Last November when I did #NaBloPoMo, on Day 7 I alluded to a big surgery my Mom was going in for. Basically, in the end of October, my Mom went to her family doc for a routine acute issue. While there, she mentioned in passing a pain she had experienced on her left side 10 days prior, and when her doc examined her, he found a mass that concerned him. To make a long story short, the next 2 weeks were a whirlwind for my family, and especially for my Mom. 1 ultrasound, 2 CT scans, and multiple MRIs later, her surgeon determined that it was Stage 4 cancer, and the 12cm tumor and thrombus needed to be removed ASAP, along with her entire left kidney to which it was attached. While in the 5 hour surgery, they also had to remove a small part of her vena cava and part of the blood supply to her colon. They also removed all of the lymph nodes from the aorta to the vena cava and the lymph nodes on top of the vena cava.
It is now a year later, and every quarterly MRI and CT scan and bloodwork has been clear so far. THANK THE LORD! Every time she goes in for a scan and blood work, I am a bit terrified – but I know that there are a lot of extra prayers lifting her up that day. <3
Then there is my Dad.
Last August, my Dad had an episode of pain & numbness while we were all home for our annual family gathering that scared us enough to call 911. After a series of workups at the emergency room that morning, it was determined that he had not had a stroke or a TIA (our fear), but that blood flow to the lower quadrants of his heart was decreased because of his belly fat. This spurred my Dad into action, and over the next 9 months or so, he dropped 70# if I remember right. He was looking and feeling GREAT. Then in April, some mild hip pain he had been experiencing took a turn for the worse, to the point that he was starting to limp and use a cane. Fast forward to June, and the siblings and grandkids were all home once again for family weekend. Long story short – my Dad’s hip pain was quickly moving towards debilitating, and in addition to that, his PSA had been high at his annual exam, so he had to undergo a prostate biopsy while we were all home. Two days later, his doc called with the news that it was prostate cancer – and quite honestly, Dad barely flinched at the big “C” word because the hip pain was so intolerable that he couldn’t even concentrate on anything else. It was terrible to see how much pain he was in and how it was completely affecting his outlook on life. Dad didn’t seem like DAD, you know?
Fast forward a few months, and after a series of consultations with different Providers, my Dad was finally diagnosed with spinal stenosis, so he has been undergoing periodic injections to help calm the inflammation as well as doing PT and exercises to help open that that part of his back. The issue isn’t totally resolved at this point and will require him to keep up with the exercises forever, but he’s getting around much better thankfully and able to live without constant pain. Mom & Dad even took an epic trip last August to Iceland with their lifelong friends!
So back to the prostate cancer… *sigh* It was a level 6 in one part and 7 in another area on the Gleason scale, so moderate risk but advanced enough that it needed to be treated instead of using a wait-and-see approach. By a crazy stroke of luck, the same surgeon who did my Mom’s surgery (who we all love and have great faith in) actually specializes in prostate surgery as well, and he agreed to take on Dad as a patient when our parents ambushed him with all of Dad’s medical records at one of Mom’s follow-up appointments last summer. Ha!
At any rate, on October 17th, my Dad underwent a 5+ hour surgery for robotic removal of the entire prostate as well as 9 surrounding lymph nodes (because that’s the first place it would have gone if it had spread). His doctor told us that the urethra and everything looked good post-surgery with no visual signs of any of the cancer spreading, and the pathology report showed that all of the lymph nodes were benign. Unfortunately, the margins in the path report were still positive for carcinoma (gleason pattern 3), but his doctor reassured my parents that it could be nothing, and they will recheck everything in 3 months and hope for a PSA of 0 and benign margins at that point. If not, perhaps chemo will also be in his future, but we are all hoping & praying that he can avoid that route just like Mom has.
So yeah, it’s been quite the whirlwind year for our parents. Historically they have both always been quite healthy, so it has been an eye opener for myself and my siblings to realize how fragile life really is – even when it comes to our parents. My family is incredibly close, though logisically we all live around the country at this point. It has honestly been so hard to be 18 hours away during these periods of health crises when we all just want to BE THERE!
So my advice today is to call up the people you love and tell them so, stop by and give them a hug if you can, and take the time to focus on those who really matter in life, because as cliché as it sounds, you never know how much time you’re going to have with them. <3