Monday, April 25, 2011


This is one of those posts that I end up debating with myself over whether I should post it or not. It's a meaningful post to me. I want to get it out of me. But, I worry that it's depressing, or overly dramatic, or something crazy like that. Today, I've decided to go with it. Life isn't always happy, so it seems silly for my blog to always be happy.

As I've mentioned several times now, my mom has (had?) breast cancer. I included the "had" in there because it's an important point. She had localized cancer that was surgically removed. All of her tests came back negative for the cancer having spread. It's very possible that the surgery removed all of the cancer cells and that she's cured. The chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapies she will be receiving are extra therapies in case some of those sneaky HER2+ cells slipped by. They are being given because they reduce the likelihood of the cancer recurring.

I know this is not the worst case scenario when it comes to cancer.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not scared for my mom. I am. I've read over all of the information on the medications that she will be given starting on Wednesday. They don't mince words. Some people do very well with the regimen. Many people do. But...of course there is always a but. With chemo, there is a pretty long list of them. Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bruising, fatigue, fluid retention, risk of infection, mouth sores, cardiac complications, allergic reactions, death. Eek!

Clearly, that slight risk of death from the medications is a tad bit scary. But, when my mind starts wandering into that territory, I just go into distract mode. I need to know this, but dwelling on it doesn't help anything so I do my best to focus on areas with more benefit, like what things I can do now to make things easier for my mom in the weeks to come.

One thing that I can do, is consider the much more likely effects of Chemo, and find ways to help my mom through them. I've done some shopping to stock up on necessities for her. She may not feel great, but damn it, she will not run out of soda on my watch. I'm working out a mental schedule of when to stop over and check on her and do small tasks like changing the cat litter (which she's not allowed to do even if she feels great), picking up laundry and doing shopping. I want to make sure that the little things are covered, so she can focus on the big things.

From her point of view, I think one of the hardest side effects to deal with is the idea of hair loss. It's so much a part of every woman's identity, that just thinking of losing your hair feels like it somehow diminishes you. On paper, it seems like the easiest side-effect because it doesn't hurt, but in reality it's the most visible indication that something is wrong.

From my point of view, the common side-effect that disturbs me the most is the increased risk of infection. The first reason is because I don't want her getting sick while also dealing with the effects of chemo. The second reason is because it means that she is supposed to avoid being around crowds and people who may expose her to germs. And who spreads germs better than an almost five-year-old who goes to daycare, picks his nose, and still hasn't entirely grasped the concept of how tissues work?

Michael has spent at least two days a week with my mom since he was three months old. She has always been a huge part of his life. He looks forward to "grandma days" with excitement. And the feeling is mutual. To quote my mom, "He's the whole purpose to my life."

This week, Michael starts daycare full time. If my mom does well on chemo, somewhere down the line she may be able to take him for a day here or there. But I don't want to make promises to either of them. And it makes me really sad. Sad for my mom that during this difficult time she will not have the comfort of Michael hugs and giggles. Sad for Michael who doesn't really understand what is going on and who is going to miss his grandma terribly. She came over for Easter dinner last night, but it felt more like the last supper to me. Their last supper together, at least for a while.

The current treatment plan calls for four three week cycles of chemo. That's 12 weeks, or three months. I'm sure that those weeks are going to fly by for me. I'm going to be busy juggling work, my normal life, and caring for my mom. It's going to be July before I even know it.

But, I'm not foolish enough to think that those 12 weeks are going to fly by for either of them. Time goes much slower when you are five, so I expect those 12 weeks to feel like an eternity to Michael. Even worse, time goes very slowly when you feel sick and miserable, so I also expect those weeks to be painfully long for my mom. It makes my heart ache for them both.


Mel said...

Does she do those chemo cycles back to back? HUGS. I understand the feelings that you are experiencing, for your mom and for Michael. Hopefully your mom will do well on the chemo. She may have to take lots of zofran for nausea. I know that helps, though. I was on it throughout both pregnancies. Although, I've never experienced chemo nausea. I hope she can be as comfortable as possible throughout the whole ordeal. I heard that chemo has gotten "better," but I's still chemo. Well, at least at the end of the courses there should be great success in keeping this cancer away!

Cacey said...

Errr I don't know what to say because I SUCK at this sort of thing, but I didn't want to ignore your "sad" and not say anything. I'm sorry that you're having to deal with this, your mom to. I think you are doing an amazing job bearing up under the pressure. Hugs!

Janna said...

That sucks and I'm sorry. It is sad and I'm thinking of you, your mom and Michael during this time.

JenFen said...

I think that the fact that you have thought through all of this so thoroughly shows what a thoughtful and compassionate person you are. This is not going to be the easiest time for anybody - for your mom who is going through it, for you who is trying to see her through it and for Michael who is not going to completely understand it. The fact that you are mentally preparing yourself for all of this, well hopefully he lessens the impact a little. And just knowing that we are all here for you in whatever capacity you need us and considering we are all over the country. Big fat hugs to you. You guys will all make it through this.

LauraC said...

I don't think you need to worry about posting it, because so far you have shown a lot of grace under all this stress. Your mom had cancer, that is a huge deal to you and to your entire family, and very difficult.

I hope chemo is kind to her and that Michael adjusts to life at day care quickly.

Karen said...

What an appropriate title for this post. Cancer sucks but you are all doing the best you can. Thinking of you all during this tough time! Hugs!!

Kara said...

Thinking of you. I understand you not wanting to post. It's hard to post on sad things. My blog went quiet for almost two weeks because we have been dealing with a very sad situation. Hang in there. I'll have you and your family in my prayers.

Maria said...

It sucks. It's hard. We are totally here for you, if there's anything you need. Thinking about you, your Mom, and Michael.

Also, maybe you could skype with her so she and Michael can still see each other a lot, but without the nose picky germs?

Julie said...

I don't think you need to qualify your emotions--they are what they are and its totally okay. Chemo is scary, unknown territory and hopefully she will tolerate it better than you expect. With drugs, they have to list every side effect anyone has EVER had. Those lists are daunting, but she will not likely have all of the side effects on the list. But yeah, I would be concerned about the infection risk with a germ factory preschooler. It is freakin unrelenting.

I am sad for you and your mom and Michael for all the of the changes ahead. Try to focus on the chemo saving her life, rather than making her feel like shit. But you are a wonderful daughter to be able to anticipate ways you can help, whether its changing the cat litter or making sure she has enough soda.

I hope things go well for her and that she tolerates it well. Hugs to you all.

Beth said...

What everyone else said. Hugs to you. You are an amazing daughter, mother, and wife. Let your mom know there are a bunch of cyber strangers praying for her and crossing their fingers that chemo isn't brutal. I hope that everyone proves to be super resilient around you, and that Andy can find a little time to pamper you and take care of you. You deserve it.

Deanna said...

I'm so sorry. Just got a chance to catch up on your blog as I'm in transition changing jobs and moving the family. I cannot imagine how hard it will be for either Michael or your mom. Would skyping help? (haven't read the other comments so sorry if this is redundant). At least they'd get to "see" each other and talk. It has helped K man through our process.