To treat… or not.

My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer on his 82nd birthday. I expected it when his PSA test started increasing. He had a biopsy.  I couldn’t attend the appointment for the results but asked my mom to make sure she found out his Gleason score. When she called me on his birthday, I heard it in her voice before she said the words.
Cancer.
It’s considered an intermediate- risk tumor.  There is no metastasis. But given his advanced age and other co-morbidities, namely the Alzheimer’s, surgery is not recommended.
At his age, hormone therapy and radiation is recommended. Without treatment, he has perhaps 10 years.  But that means the tumor will get larger, he’ll have more lower urinary tract symptoms of obstruction and likely bone pain from metastasis.   Radiation is not easy.  It involves daily trips to the hospital for weeks;  20-39 radiation visits. That’s 20-39 days that my mother has to drive him to and from hospital and pay exhorbitant fees in parking. My mom went through  radiation treatment for her own breast cancer 15 years ago. She still remembers how hard that was on her. How difficult now will this be on my dad? He asks her several times a day what the next doctor’s appointment is for. Because he forgets. How difficult will this be for my mom to take him to the hospital day in and day out,  in his already semi-frail and de-conditioned state?  Is it cruel to put him through treatment? Is it cruel not to?
After meeting with his radiation oncologist and learning about a new treatment protocol involving only 5 weekly visits for radiation therapy, it looks like we will be embarking on treatment for my dad.  He seems to understand the side effects of treatment and that it means weekly visits to the hospital.  Of course, he’ll ask many times why he’s going but that is okay for now.  Five weekly visits is going to be much easier for my mom.  If and when it gets to be too much, we’ll make a decision to stop.  But for now, he/we are going to fight this.

Haunted.

Her image is burned in my memory.  Smiling and appearing happy.

How do you reconcile that image with the next one of her coffin being lowered into the cold ground?

How do you move on when a colleague, a classmate, a friend, a mother is taken from this life in a moment of violence?

How do you stop thinking and imagining what those final moments of her life were like? Did death come quickly? Did she suffer? Was she afraid?

How do you honor her memory when now the focus is on the man accused of her murder? Purple arm bands and purple pins just seem so futile.

How do we ensure justice is served?

 

What if?

What does a wife and mother to 3 children do when her husband (who stays home to look after the kids) is suddenly offered the opportunity of a lifetime but it means 2 years away from home while he tours Canada, the U.S., and Japan?

Gah!

So many scenarios run through my head…

Of course we could make it work.

I can parent three children on my own and still work 30 hours a week.

My job is relatively flexbile, I could change my hours to accommodate school pick up and drop offs.

I can’t let him pass up this amazing opportunity.

What if he resents me in 10 years because he didn’t go?  What if he resents me in 10 years because he did go?

I used to watch this television show called Fringe.  The main premise of the show was parallel universes.  I often wonder if there were a parallel universe or ten, what would it show me?  How would my husband leaving to go on tour for 2 years affect my children’s development? How would it affect them if he didn’t go?  Would it make me a more capable mother or would it make me worse?

I don’t think he’s going to go, but the exercise of thinking about it and wondering if I could handle running a household on my own really makes me realize how much I depend on him and need him. Sometimes I think I might take that for granted.

This also reminds me of my favorite poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

 

About those kids… 

It’s two days before Christmas. We haven’t quite finished getting the kids’ presents and nothing has been wrapped. 

I had a fitful 4 hours of sleep last night while husband lay next to me with the chills. As if things couldn’t get worse he is sick with whatever flu-like illness I had a few days ago. 

The kids have been cooped up so this afternoon I took them to an indoor play center so they could run around and you know, be kids. 

On the way there, I told the older kids that their Pappou (grandfather) is sleeping at the hospital and that I was there very very late last night when they were sound asleep. Of course the older one asked why and I tried to explain. 

My 4.5-year-old son: “Mommy you should have told me you were home. We could have talked and I would have gone back to sleep.”

The 7-year-old daughter: “Wow, mommy that sounds like a long day.”

Sometimes I underestimate my kids. They understand a lot more than I give them credit for. 

Physician Heal Thy Parent

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning (what else is new?) but this time to take my dad to a specialist appointment. We are the first ones here, even before the receptionist!

Since I have taken over this role of being present at most of my parents’ various specialist appointments, I have come to enjoy watching another physician do a physical examination. It’s a great refresher for me, especially the neurological exam. This was my nemesis in medical school. It is probably the most complex sequence of tests and observations I have ever had to learn and I still feel like I never mastered it.

Today I witnessed a skilled clinical fellow perform a thorough neurological examination on my dad.

I knew everything she was doing and why.  There were tests I had forgotten about, ones that are very specific and others more general.  At the end of the 3 hour appointment, we had some answers and now a few hours later, I have nothing but questions.

I need time to process. I know the road ahead of us. I’ve seen patients and their families go through it.  It’s not what I wanted for my parents, least of all my father.

But this is life.  It is hard. It is ugly. It is rewarding. It is love.

 

Stardom Awaits.

My husband stays home with our kids.  He is a musician at his core.  He is a talented songwriter, guitarist and vocalist.  I was proud to play live keyboards with him for his first band before we had kids.  I always dreamed of marrying a rock star and I can honestly say that that dream came true.  His songs are his truth.

Last spring he was asked to take over vocals for an electro-EBM band called Atomzero.  After several months of songwriting, laying down tracks and finalizing production (all of this in between school drop offs and naps), they finished the EP, shot a video and released their album last week.

I couldn’t be a prouder wife.

Three More Hours

I am sitting in a salon chair finally getting my hair done. It desperately needs some help and this was the only time I could fit it in. I 

work this afternoon and then I am off for almost three weeks. 

Three weeks! 

Three more hours of patient visits to go. 

Three more hours of lab reports, consults and prescription renewals. 

Three more hours of dealing with other people’s problems. 

Yesterday I started to worry that I was getting depressed again. I suddenly just felt … I don’t know, I felt off. I felt like I just didn’t care about any of it anymore. I didn’t want to go home and face the chaos of trying to clean and pack and deal with the kids. 

But then I got home and amongst the chaos and dirty faces and piles of laundry to fold, I felt immensely better.  I was happy to be home. I can’t begin to describe how reassuring that was to feel. Despite the state of emergency that my house is currently in, I was happy to be home and in the middle of it. 

I don’t need a break from my family, house or kids. I need a break from work. 

Only three more hours to go.