I know my sister Cyd would be a much better author of my mom’s Caring Bridge page, but since my proximity to mom’s care is the most direct, I regret to say you are stuck with my vanilla version for practical reasons. Although updates won’t be frequent at this point, I thought it would be nice to get everyone up to speed on the smorgasbord of medical conditions my mom is facing right now.
The best analogy I can use to describe my mom’s recent health journey is the children’s circular story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff. It’s a whimsical tale that illustrates the slippery slope of how one simple event can result in a string of subsequent events. “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw. When he’s finished he’ll ask for a napkin”….and the story continues on. You get the idea.
Well as many of you know, my mom was first diagnosed with bladder cancer 18 years ago. By the grace of God, and some help from immunotherapy, she enjoyed nearly two decades of cancer free living. Amen!! Eighteen months ago, during a routine annual exam to monitor her bladder, they found two new cancer strains, typical bladder cancer and squamous cell bladder cancer. Having just lost our dad to bladder cancer a couple years back, we realized that she might not be as fortunate this time in her fight. After a couple small surgeries to remove cancerous lesions, she decided to add immunotherapy treatments as well. These treatments often cause my mom bladder infections and so it came as no surprise when she was diagnosed with one back in December. After a round of antibiotics didn’t resolve her fever symptoms, she went back to her doctor. They ordered an x-ray which revealed pneumonia like spots on her lungs. More antibiotics were prescribed and a return visit showed no improvement. She was sent to a pulmonary specialist and after a couple of lung biopsies was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Oddly, they also noticed a spot on her pancreas. The Endocrinologist wasn’t overly concerned, but thought it might be best to biopsy the pancreas just to be sure. Unfortunately, despite the doctor’s optimism, the growth turned out to be stage 3 pancreatic cancer. Suddenly all the other health struggles we had been working to diagnosis paled in comparison to this diagnosis.
Due to mom’s compromised health, surgery to remove the cancer is not advised. Without surgery, her diagnosis is considered terminal. We have all read the statistics on survival rates with pancreatic cancer and know that her prognosis is not good. But true to mom’s form, she remains positive. She has been undergoing chemotherapy since mid-May. She has tolerated her treatments very well. Despite lethargy, body aches and a bit of “chemo brain”, she has been able to continue all of her favorite things; water aerobics, church, outings with her friends and family to name a few. Her recent CT scan at the end of June showed no growth of the tumor on her pancreas. This was celebrated news despite knowing the cancer will likely outsmart the chemotherapy at some point in the future. In the meantime, she is planning a trip to Alaska with her youngest grandson for early August. (Kevin and I are lucky co-travelers) This commitment was the first thing she mentioned to the doctor after her diagnosis, “I have a trip I HAVE to be on in August. How are we going to make that happen?” Based on how she is feeling today, this goal should be accomplished with ease.
Although she is currently taking a restorative reprieve from chemotherapy so that she feels well while traveling, she will be returning to biweekly treatments upon her return. These treatments will continue indefinitely or until they are no longer providing benefit.
We will be sure to keep everyone up to date as her treatment or condition changes. For now, no news is good news.