Sunday, March 18, 2012
World Cancer Day
There isn't much I can say that hasn't been said about cancer. I'm not a researcher, and don't know much more about it than most people. The only thing I can really address is my personal experience with cancer. The thing that strikes me most is when someone is diagnosed with cancer, all their family and friends suffer too. The daily ups and downs, gains and set backs are agonizing, for the patient certainly, and for everyone who loves and cares for them. I say the gains can be agonizing too, because one never knows when it will be snatched from you, there is always the "what if" and "when will" in the back of one's mind. For with cancer, it seems nothing lasts forever, and one learns to live with uncertainty - the uncertainty of whether one is cured, if it will ever come back.
I've had some friends, neighbors, coworkers and even cats with cancer, but today I'm going to talk about my parents, both of whom have had cancer. Currently my mom is undergoing chemo for leukemia.
My dad underwent chemo for colon cancer the summer before the World Trade Center was destroyed. I mentioned to a coworker because, other than having a few colds over the decades, my dad didn't know what it was like to be sick. I thought because of that he wouldn't go through all of with his chemo. She actually became quite angry with me for saying that, but I was right. He only did half of the treatment. He was lucky; he hasn't had a recurrence. Still, during that abbreviated time, the unexpected would happen, horrors cancer has instore that one wouldn't have guessed at. Once he went to the hospital for chemo and they discovered blood clots in his legs. He wasn't allowed to leave because at any minute the clots could break up and lodge in other parts of his body and kill him. Dealing with cancer is bad enough, but it finds horrible side effects to throw one's way.
My mom had breast cancer in the 1980's and had chemo. In 2003 she was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a form of pre-leukemia which can be caused by previous chemotherapy. Just before Christmas we found out it had transformed into AML (Acute Myeloid, or Myelogenous, Leukemia). The beginning of January the specialists at Johns Hopkins gave her 2-3 months with no treatment and 4-6 months with treatment, with a 30% chance of responding to treatment. Unfortunately because of her age and prior MDS, they have no effective treatment, and no cure. She just finished her 3rd round of a clinical trial drug, Vidaza, and the results have been amazing. Both her white blood cells and platelet counts are normal! Her red blood cells are good enough that she no longer needs transfusions (at least for the time being).
How hard January and February were! She spent most of the time in the hospital. She developed gout from being dehydrated. She caught a nasty staph infection that wouldn't clear up, even with Cipro (remember they used Cipro during the anthrax attacks). Her platelets were so low a small bump could have killed her. She had to have red blood cell and platelet transfusions every day. It was one thing after another, and no one really believed she would ever come home. How thankful we all are that she has!
How long will it last? Who knows. Will the future be smooth? Probably not. But how grateful we are for this reprieve, however short it may be.
This World Cancer Day my prayers are for everyone suffering the effects of cancer - the patients, their family and their friends. God bless and comfort you all. May God guide the researchers that one day this disease will just be an ugly memory.
Posted by Oui Oui at 11:54 PM