January 7, 1948 - October 23, 2005
Yesterday would have been Mom's 59th birthday. This picture was taken sometime in May of 2005 when we took a short trip to Batangas on a weekend when I went down to visit Mom in Manila. Mom had already undergone her 3rd chemo session when this picture was taken.
* This is a continuation of Mom's cancer battle as told by me in my efforts to also release some of my angst,pain,hurt and anger in the hope of helping myself come to terms with the death of both my mom and dad. (all other entries of my Mom's story can be read under "In Memory of Mom" category).
Once Mom was settled in the hospital, they started to run tests on her. At that time, Mom's oncologist was still in China reading a paper in one of the doctor's conventions there so Mom's 1st cousin, who happens to be a surgeon, took on her case while waiting for her onco. X-ray results showed that the tube in her lung was dislodged and would require a reinsertion procedure. Mom was scared as hell, so was I. She was scheduled for a minor operation the next day. I just kept reminding Mom that she would be ok. Reinserting the tube was a needed procedure before they could take out the tube and perform this procedure called pleurodisis, a procedure that causes the membranes around the lung to stick together and prevents the build up of fluid in the space between the membranes. This procedure is done in cases of severe recurrent pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs), as from cancer, to prevent the reaccumulation of fluid (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20053). Before we left our hometown in Baguio, Dr. Nonsense also told me that "we will never be able to remove the tube.she will die with the tube still inserted." (I hate that doctor --I sooo hate her). The reinsertion proceeded as planned the next day. Mom was wheeled back into her room after about 3 hours. The doctor also advised Mom to practice coughing at least 3x a day in order to hasten the draining process. By this time, Mom had already been in the hospital for a couple of days. The real cool thing about Mom was that she didn't look sick at all. If someone who didn't know her saw her, they would never have believed that she was battling stage IIIb lung cancer.
Towards the end of the week, Mom's oncologist finally arrived from China and dropped by the room. She was a petite lady with an extremely bubbly personality. Once she entered the room, I immediately felt so comfortable with her. She took Mom's hand and said "Things will be ok Mommy." I cried, Mom cried. So Dr. Heavensent told us that she read Mom's clinical abstract and that we should all start working to get Mom well. My spirits were so high that day, I can still remember that feeling. That day, we were surrounded by a team of doctors who I will forever be thankful for, for they made Mom's last months on earth as comfortable as possible.
The days that followed were full of doctors and nurses hustling and bustling in and out of Mom's hospital room. We got to befriend a couple of nurses as well as other cancer patients. After almost a week, Mom and I got pretty comfortable with the "living situation." Mom's room would be our "home" for the next 3 1/2 weeks. Jet and Josh were left in Baguio, our hometown as Jet had work and Josh would not be allowed inside the hospital. During Jet's day off, they would drive down to Manila to visit me and Mom.
The first few days were rather uneventful as Mom could only sit and lay down although very cautiously so as not to dislodge the tube to avoid another reinsertion. Mom had no restrictions on her diet so we enjoyed all the food her visitors would bring her, at night when all visitors would leave, we would order coffee from the caf while watching TV. On our second week, Moms pulmonologist noticed that there weren't any more fluids draining out of mom's lungs and it looked like Mom was ready for pleurodesis. Agian, this freaked Mom out. My Mom is a very intense worrier --really. She can stress herself out worrying about what to cook for dinner or how she looks without her earrings on. So this pleurodesis thing really freaked her out. Shortly after her pulmonologist said that she would be performing the procedure in a short bit, Mom's blood pressure shot up, she started feeling nauseous and wanted to throw up. I held her hand and told her that things will be fine, that this is a good thing because right after the pleurodesis, they would be able to pull out the tube from her lungs already. Ok - so she still wasn't convinved. She wanted to delay the procedure. Her pulmonologist and I decided that it would be a good idea to put Mom on a light sedative so that Mom could fall asleep while they performed whatever they had to perform. So there, after a couple of hours, Mom wakes up with the tube gone. Much better.
The next days were fun. Each morning, Mom and I would walk around the Cancer Institute of the hospital as her doctors advised her that it would be good enough excercise for her. At this point, we knew that chemotherapy would be next on the list, only none of us wanted to talk about it. At this point, Mom tells me "Cancer isn't such a terrible thing after all. Look at this, we cancer warriors even have our own institute." We would spend late nights laughing, reading magazines, eating our hearts out and we would sleep till lunch the next day.
I do not remember exactly when Dr. Heavensent came in and asked us to sit down because she needed to discuss Mom's next step in her treatment. All I can remember was my heart was beating really really fast, I was nervous and anxious, not wanting to hear what I needed to hear. I looked at Mom and saw the uncertainty in her face. Dr. Heavensent discussed with us that Mom's tumor was about the size of a goldball and it was a non-small cell adenocarcinoma. The thing with these types of tumors is that although they grow and develop very slowly, they are one of the hardest to shrink. Surgery would be too dangerous at this point considering Mom's age and the size of the tumor. Dr. Heavensent informed us that Mom's chemo treatment would involve the use of Cisplatin and Taxotere. God at this point, my head was spinning like crazy but I had to keep a hold of myself and show Mom that we would battle this together.
*** Cancer runs in our family. My gradfather (mom's dad) died of the complications of brain cancer, Mom's Aunt died of stomach cancer, Mom's other Aunt is battling stomach cancer adn my cousin is being observed for the tumor in her left lung.