cancer patient

And, my car has been stolen. It’s an old, beat up car that no one could love but me. It has documents in the passenger seat that are clearly for a cancer patient. I long for the redistribution of wealth, but honestly did we have to steal the old car of a lower-middle class cancer patient??

Cancer Comes in Threes, pt 1

Thursdays are the worst. Before I came to this office, Thursdays were calm and typically quiet. Now they’re the busiest day of the week. None of us can figure out why. Mondays and Fridays are notorious for being busy, but mine are manageable. But Thursdays. Oh Thursdays.

On one busy Thursday I had more annual physicals than I could handle. I need extra time for these visits because I’m twice as thorough as usual for these, but my office still hasn’t offered me adequate time for them. Thus I end up very behind on days when I have more than 4 or 5 physicals. 

This Thursday I saw a very pleasant elderly woman, the grandmother of one of my few friends in this tiny town. I went through the gamut of preventive care questions. She was pretty healthy considering her age. We moved on to the physical exam. 

With my patient reclined on the table, I began to palpate her abdomen. Immediately I realized there was a mass, and a big one at that. “Have you noticed this in your stomach?” I asked innocently. “Oh good you feel it too. I didn’t want to mention it because I wondered if I was just feeling things. Yeah, I noticed it for the first time about 2 weeks ago when I was in the bed. I guess it’s a tumor or something, right?”

“Um… well… it very well could be,” I responded gravely. On further questioning, she revealed that she really didn’t have any symptoms related to the mass other than a 5 lb weight gain over the past month. “My pants don’t quite fit,” she added, “but it doesn’t hurt or anything. My bowels are a little slower than usual but nothing too exciting.”

I estimated the mass to be 10x20cm. Probably an ovarian cancer, I decided to myself. I knew her prognosis was grim. I explained to her that it needed to be investigated quickly and that, yes, it very well could be a cancer of some sort. I wanted her prepared for the bad news that was sure to come.

The radiologist called me late that afternoon. “Your lady has a huge mass. It’s mostly fluid. It’s 12x18cm and looks like it’s coming from the ovary. Don’t see any signs of mets though. Lymph nodes look fine and the pleura is nice and thin.”

I brought my patient back in the next day to discuss the results. Expecting the worst, she brought her children along to hear the news. They weren’t shocked. Mom had prepared them too. I explained her CT results and was cautiously optimistic.

Three weeks later I saw my patient in follow up after she had had multiple appointments with the GYN Oncologist. She had an excellent prognosis. Despite its size, her mass was completely resected and there was no sign of spread. What is often a death sentence was just a small hiccup for her. She will make a complete recovery.

Cancer Comes in Threes, pt 2

My next cancer diagnosis would come too soon. 

Three weeks later I was doing yet another annual physical, again on a Thursday, this time on the precious grandmother of one of my coworkers. A quick review of her chart the day before reminded me that she had had breast cancer a year before, but after a total mastectomy she was declared cancer free. She opted not to have adjunct chemo or radiation. 

As I did her breast exam I was extra cautious to cover every square inch of her breast tissue, her chest wall, and her axilla. I found nothing concerning whatsoever. A perfectly normal exam. 

Though not usually one to complain, during this visit she had multiple complaints. Her back and hip hurt, and she was having some vision problems. I determined she had a bursitis flare in her hip and injected it with a steroid. She was quite pleased. Her vision changes concerned me, however. I thought what she was describing was amaurosis fugax, so I sent her for vascular studies on her carotid arteries. 

The studies came back normal. My patient did not.

The next time I saw her, just a few days later, she was confused and now had almost total blindness in one eye. She had fallen several times because of her poor depth perception. I examined and questioned her again and decided that maybe she had a detached retina. I called ophtho and got her in that same day. The ophthalmologist called me later that afternoon. She did indeed have a detached retina. But there was also something else, and he wanted to send her to another eye sub-specialist for further evaluation. 

Over the course of the next three days we discovered that the something else in her eye was a very small tumor, likely metastatic disease of some sort. I got an MRI of her brain and found many more lesions. With more scans we found at least 20 more tumors scattered across 4 more organs and multiple bones. She was eaten up with cancer. 

She opted for palliative care rather than aggressive treatment of her cancer. I visited her in her home several times while she was on hospice. She was pleasant and still had no complaints, though she was clearly exhausted with minimal effort. We had to beg her to take pain medication for the last few days before her death. She just didn’t want anyone to worry over her. She died less than a month after her diagnosis, surrounded by her family and her completely devastated husband. 

Her funeral was perfect. I had only known her for a few weeks, but I recognized how special she was to the community. About a third of our town showed up to her visitation and her church was standing-room-only during the funeral. Dozens of huge sprays of flowers decorated the church. Her sweet disposition was the main focus of the eulogy. Though her downturn was rapid, her life was long and full. 

