Here’s the thing. Doctors don’t always know best. Sometimes, they don’t know at all. That’s what we were with facing my mom’s diagnosis.
Like I’ve mentioned before, there had always been a new chemo cocktail, or new clinical trial to sign up for, and in the end, they had worked. What’s crazy, is that over the 9 year period my mom had spent battling this vicious disease, I just became used to the idea that the doctors would prescribe a new treatment, and that new treatment would work. You start to get used to that. And you never should. Cancer isn’t predictable. It can change courses at any time and thinking it can always be cured is silly. But, that’s what happens after almost a decade.
So there we were. My mom had some sizable tumors hanging around in and on her liver. While those pesky tumors were having a great old time living in their liver house, we were trying to find a way to kick out those unwanted house guests.
We didn’t learn much on Sunday, but by Monday, the sterile white box was now filled with 5 of us and 4 of them. So, 9 in a box, and the big one said, “Hello, there.”
“There is a surgery that we can perform to add a stint in the liver to open up the passages, in turn allowing the liver to function and filter out the toxins,” one of the doctors explained to our tribe. “It’s not guaranteed to work, and if it does work, it’s only temporary. The tumors will continue to grow and eventually block the stint, and unfortunately we do not have a way to treat them at this point.”
My head exploded with thoughts: What the f*ck? This is MD Anderson. You guys are the best! You’re supposed to be able to treat this. What do you mean there are no options???
“Now, I know you all have a big wedding coming up, and we are doing everything we can to make sure this lovely lady will attend,” one of the four doctors said.
“Well, I’m walking her down the aisle, so let’s do whatever is necessary!” my mom chimed in. I will have you know we had JUST chatted about her mother-of-the-bride dress, and how the tailor should have it finished very soon. She couldn’t wait to try it on.
Turns out the tumors were inoperable because of both size and location, and my mom had been through the list of chemo, and reached the end of options. Basically, when you start chemo, the doctors pump the strongest cocktail available and hope it works. Once that chemo stops working, you move down the chain, and make your way from strongest to weakest. At some point, the next available chemo treatment just isn’t strong enough. And that’s where we were.
To be very frank, the doctors weren’t even sure that mom would make it through to even have the surgery. I think at this point, they pulled us out to talk to us, minus dad. He had already gotten the run-down upon arrival. “How long do we realistically have?” one of us asked. “Honestly, we really have no idea how long she could survive. We are looking at anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.” They had scheduled the surgery for the following day, or maybe the next? I can’t remember. “We will take it one step at a time, and try to get her to your wedding,” they said as they looked me in the eye.
The three of us walked back in to the room, slightly deflated. Her body was filled with so many stinking toxins that it was hard for her to operate. I dare say, she would have made any bodybuilder jealous with the built-in tan she was rocking. But the anticipation of surgery was keeping her alert.
I’m pretty sure at this point my mom was somewhere between thinking let me just go in peace now, and I need to make my daughters’ wedding. Fair enough. She had been fighting off the Big C for 9 years and the tide was now swinging from her corner to its corner. I believe she knew it was the end, and was figuring out how to best navigate the new road map that God had laid out in front of her.
So here we all were. Right smack dab in the middle of crappy options. On the left, we have a surgery, that may or not be successful, that may or may not work for more than 24 hours but could work for as long as a few months. On the right, we have the issue of her super jaundiced body that may or may not be ready for surgery, and may or may not survive the surgery. The big cherry on top was the fact that her body needed to get stable enough for surgery, to cure the jaundice and the insane amount of toxins in her body, so she could have a stint put in to cure the jaundice, but she wasn’t stable enough. So around we go.
And all she was really worried about was getting home so she could try on her mother of the bride dress that had been altered and was ready for a fitting. Classic Kay.