For long-time readers, you know August brings a lot of anxiety and drama to our family. For the last four to five years, each August has resulted in one or both of my parents having some sort of medical emergency. My sister and I like to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that August doesn’t exist. This year, at the tail end of August, we thought we were in the clear. We had even deceived August by having my dad schedule his shoulder replacement in July. We front loaded the shitty part of summer. Naturally of course, with three days left in the month, my mom ended up in the ER with some complications from her Multiple Sclerosis.
Those complications lead to a catheter being placed until they could sort out the issues. While uncomfortable, the catheter was generally fine for the first few days. At one point, we noticed what looked like blood and tissue coming through the cath tubing. Thinking it was a result of irritation, we let it go for a day or so. When it continued, I texted two RN friends I have, and both concluded Mom should be seen at the ER the next day.
The emergency room docs couldn’t find a source of irritation, so they ordered a CT scan of the abdomen to try to find the cause of the bleeding. The scans came back almost immediately, and what they saw was a big giant mass in her liver. They wrote up a little summary – full of big scary words I had to google – and recommended a follow up biopsy in a few days. One of the striking thing in the report was a notation that the mass had grown fairly large compared with the mass found on her 2014 CT scan. In August (of course) of 2014, Mom had an episode that landed her in the hospital for a few days. Apparently during that stay, and CT scan was ordered, the mass was found, and no one bothered to share that information with her or our family. Neat.
The biopsy was done a few days later, and we were told it would take up to four days to get the results back. Less than 15 hours had passed before we got the call that the tests showed liver cancer. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck man. Mom was referred to Swedish hospital in Seattle, and due to miscommunication between the original hospital and Swedish, it took too long for her records to be sent over, meaning we missed the weekly “expert” group that meets to review new cases. So, that added another week of no answers to our already anxious state.
We got the call last week that the group came to the conclusion that her type of cancer was called Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), which frankly just sounds like a dinosaur to me. Given the large size of the tumor, and her overall health from the MS, surgery is not an option that they are willing to undertake. The next best thing is going in to cut off the blood supply to the tumor using a process I think is called a “bland emoblism”, and doing follow up CT scans to see how the mass is shrinking. There is some talk of injecting chemo in to the tumor during the procedure, but we’ll get additional information soon. The doctors were unable to give a life expectancy or ballpark guess yet, because they don’t know how the tumor will react to such an intervention. It was a big heavy phone call on Wednesday. It was also my 35th birthday.
This post is not meant to go Debbie Downer, but I also want to share some other things that have going on in our lives. Some of you have noticed posts have dropped off, or my tone has been different, and I need you to see the whole picture to understand why.
When we landed in Seattle after Anne’s wedding, a friend called me with the band news that a mutual friend had been hospitalized with a brain tumor and was having surgery the next day. The hospital was on the way home, so we stopped to see her and share hugs, prayers, and most importantly, tell her we loved her very much. The surgery was a success in terms of getting most of the tumor out, but unfortunately the path report was positive for a very aggressive issue that would return. They are going to attempt to treat it with chemo, but the odds are stacked against her. I fully believe in beating all the odds, but I’m not the one who has to fight that fight.
If bad things come in threes, our third is the passing of my mom’s uncle at 94 from complications from a stroke. He was a lovely man who was kind and good, and the world needs more like him. The world was a better place for having him in it for as long as it did. He will be sorely missed. My mom was tolerating her news as well as could be expected, but adding on the sadness of her uncle’s passing was a big hit both emotionally and physically.
The heap of crap that has hit our family recently has been rough. There are more questions than answers, and horrible things hanging above our head that could spill over at a moment’s notice. So, what do we do? Well, we do what we always do in my family. We take a few days to internalize the news, wallow a bit, and then we hitch up our big girl (and boy) panties and we get ready for a brawl. Cancer can invade, and infect, but it can think twice before it gets to take over without a fight.
Listen up cancer, we’re Norwegians. Our people were Vikings. They traveled the world and may not have always been on their best behavior…but they saw a lot and experienced a lot. They clearly saw other cultures preserving food by drying or salting it, but they were so damn tough they’re like “nah, let’s just pour some lye on this white fish, wait for it to turn to jello, and eat it. We’ll call it lutefisk”. My people could have been dining on smoked salmon, and we chose the fish jello. Ok? Those are my people. We don’t take the easy way out. We don’t give in. We rally the fuck up and we get to the business being bad ass.
Cancer, you have no damn clue of who you chose to mess with. None. We came here to chew bubble gum and kick ass.
And we’re all out of bubble gum.