Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cancer Sucks

I haven’t shared this on here before, mostly because I didn’t know how to tie it into my other content.  But, after reading so many other people’s blogs, I kind of realized that not ALL my posts have to be related to each other in subject.  So, as a result of that new awareness, you all may be in store for the random workings of my inner mind.  Beware!  

So here goes: 

My step dad has terminal cancer.  It’s a rare, very slow-growing kind but it is not curable or treatable.  It is engulfing about 80% of his liver but the remaining 20% is compensating very well and his liver function is currently in the normal range.  This kind of cancer (Carcinoid cancer) is rarely caught early unless by accident, which is what happened to us.  My step dad was scheduled to have back surgery last November and needed an MRI first.  He had a severe reaction to the contrast dye used for the MRI and was rushed to the hospital.  There he received a CT scan of his lungs to rule out some things and the top portion of his liver showed up in the scan.  There were obvious lesions on it and the ER doctor said, “That’s pretty much what liver cancer looks like so you should get that checked out by your regular doctor when you leave here.”  That was it.  She said it just that bluntly.  No calming bedside manner, no words of sympathy or condolences or even encouragement.  Just, “Hey dude…you probably have liver cancer so call your regular doctor.”  Nice, huh.  

We spent about three weeks wondering how much time he had left because liver cancer is a pretty quick killer.  His oncologist decided to do “one more test to rule out one more thing” because apparently he missed it once with another patient.  That test miraculously showed that my step dad did in fact have this very rare form of cancer called Carcinoid cancer.  People can sometimes have it for twenty years and not even know.  So, that gave us a glimmer of hope that we had a lot more time.  The oncologist pretty much said, “If you hadn’t had that reaction to the contrast dye, you wouldn’t even know you had cancer right now so go live your life like you don’t and try to forget about it for now.”  Seriously?!  What is with these doctors acting like cancer is no big deal to have?!?  

Anyway, for the past eleven months, my family has tried to enjoy every moment we have together.  We’ve tried to put cancer to the back of our minds but it’s not really possible with all the scans, medications, and side effects from said medications.  We find ourselves watching his every mood, facial expression, change in normal pattern, everything….just waiting for the symptoms of this slow, silent killer to start showing.

And then.....

A week and a half ago my step dad was up all night with severe pain in his liver area.  Monday morning came and he told my mom he needed to go to the hospital.  He spent the next three and a half days on the Oncology/Hospice floor undergoing scans and scopes while the doctors and nurses tried to get his pain under control with IV narcotics.  There are basically a couple of possible causes for this pain that now comes and goes in varying degrees of intensity.  

 1. There appears to be some kind of “sludge” in his gallbladder and bile duct that could be residual junk from a medication he has been taking for the past year.
2. He could have had a small bleed off of one of the tumors that created a cyst-type thing.
3. It could be the cancer…growing and pushing against the fragile capsule that encases the liver.

He’s having a special scope done today at a different hospital to see if it’s the first scenario.  We’re praying that’s what is causing his pain because they can fix it.  He won’t be going back on that medication that would have caused it so recurrence is unlikely.  If that’s not it, then it means he could have to deal with this pain for what’s left of the rest of his life…which is not a good thing, obviously.

There’s no other way to say it.  Cancer sucks.  No matter what kind of cancer we’re talking about, you can’t get the thought out of your head that it’s in your body, growing, feeding off your healthy cells and strangling the life out of you bit by bit.  To be faced with a cancer that has no treatment or possibility for cure is even worse.  Top that off with the fact that we have no ballpark idea of how much time he could have left with us and you end up with a really neurotic family.  We grasp on to everything good and cherish it as much as we can but at the same time, we try to live normally.  It’s a fine line to balance on especially now that he is having this pain.  Every time he winces or rubs his side we all think, “Is this the beginning of the end?”  We are living under the constant threat that when things “start to happen” it could go downhill very fast.  Trying to help my daughters understand that their “papa is sick and, no, the doctors can’t make him better” is heartbreaking.  My step sister is dealing with the same thing with her two sons.    I hate it.  Cancer sucks.

I plan on doing one more post today or tomorrow about this…and then I probably won’t talk about it again for awhile.  My family wants to live life as normally as possible for as long as we can but today I just felt like telling you all what we’re dealing with.