Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Taking a Bow.....
It’s a dreary day here today: pending rain, gray skies, temperature in the upper sixties. Everything outside is saying stasis.
But inside, progress is underway.
Unfortunately the progress is the other team’s.
On Friday, my mother made the decision to stop treating her ovarian cancer. For almost three years, palliative chemotherapy, her otherwise excellent health, and the smart, compassionate care of her physician, Dr. Tammy Roque, have kept the tumors in stasis.
Gray and pending, no doubt, but still.
We began the new year with bad news. Her disease had eluded the poisonous chemotherapy and found a new home in her brain. It immediately set up six malignant outposts, each of which began to march.
A radiation oncologist ordered total brain radiation, hoping to shrink the tumors and avoid any new symptoms. While we can’t be sure, it does not appear to have been successful; no one can be certain if Mother’s worsening aphasia and balance are caused by tumor spread or continued inflammation from the treatment.
And uncertainty intruded elsewhere. The usual question - “Have you reached a point where the treatment is worse than the disease?” - was not really pertinent for her case. Mother had no idea what the disease felt like on its own. The treatment was, however, causing such fatigue and lowered blood counts that her doctor had to postpone two infusions. When the weakness and fatigue did not improve, we faced the decision point.
Only one drug remained in Dr. Roque’s arsenal, and while it held out a very small chance of effectiveness it also promised severe side effects, ones that would not be easy to bear in a weakened state.
We’ve always known the cancer would win. That was never in doubt. The time had come to concede.
So on Saturday, my mother transitioned from treatment to hospice care.
Her focus can now be on living rather than fighting.
I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be posting over the next few weeks. I’ll be spending more time with my mother and my focus will narrow. I hope to just sit with her, listen to her thoughts if she chooses to share them, and be a calm presence in her life.
Please continue to check the blog, though, and send compassionate, comforting thoughts our way.