Sunday, November 30, 2008

My mom: the scan, part II

My mom sent me an email this evening and said that she looked up her CT scan results on her online patient account. She said it was all highly medical terms, but from what she read, she was pretty sure it said that the cancer had metastasized to her liver and abdominal wall.

Then she said she'd wait to hear the doctor interpret the test results when she sees him on Friday. But until then, she seems to think there is now no hope. And other than say that maybe that's not what the test results said, I'm not sure what I can do for her.

I am bouncing back and forth between being okay and trying to stay positive on the one hand, and suddenly feeling sad when I see or hear about other families sharing, especially when it comes to children and grandparents.

Thanksgiving was very nice but also hard. After dinner, the friends who hosted dinner were sharing photographs with (their) family that was there. I had my camera with me and had just taken photos at my children's school, and I suddenly felt so sad that I didn't have anyone there to share them with. I planned to upload the photos when I got home so my mom could see them, but I could not help but think that this would not last.

Since she sees the doctor on Friday and we don't know what he'll say (immediate surgery to get rid of all the nasty cancer?), we are waiting until his prognosis before we try to find a way to get together.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My mom: the specialist and the scan

Mom had her more detailed scan today. She doesn't know much more than she did before. This CT scan focused entirely on her pancreas so that the specialist will be able to see exactly what is going on and what exactly he can do about it.

I am feeling much more relaxed, though, now that I know who this specialist is. His name is Dr. Jeffrey Norton, and he's the Division Chief of Surgical Oncology at Stanford Cancer Center in Palo Alto, CA (the same place Patrick Swayze is getting treatment).

In fact, I just found out tonight that Dr. Norton was reportedly the surgeon who removed the pancreatic tumor from Steve Jobs (of Apple fame) in 2004. Dr. Norton is one of the foremost experts in the field of pancreatic cancer. Fun fact along the "six degrees" line of thinking: a medical procedure invented by Dr. Norton to treat a rare pancreatic disease was featured in the TV show "House."

So I feel she is really going to be in good hands. She has an appointment to see him on Friday, December 5th.

Tonight she was tired but largely in good spirits. And I was glad to hear her say that she's kind of in information overload and intentionally taking a break from this when she needs to, and doing things that focus her attention elsewhere.

I am doing okay. Still going through periods of shock and denial and feeling like this is all surreal, like I'll call her in a few days and discover this was all a nightmare and she's fine. In the meantime, she's going to her brother's for Thanksgiving and I am going to work hard at focusing on what I do have in my life (including my mom right now).

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My mom

I have not written in a long time, and for that I apologize. I have been dealing with my feelings in therapy and talking with friends who live nearby. For some reason, it has been hard to write about it, but I don't feel like I am at the mercy of my memories the way I did even a few months ago.

Besides, I met with my rabbi today and he told me to start writing again regularly. Even if it is hard and even if I do not know what to say and even if no one is listening.

Because I just found out my mom is dying.

She has pancreatic cancer and the doctor said she may have only months to live. I hope the doctor is wrong and a specialist will say something different. I am currently going back and forth between shock and denial.

She found this out this past week. The cancer part was confirmed on Friday. On Wednesday (tomorrow) she will have a very detailed CT scan to determine if the tumor is operable. The doctor said the tumor partially or completely surrounds a major blood vessel in her pancreas and is partially or completely blocking the bile ducts. Her lymph nodes are also involved, but we do not know to what extent exactly.

After she has her CT scan she will see a specialist about treatment options, although from what her current doctor says, it is more a matter of putting off the inevitable than it is actually treating.

My mom lives 2000 miles away. I have a brother who lives near her and is very close to her emotionally. I hope that I and my children (my mom's only grandchildren) will be able to see her once more. Despite all of the challenges in our relationship, my mom and I have reconciled and pretty much figured out how to have an adult friendship without inviting hurt every time we talk to each other. I cannot fathom never getting to give her another hug.

I am scared and sad and hopeful and numb. I want to be able to share this with people I know, but I am unsure if I should post things twice, once here and once somewhere less anonymous. Or if it is time to tell friends that this is my blog, this is a part of me. Some friends already know about my struggles with depression and anxiety. Some might be shocked by what I have written here. I just don't know what to do right now.

My rabbi said I need to check in with him every few days even if it is just a quick note by email. He said this is going to be a difficult journey and one I should not travel alone. In my mind I thought this is especially true as I enter my "dark time" of year.

I will talk with my mom again tomorrow (Wed) night and hear about her scan. We will hopefully also talk about a possible visit and how we can make that happen in terms of time and money.

Right now I just want to curl up somewhere warm, eat something comforting, and not think about this.