In 2002, we all took a huge deep breath. We felt as though everything had been lifted and we could all go on with our lives. My mom continued with chemo and doctors appointments, and eventually chemotherapy ended. We then lived every two weeks between doctor’s appointments. Blood draws were on the Monday, and the doctor’s appointment was on that Wednesday. My mom was teaching at the law school, but those weeks where we waited on the results were horrible. We thought we were out of the woods but we could not let go as we had to wait for the results. We lived by appointment to appointment.
In 2003, it hit us like a ton of bricks. The doctor had told my mom that the markers were elevated and there was some cause for concern. What did this mean? Where do we go? This sucked. My mom was scared. For the first time I could sense the fear in her. My dad was scared. I don’t know what to do or where to go. Cancer is a nasty bitch. It does what it wants when it wants. The doctors kept a tight leash in observing my mom and therefore identified quickly when the numbers were raised. PET scans were taken. Technology since my mom had first began had skyrocketed in the field. When she first needed a PET scan, she had to go to Los Angeles or Santa Barbara (about an hour plus drive each way) to where they had a machine. By this time, there were 3 places in the county where she could get one.
Again, she would need supervision and I am so thankful for a job and boss who were eager to assist me in my schedule with helping my mom. We became experts at explaining to everyone what was going on. My job was to shield my mom from those people who she did not feel or was up to talking to at the time. With a politicians’ stance it was my time to be strong. Again, not for myself, but for them. I realized that they needed to hear the positive. That was the message that I needed to send out. A positive vibe for everything going on. It was the most difficult thing to do for me because I did not even know what was going on. Nobody did, not even the doctors. My mom went back on a chemo regime to make the numbers go down and they would stabilize. New drugs came out and there was always research being done.
It seemed most drugs lasted about 6 months or so before the markers would creep up and they needed to change drugs. A change of drugs came with a whole new set of problems. What would happen when they changed? What were the side effects? What were the positive effects? What happens when it fails? Does the markers going up mean that she is going to die soon?
The routine looked like this:First two weeks chemo. Check blood. Blood looks okay. Next two weeks chemo. Check markers. Markers stabilized, continue chemo. Next two weeks chemo. Check blood. Blood looks okay. Next two weeks chemo. Check markers. Markers stabilized. Continue chemo. PET scan.
Wait two weeks for results, or the doctor would get a “wet read” on the results and get it earlier. PET scan shows no spots. Continue chemo.
The PET scans were looking for where the cancer had landed. The good thing was that there were no spots that showed up. This would mean a couple of things. 1) it could have landed on the brain. This would not show up on a PET scan (too technical for me, something to do with the blood), 2) that the spots were so small that it was not showing up and 3) that the cancer had not landed anywhere…yet. This was our life for almost a year and a half.
Then we got the call. It had to be in 2004. I remember I was at work and it was a Wednesday. Wednesday was results day. Typically if nothing happened, my mom and dad would get out of the doctor appointment around 11 am. Dad would call me on his way to work as mom was left for chemo. Later in the afternoon mom would send out a text. Typically a long text explaining what had happened. I would forward this information out to family and friends and those who did not have texting. This was before texting nowadays, and it was also before Facebook or even MySpace taking off. This day was different. I had not received any notice and it was almost 1:30 pm. Something was wrong. I walked outside and made a phone call. Voicemail. I called back. Voicemail. Then I called again. Answer, but it was other people talking. My mom answered here phone and just left the mic open. The international sign of “I am in a conversation and cannot talk. Will call you back.” This was not good.
Finally I spoke to my dad. The latest PET scan showed 3 spots. Two spots on the liver and one on the bone in her right arm. The doctor was positive but had a serious conversation with them. This was time to fight. He was pissed and he wanted this thing gone. He could not promise a cure, but could promise that it was treatable and encouraged her to do as much as she could. That is his focus; to do as much as he could to help you do as much normal life activity as possible. This was my worst moment of time. I can say that I freaked out. I did. Maybe as close as a nervous breakdown as I could have, but I lost it. What was I going to do without my mom? This shit just got real. There was more crying this time, more worry on my part. I freaked out about everything that my parents were worried about having me talk to a professional, which I eventually did for a few times. It took me a few months, but I snapped out of it. Thankfully my parents were supportive and knew I was not to the point of having me committed. But I think it may have been a close one. My friends and mentors helped out so much. I have friends I met at school, and others who have been there through the long haul of everything.