I see you came here today with your A-game.
That’s good. You’ll need it.
After my mom’s rather pessimistic visit with her surgeon, we met with her oncologist yet again. This time I was prepared. I was ready to do battle. I was armed with a notebook, filled with questions, clinical trial studies, names, facilities and procedures. I left nothing to chance. We were faced with the reality that we had some tough choices to make, and I was going to help my mom make the best possible decision based on all the information gathered.
The oncologist said, “Juli, if I thought that we were at the end of the road, I would tell you. I wouldn’t sugar-coat it.”
I believed him.
I opened up my notebook, ready to do battle, prepared to spar with the notes contained inside.
The battle was never waged.
The oncologist told my mother of a clinical trial that was being done regarding successful outcomes for sarcoma using chemotherapy previously used for advanced breast cancer.
My mother had Stage III, high-grade malignant fibrous histiocytoma, not otherwise specified.
I had read of these clinical trials. I knew the lead researcher was sitting right in front of me.
Tears welled in my eyes. Mom looked at me, quizzically. She didin’t understand. The entire time, my mom relied upon me to translate the jargon, explain the meaning behind treatments, procedures, side effects and outcomes. I smiled at her. She smiled back.
This was good news. We were going to begin a new treatment regimen that would hopefully shrink her tumor and allow her to get the surgery needed to remove the mass and keep her great vessels intact. Treatment would begin that week. The schedule of treatment meant on chemo days, mom wouldn’t be there all day, but rather just a few hours. She would have her treatments a few times per week.
This seemed good.
We left that appointment with a renewed sense of courage. A newfound sense of hope. Hope is a dangerous word. Hope always seems to paint a certain picture in my mind. In my mind’s eye, I see Hope as a rock climber. Hope is this nameless, faceless being, clutching to the end of a rope, dangling at the precipice of some life-changing decision. Hope is stagnant to me. People hope when they have nothing else.
I wanted this feeling to pass. This feeling of utter helplessness and pity. While millions of people around the world are diagnosed with cancer every single day, it doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with or accept. Surrounded by friends and family who were previously diagnosed with cancer didn’t make this bitter pill any easier to swallow. We never felt more alone than we did during this time.
My mom dove into her new regimen with renewed gusto. I accompanied her to her treatments and watched as the life seemed to literally blossom within her body. She seemed happier than she had been in quite some time. I could see her fighting back against the cancer that had taken up residence inside her body. She smiled a bit more. She cried a little less. She laughed at my ridiculous jokes.
I love this woman.
Her treatments progressed. We found ourselves toward the end of the regimen and another CT scan was ordered to measure the size of the tumor. It was only at this time did the smile fade from my mom’s beautiful face. We had been here before and it hadn’t turned out well. We could only wait, hope for the best and see what the results said.
We knew what needed to happen. The tumor needed to shrink down enough to pull itself away from her great vessels and allow the surgeon to go in and remove it with clean margins.
We knew this.
I will never know the reasons, but for whatever reason, the tumor decided that perhaps it had done enough damage. It had wreaked enough havoc.
The treatment had reduced the tumor from the size of a golf ball to the size of a small marble. The CT scan showed it had remarkably pulled away from the great vessels. We were now given the green light for surgery. The surgeon was amazed. In her entire career, she had never seen such response to treatment as what she was witnessing at this time. We were flabbergasted. Speechless. Shocked. Surprised. Happy. Cautious.
As only other cancer patients and family members know, there is always that nagging feeling of doubt. That feeling of dread. That feeling that regardless of how positive something may be, there is always the chance of having Hope pulled right out from under you.
We were cautiously optimistic at the news.
Surgery was scheduled within the week.
(to be continued….)