

And now there's my grandmother. (My mother's mother.) For the past nine years we were vaguely aware that there was something growing on the end of her nose that had to be monitored. The g.p. was keeping a close eye on it, we believed. Finally the time came for her to have it removed. She was referred to a hospital clinic.

My mum accompanied my grandmother to the appointment. She expected that there would be a brief procedure, perhaps not even requiring stitches, to remove the offending portion of skin. Then they could meet up with my grandfather and my aunt and they'd all go out for a nice lunch.

Her jaw dropped open when the consulting doctor starting talking. He was wording it as gently as possible, but the word "disfigurement" was involved. He said that there was cancer all through the end of my grandmother's nose, and that the best, simplest thing to do would be to just remove that whole piece of the nose. He said "I'm not a plastic surgeon, but I'd do my best..."

Are you kidding me? Nose cancer? If this was a movie, I would find it funny. But in real life, not so much.

In any case, my grandmother was not enthusiastic about being disfigured. Even at the age of 89, she takes care of her appearance. They were presented with another option, of localized radiation therapy every day for 2 - 3 weeks. There would be a slightly greater chance that the cancer wouldn't be completely licked, but at least my grandmother would be able to keep her nose intact. My grandmother opted for Plan B.

So, first of all my mother is completely bewildered by the fact that the cancer, which started as a simple skin spot, was permitted to progress this far without any treatment. The g.p. had NINE YEARS to do something about it. And what did she do? She let the damned cancer eat my grandmother's nose. That is not excusable.

Secondly, now my mother and her sisters have to coordinate getting my grandmother to the hospital for radiation therapy, which is going to take hours every day in itself (counting travel time and sitting in waiting rooms). Not only that, but someone has to stay with my grandfather because he's blind, frail, and gets confused. He can't be left alone. It's doable, but it's going to be an ordeal for everyone involved.

I can't think of a good ending, because none of these stories has any kind of closure at the moment. I'll just say that this is a powerful test of my faith, and leave it there.

* In deference to the preferences of the women I love, I am referring to them as "mum" instead of "mom".


Jenski said...

Blech. I feel like I know many people who have similarly sucky situations. My thoughts are with you and your whole family as you get through these tough times!

(And I like 'mum'!!!)

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh no. I'm so sorry your family has to deal with all of this - and at the same time, too. You will all be in my prayers.

Don't know if you're interested, but I've read a few things about cancer and thought I'd pass them along. For what they're worth:


Warped Mind of Ron said...

So sorry to hear about all the cancer events in your life. I will keep them all in my thoughts and hope for the best results possible.

darcknyt said...

I'm so sorry about all the bad news. I'll be sure to keep your kin in prayer.

Karen said...

My grandpa had nose cancer in the mid-80s. He was scarred by the surgery, but not too badly.

Cancer sucks so much. Sorry it is so abundant in your life.

Buzzardbilly said...

My word! My heart goes out to your family for sure. Your grandmother's nose reminds me of my sister's friend who found a lump in her breast and the doctor said they should "watch it for a year." At the end of that year, the cancer had spread and she was given six months to live. She fought like hell. She's been all over the country to specialists, and so far she's made it six or seven years. I would love five minutes to give that doctor some what-for. My sister (who is an RN and didn't know about it until the 6-month sentence was delivered) says that if a doctor tells you to "watch" something, you should tell him to take it off that very second and he can watch it in a petri dish for as long as he likes.

I don't blame your grandmother for opting for treatment rather than removal. At her age, treatment has to be better than removal.

powdergirl said...

Oh! Poor Grandma, I don't think anyones ever ready to wear a facial disfigurement. How sad that she has got to her advanced age and now has this to face. My sympathy and a big hug to her.

I had a good friend years ago, TJ, a health nut, body buider, semi-pro foot ball player. He kept talking to jis Dr about abdominal pain, the Dr kept telling him it was an ulcer. He was 26 years old and not care in the world. Ulcer? MY ASS.
By the time he collapsed and was hauled off to emergency, the cancer was into him so deep there was no help for it, morphine drip to count down his final days. It was brutal.

Dr's are no longer practicing preventative medicine and we're paying, your Grandma is paying through the nose, literally. How very very sad.

Hard to see a bright side, isn't it?

Sparkling Red said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and support. It certainly makes one aware of the need to question doctors and take responsibility for one's own health.

Scarlet said...

Cancer is very much in my family as well. I lost a cousin at the age of 40 to breast cancer and both my grandmothers died of ovarian.

We check ourselves annually but there's only so much we can do. I'll be praying for your family as well as my own. Remember, we have a BIG God, so anything is possible with Him.

((Hugs)) to you and yours!

NicoleB said...


Dianne said...

thinking of you