The Big “C”

So I talked to my mom last night.  Lung cancer.  Well, the haematologist oncologist couldn’t tell her 100% for sure due to guidelines or legalities or something until they biopsy, but my mom said that basically it’s cancer.  The doctor just couldn’t say it.  Even though he did say it.

Dialing it back to Friday, mom was feeling like she had pretty bad indigestion.  By Saturday morning it felt like severe indigestion.  Dad took her to emergency where they did 20 heart tests or so, because mom was sure it was her heart, and they took a CAT Scan.  By Saturday night, a medical resident told my mom she had lung cancer and 1 to 7 years to live.  I got the news early Sunday morning and that’s when I fell apart.  By late Sunday afternoon mom was home and the hospital was doing a bit of back-peddling because residents don’t tell patients they have lung cancer based on a CAT Scan.  So, I pocketed my emotions and we all waited until yesterday when she had a second scan and met with the cancer doctor.

Like the resident, he couldn’t say for sure, but he does this for a living.  He said the mass, based on its visual characteristics, looks like a cancerous mass.  I’m guessing he knows what he’s talking about.  I work with kids who have or have had cancer.  I attend clinics and watch and listen as the doctors sit around a table and put brain scans up on the screen, and talk about how a tumour is behaving and what type it likely is just on appearance.

Lung cancer.  When I write it, it sounds so heavy.  A death sentence.  We just lost my uncle to lung cancer last May, five months after diagnosis.  That should put things into perspective I guess.  His symptoms were a little different though.  Maybe that changes the playing field?

All I know is that when I talked to my mom last night, we could have been talking about a news item like the Alberta oil sands.  My mom was so matter of fact about things, but not in a denial type of way.  She talked about being eighty and having had a good life.  She said this gives her time to prepare and that at least she has the benefit of knowing when she might expect her life to wind down.  She said she plans to ramp up her second book of memoirs, the first being published about three years ago.  She said she wants to say to each of us all the things she wants to say and get things in order.

Most of all, she said she has her faith.  I think she’s almost excited about going to meet her maker.  Almost as excited as she is about hitting the casino this weekend in Niagara Falls.  Yep, when presented with the opportunity, my mom’s a geriatric gambler, fond of the casino atmosphere and the slot machines.  Not even a cancer diagnosis is going to throw a coveted trip to Niagara off the rails.  When she’s at those machines, I can guarantee she won’t be thinking one iota about lung cancer.  She’ll be thinking about the big win.

I’m sure things will become more dire once my mom begins treatment.  I think things will get very real, very quickly.  For now, I’m following my mom’s cue and calmly thinking about those numbers spinning on the one arm bandit, acknowledging that we all die and we never really know when our number might be up.


26 thoughts on “The Big “C”

  1. Sorry to hear this, yes, that’s a big one, a big ‘C’ . Eighty is a good age, but I guess not when it’s your own loved one. I remember when Peter Jennings got it and he went fast. He was my favorite news anchor, he was from Canada too. I watched him for like twenty years, every day or night rather. Pretty tragic cause he was like 67.
    It sounds like she has a bit of peace about it, that’s a good thing, accepting. You have time to share many happy memories, maybe even laughs. The thing I missed most when my grandma died was the weekly, or almost daily phone calls. I hate that the end of life is defined by treatment. All the best.

  2. My heart goes out to you as someone who has lost her beloved grandmother to pancreatic cancer, not to mention the number of friends and other relatives to other forms of cancer. As things become very real, what’s of true value in one’s life will also be filtered and defined. My thoughts and prayers for your mother and you. Stay positive and treasure every moment from here on. HUGS X

  3. So sorry to hear the news. My mom passed years ago from lung cancer as well — but at a much younger age. I an impressed by your mom’s outlook, and only hope I can be that calm and grateful in my later years as well. She is already an inspiration! Maybe she will hit it big in Niagara Falls and can go out with a big Woo-hoo!!! My thoughts are with you.

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with you! Think positively. My aunt who smoked for over 50 years beat. Your mom can, too. Chemo can be rough and exhausting. If you live close by offer to help with the errands, the grocery shopping. And when she needs help shaving her head after her hair starts to fall out: do it. And tell her she has a beautiful head. Hugs!

    • Thanks jack’s mom! I live close enough that I can be there within an hour and spend time on weekends. Not looking forward to the treatment phase, but who would be.

  5. So sad yet I’m humbled by the strength of your Mother’s faith and her feelings of gratitude for having “had a good life” thus far. Thanks for sharing this with us. It really does put things back into their proper perspective. All of our perceived big problems just don’t seem so big or important now. My thoughts are with you both.

    • Everything is always relative, isn’t it? Hopefully my mom has a great quality of life until it’s time to go. That’s my biggest hope. Thanks, bookpeeps.

  6. It sounds like you Mom is a strong woman. I am in awe of her ability to take this news like a news story. My Mom would do that too, while I lost my shit – and then went to find it simply so I could lose it again.
    I hate the thought of a woman losing her mother. I so truly hope your time together is precious, honest, and full of the best possible memories you can make together.

      • Thank you — yeah, I don’t really throw pity parties, but there are some days when I stop dead in my tracks & think that I got shafted! Lol!…
        I think it’s a pretty crappy diagnosis at any age and even though she’s happy with the life she’s lived, I imagine it must be really hard on you. I think I’ve handled my own cancer far better than I’d handle my mom’s! Keep us posted — and hugs for you! 🙂

        • Nope, you don’t strike me as the pity party type, but I had to acknowledge that you got served a big challenge pretty early. And it sucks.

          Once my mom starts treatment I think things will get really hard. Thanks so much for your concern.

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