For years now, with anxiety and depression by my side, I have been fighting for my life, laying in bed or sitting on the couch; hiding from the world.
From August 3, to today, with cancer by my mother’s side, she is fighting for her life while being infused with the most aggressive chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer. A fight that left her exhausted, weak, and vulnerable; yet, I could always sense the strength that would emanate from her whole being.
This was the biggest demon that one could ever experience; it is something that will stare you right in the face and mock us all. Her strength gave me strength. But only when I was with her.
Once we saw the surgeon, the chemo was scheduled. This was it. It was going to be what will be remembered as the start of peeling away the mask to reveal its true face; the truth of what was trying to hide and hurt us all.
And the truth shall set you free.
Except not in this case…
She was scheduled for four rounds of chemo. Each treatment would last five hours and were on Wednesdays. Each time I went with her, and each time, I felt like everything was going to be okay. Sitting with her; just “being” with her I felt like I in control somehow. Once home, a nurse would come over and hook a “chemo ball” to her port, and she would have chemo until Friday around 2pm.
Those days, while she was home, were the days where anxiety would come to comfort me. It would keep me awake all night, mind racing, fear, pain, and then finally, running out of my home to drive around until the early morning. I’d wake up in sheer panic and I would need to flee. Fight or flight. My automatic response was always: flight.
When she was resting at home with my stepfather, and I couldn’t be next to her, my control diminished. I knew she had to rest as much as possible, and I would wait, but I lived and breathed her cancer each and every single day I had to wait. I have, however, made a vow to myself to never show any signs of weakness around her.
The amount of time that it took to recover from the chemo treatment extended with each one.
I was losing my mind.
“God has a reason for this, you have to have faith”
Anxiety and Panic laugh…faith cannot be controlled. Somehow chaos seems to feel more controllable. Somehow.
Somehow, going from waking up in the middle of the night in a state of panic to driving around from 2 am -7 am relieved me from my reality.
Somehow, staying awake and not going to sleep, relieved me from my reality.
Somehow, I am comfortable only when I’m uncomfortable.
And when I could talk to her and she is feeling good, I am comfortable in my reality.
The fourth and last chemo treatment was October 4-my mom and stepfather 26th wedding anniversary. It was also at that time, that my mom had blood work to determine if she had a cancer gene.
Her father (my grandfather) had 3 brothers, and 4 sisters. Upon discovering that two of his brother’s had intestinal cancer, one brother had pancreatic cancer, and one sister had breast cancer, and my mother’s first cousin also had pancreatic cancer, all who passed away around the same age as my mother, it was determined it would be a good idea to go ahead with the test. The doctor explained that if she had it, that meant that it gave my sister and I a 50% chance in getting it, but we could have access to preventative care. The insurance company just approved it last week, and we were told that it could take 2-3 weeks to get the results. My sister doesn’t want to know. In fact, part of me doesn’t either.
Also, at her fourth chemo treatment, we were told that her cancer marker (CA-19) went from 53 to 19, which was a good sign, but just one factor.
October 27, was her CT scan. The doctor said the CT scan showed that the cancer did not spread and the tumor went from 2.9 cm to 2.4 cm. He would go ahead with the Whipple procedure.
It is scheduled for Nov. 28. He informed us that if, at the beginning of the surgery, if he found that the cancer did actually spread, he would forego the surgery, but that’s only a 9% chance of that being the case.
That means she’ll have more time to recover from chemo until the surgery date.
These past couple weeks, since she has a break from chemo, I️ don’t feel so out of control because it’s just like it was before the diagnosis.
The surgeon did say that she might have to have chemo, however, a less aggressive form, about 4-6 weeks post surgery. That is not what my mom or any of us wanted to hear, but her response as it always has been throughout this was, “Well, I got to do what I got to do” followed with “I guess”. Revealing, again, her strength, but with a small fragmented piece of the mental and emotional pain that this has brought upon her.
She made me feel better when she said those words. It was like a filtered bedtime story to help me drift off to sleep with a pleasant dream.
She will beat this.
She will prevail. We all will.
Jenine Hoffman says
I understand depression and the beast of anxiety. I wallow there from time to time – unable to escape. Most days I smile and say I’m ok – it’s all good – other days it makes me sick and I stay in bed…
I am so sorry about your mom – my heart and prayers are with you all. Follow her lead – medicine is amazing now – what used to be a death sentence is now a wake up call.
Knowledge is power…Don’t be afraid – face it – own it – destroy it!
Cut to the Core Training says
Thank you Jenine. I’m hanging hanging in there
Mike Stouffer says
A very difficult and tough time. Waiting can be one of the hardest things. Good news is tumor has shrunk. Waiting to get scan here after wife’s 6th chemo trip to see if whipple can take place. Pretty bad when a major surgery is what’s being considered as a good option. Pancreatic cancer doesn’t leave a whole lot of options though. Stay strong, avoid internet research on negative aspects because every warrior of this disease is different. The night is hard. Good writings, tough to do when things seem to be spinning too fast.
Cut to the Core Training says
I agree. Internet research is definitely unhealthy especially because it doesn’t take into account the individual, but it’s so hard to just wait when you want answers immediately. Prayers to you and your wife. 😊
Mike Stouffer says
Yes, waiting is very difficult, the dark nights are the worse. People going through this really learn what hope is and about. When you see a loved one struggle and feel so helpless is as frustrating. Hard to see the light when in situations of unsureness. The American Cancer Society has been a big help here. A Hope Lodge was free to stay at for tests and soon the whipple. Hair loss they let her pick something she liked at a salon and covered cost. Internet drove us nuts! They say only 20 percent of the lives who deal with this challenge can have the surgery. Because wife’s tumor was on the top part of pancreas it showed signs earlier than if in back or middle. Have met some with similar and they have gone on 10+ years. Hang in there, take care of yourself, try to sleep. Stay strong though seems impossible at times.
Cut to the Core Training says
Thank you for the encouraging words. It means a lot coming from someone going through the same journey. My mother bought a wig (and they are expensive!) before chemo and lost some hair not all. Insurance covered half, however she’s having a difficult to time giving into the idea of wearing the wig. When I first found out, I kept reading statistics, trying to find success stories-support groups on FB was an extremely bad idea too. My mother’s was at the head of the pancreas too. She had to have chemo first though because it was near a major artery. I just looked to see if there was a Hope Lodge in the area she’s having surgery, but no such luck …I’m going to do the AirBnb for the first time ever and I’m so nervous about that experience…I want Nov 28 to come fast and just skip over Thanksgiving, but at the same time, I don’t want the the days on the calendar to move slowly because I want to spend as much time with my mom while she’s not so sick from all the chemo and I know that’s going to change with the surgery. This has definitely brought me a lot closer to my mom.