Friday, August 24, 2007

Not Prepared to Hear Those Words...

So today has been a wake up call for me. It's not exactly like I've been oblivious to the whole "cancer thing" since it has obviously been the focal point of my life for the past 16 months, it's just that we have been fairly lucky so far. How crazy does that sound? We have been "lucky"? Most people probably wouldn't describe my family as lucky considering we have been in and out of hospitals for the past year and a half ....and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.

So mom had her check up today at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Her treatment is very different than dads. Dad has to go thru 4 to 5 hours of chemo at the hospital every other Tuesday, followed by 46 more hours of continuous chemo from home. So, every other week, dad gets to go thru hell, not sleep, feel nauseous, etc. He has been doing that routine since January.

Mom on the other hand has been extremely lucky... there is that word again... with her treatment. For the past 16 months mom has taken a pill. The little, white, $4,200 a month, miracle pill. It has been that simple. No nausea. No hair loss. None of the typical chemo side effects. She was given a one in five shot of living a year. We celebrated that one year anniversary in April and she has not shown any signs of backing down. Her miracle drug (Tarceva) has worked damn well. For many lung cancer patients Tarceva makes you worse. Again, here we are at the 16 month mark and mom is still going strong. Until today.

Angie and Janeen drove mom to her appointment in Seattle, not because they needed to, just because they wanted to go along. Angie wanted to take some pictures for the presentation we are doing for the American Cancer Society. She figured it would be a good time to get some photos and document the beautiful, top-of-the-line treatment facility. When it comes to cancer... at least mom's battle with cancer... there have been three hard days where the doctors talk but the words don't come out right. Or when they do, they are in slow motion. Today was bad day number three.

Statistically, mom shouldn't be here. Mom really has become the poster child for Tarceva. She holds the records for any patient down there when it comes to the length of time the drug has continued to confuse the cancer. Her record appears to have ended today. For the first time since April of '06, mom went to the doctor and came away with bad news. Her CT scan shows that the cancer is no longer being confused by the Tarceva and is starting to grow again. The problem with the cancer growing, other than the obvious reason, is that they made it really clear to us on day one that Tarceva is currently her only real option. Today, the doctor used the word chemo with my mom. He said she will continue to use Tarceva until the 26th of September and then she will get a CT scan. If the scan shows that the cancer has continued to grow, she will stop taking Tarceva and begin Chemo. The routine will go like this...Chemo on a Monday, Chemo the next Monday, then the next week off. Then it starts over again. Life as mom lived it will have to change a little.

I am not ready for this. We are not ready for this. I try to be prepared but I am SO not prepared for this. My family is my world. My parents have been sick but they have continued to look like mom and dad. Nothing has changed about them so far. Neither are bald. Neither are sick enough to stay in bed. Neither look horrible. They both work (too much) and both have gone about their everyday lives. All of that is going to change and I am not prepared for that. I knew this day would come. We all knew, but after being so prepared to hear bad news for so long... yet never hearing anything but positive results for the past 16 months.... we became immune to the possibility that me might actually hear something bad come out of the doctors mouth.

Bad day number one was April 19th, 2006 hearing my sobbing mom tell me over the phone that she had lung cancer. Bad day number two was 3 days later when the doctor said "She has options if it is only in one lung".... followed an hour later with the results that is was throughout both. Today, hearing that her only option of buying time has begun to fail her.... it is like getting a shot to the stomach.

There is not a damn thing I can do. To make things worse, it is one of the only times my dad didn't go to her appointment. He thought she was fine because Angie was there. He is sad that he wasn't with her. After hearing the news I drove to my dad's office and took him to lunch. We said very little... which is probably typical for grieving, type A, want-to-save-the-world, stubborn Germans. There was a real appreciation about him though. He didn't say it, but I could see it in his eyes. He had the eyes of a lost soul and I did everything I could to disguise my broken heart so he wouldn't see it in my eyes. Today has been a tough day.

My mom seems different tonight. I have missed this "mom". The mom who really gets it. The mom who stops trying to please the world and quickly checks her priorities. Recently she is working 10 hours a day, spreading herself too thin and it makes us a little crazy. Unfortunately it has to take something like this for her to realize the rest of the stuff she does throughout the day can wait. Her happiness needs to come first. Don't get me wrong. Mom isn't giving up the fight, she's just going to make sure her priorities are where they should be.

I have so much more to say but I think this is it for tonight. We will post more information soon.

With sad eyes-


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear that the tarceva isn't working anymore. Your mom is a fighter, she will come through this. Let me know if you need anything. You guys are in my thoughts.

-Shellee :)

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for some time now. I'm just one of those people out in cyber space who happened upon this site.

Doreen, I wish you well in this next phase of your treatment. I also want to recommend that you think of all those people who have beat cancer...there are quite a few! There's more to it than just Tarceva.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.