Perception

The first time I whispered the words “I have cancer” it was masked with defeat. The more those three words were spoken I became fearless and confident in my diagnosis. My perception gradually changed about life. Reality is that there is nothing to look forward to when it comes to this match except the extreme appreciation for life. Cancer will try to steal your DNA, humiliate, & assassinate you but it can’t take away your character. If I can look dead on in the blackness of this disease and somehow change the perception of this battle then I have won regardless of the outcome. Positivity is everything in this position. There will be days I feel defeated. There will be tears, weakness, and fear but a powerful mindset can conquer those moments. My children will be the faces that create a warrior inside of me. Instead of allowing this illness to define me I’m defining it.

Cancer-stricken kids, parents kicked out of park so Obama could pass by on his way to a fundraiser

This is ridiculous, even for Obama….

from Washington Post:

The U.S. Secret Service ordered hundreds of parents and their cancer-stricken children out of Lafayette Square on Saturday night, barricading the park for at least two hours and disrupting the group’s plans for a candlelight vigil to raise awareness and research funding for childhood cancer, participants said.

Some of the parents and children expressed hurt and disappointment that the Secret Service and Park Police, citing security precautions, virtually shut down part of a two-day event called CureFest for Childhood Cancer.

“We ended up waiting at the gates for two hours, and they never let us in,” said Natasha Gould, an 11-year-old Canadian girl who started a blog after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor this year. “And to be clear, the entire crowd was half kids. I cried last night in my hotel room because it was my first CureFest, and I couldn’t believe people were acting like they don’t care about children.”

Public information officers for the Secret Service and the Park Police were not able to comment immediately. Closures of Lafayette Square have occurred periodically since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and security incidents at the White House.

Organizers, aligned with the Truth 365 grass-roots child-cancer advocacy program, had obtained a permit to hold “A Night of Golden Lights,” in which participants would light electric candles.

But as the closure dragged on, some of the sick children, fatigued by the wait or the need to receive medication, had to return to their hotel rooms, organizers said. Others began crying, and some parents became enraged. Attendees said the group of at least 700 people were not allowed access to personal items they left behind, such as chairs and blankets.

Police officers and agents on the scenes told some parents that the closure was necessary because President Obama had left the White House from an entrance near the square to address the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual gala.

read the rest

Look, I’m all for keeping the President safe, even if he is a lawless narcissist, but does anyone actually think these children with cancer or their parents gathered to hold a vigil posed a threat.  And for TWO HOURS!?!?! It’s one thing to pause activity in the park to let him drive by, but to close the park for TWO HOURS!???!

The man is despicable. 

Day 1

My first day of chemo started really quite pleasantly, actually. The nurse, Nicki - I must go back and make sure that’s the proper spelling - was welcoming, comforting, and navigated me through tubes and drips with practiced ease and empathetic caution. We discovered my veins are rubbish and it took three turns of stabbing around in my arms and near-crippling my Mum’s fingers, before a needle finally settled. There was the fleeting mention of a PICC line, and even the idea of a tube sitting inside me over my heart provoked panic and sudden tears. They were gone quickly, but there are oceans lingering, waiting. I’ve been doing well to keep all that tucked away, just yet. Mum calls me brave and the doctors repeat her and I don’t want to disappoint them. Or myself. 

I felt well enough through the bleomycin (chemo) and etoposide (chemo) and saline (not chemo) and the forgettable drug that’s supposed to keep my bladder chugging through all these toxins, but just as the cisplatin (chemo) tapered off, the nausea kicked in rather rapidly. Then it wasn’t so pleasant at all. I spent the rest of the time fighting between the need to sleep and the need to vomit, just trying to remain as still as possible. Cyclizine and lorazepam have since been added to the list of things to settle my stomach, and they’re working much better. I’m a walking pharmacy, and it’s just as well Mum will be keeping the books because fucked if I know what half this shit is or what it’s supposed to do or when I’m supposed to take it. I’m just following orders, at the moment; focussing on one day at a time and keeping myself together.  

Sarah from CanTeen gave me a visit today as well, which was incredibly informative and very relieving, to know that there is more support out there. The support I have at the moment is shaky at best, though there are a few stable, reliable footholds should I need them, who I am incredibly grateful for - and even if they fall through, Mum provides enough support to keep me up no matter what. God, I love her for that. Regardless, it would be nice to meet with someone, or a group of people, who have actually experienced cancer in some way. It would be nice to have that empathy available, because I do occasionally feel like I’m drowning. 

Also on the plus side, I also fulfilled my dream of being carted out of a hospital in a wheelchair. It looks much more interesting on the telly.

Róbert, 31 years old

“I would like to reconstruct the room of my siblings, who have let me their room, so that I could have my own place to stay when I returned from the hospital.“

“Who fights, wins. 80 percent of success is in your head.“

Róbert has written a book about his disease and met his love during its course. He told me he was happy to go through cancer, because it changed his life in a positive way.

a part of a portrait series for the Lymphoma Society and their project  I Can Dream Again dedicated to patients who won their fight with cancer

ph. Viki Kollerová, 2014