Terminal

2 Jul

On Tuesday, my mom was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. We’ve been told she has 6-12 months to live.

About 18 months ago, my mom was found to have a tumor on her liver (not uncommon because she has liver disease). She was successfully treated with a targeted procedure called TACE. Her doctor (interventional radiologist) said at the time that she would continue to develop new tumors and best case scenario was, we would play whack-a-mole, with new tumors growing, him zapping them, and that going on and on until it couldn’t anymore.

Six months ago, routine blood testing found an elevated level of a particular cancer marker. My mom went for a CT scan and there was a small spot, but it was so small, the doctor recommended waiting three more months and then looking at it again.

Three months later, my mom went in for more blood work and the cancer marker had spiked. I took her for a CT scan on Tuesday and that’s when we learned she has a large (baseball-sized), aggressive tumor on her liver that is growing into the portal vein and vena cava, and that there are two spots in her lungs and one in the lining of her heart (very close to where the liver tumor is).

This means it’s Stage 4. This means it’s incurable. This means my mom is going to die, sooner than later. This means I’m heartbroken.

Her interventional radiologist walked us through some options. Do the same TACE procedure she had before, recognizing the best it would do is hopefully slow down the liver tumor to buy a little more time and that it would case some pretty intense discomfort for about a month (when she doesn’t have much time…). Do targeted beam radiation — another targeted procedure that would hopefully slow the liver tumor growth, but one that usually takes months to be effective (and again, she doesn’t have much time). Do systemic chemo to try to get all the tumors, which my mom has been very clear throughout she doesn’t want to do, so it’s not really an option. Or do nothing, which is what my mom has chosen.

My mom’s sister died of breast cancer after an incredibly grueling, painful fight that made her last days excruciating. My mom does not want to do that. She wants to focus on quality of life and managing pain. So that’s what we’re going to do.

In spite of literally saying to Mike a year ago that I would never want my parents to live with us, we’ve invited my mom to move in. Our two-story house has bedrooms on the first floor and a bathroom with a large stand-up shower. We’d be able to keep her company and take care of her and keep her comfortable. I don’t know if she’ll accept the offer, but I hope we can talk about it more after a meeting with a hepatology oncologist on Tuesday, where we will learn more about what services and supports are available to her through my mom’s health insurance.

And now we wait. To see how much time she has left. To see how sick she gets. To see how much we can cram into I-don’t-know-how-long.

Michaela has been having a hard time with this. She’s worried about her grandma, and worried about all of other grandparents (she has 5 others) dying. We went over to my mom’s house last night and after, Michaela told me she felt like crying every time she talked but tried not to so she wouldn’t make grandma sad.

I can relate.

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