Posted by: Kathy | August 24, 2009

A Sleepless Night

I couldn’t sleep last night. And typically when I can’t sleep, my thoughts drift to either work or my family. Last night I couldn’t stop thinking about the day my parents told me about my mom’s diagnosis. I knew she’d been having some problems, undergoing some testing, but my dad told me not to worry, that it was probably pancreatitis, something that is very treatable. So I didn’t worry. My mom ate right, exercised daily. I didn’t know about the pain she’d been having or that she felt tired a lot.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2007, I was wrapping up work when my dad called. My parents were coming over and they needed to talk to me. They were already on their way. I walked downstairs and said to my husband “my mom has cancer”. He gave me an odd look and asked me why I’d say something like that. I told him that my parents were on their way over and that they don’t just drive over here unless it’s really bad news.

That day came back to me pretty clearly last night, and I have no idea why. My parents were sitting on the sofa by the window, my husband in the recliner, I couldn’t sit. My parents were somber and then my dad broke the news that my mom had pancreatic cancer. I think from that point on I was in shock. I didn’t cry, I don’t think I felt much of anything. As a medical writer, I knew that pancreatic cancer was bad. My dad did most of the talking, said how we’d get through this, that they’d been told the tumor could be surgically removed, followed by radiation/chemo, and that the prognosis was good. I’m really not sure how long my parents stayed. I really think I was in shock. I know I hugged my parents when they left and told my mom that I loved her.

The next day, reality hit, and I called my dad sobbing. I was scared, I didn’t want my mom to die. As the next few weeks went by, all we seemed to get was bad news. The worst was that although the tumor seemed to be localized to the pancreas, it could not be removed because of where it was located. I knew this would greatly limit the amount of time my mom had to live, unless chemotherapy worked and shrunk the tumor. I researched pancreatic cancer trials, trying to learn more about the regimens used, and what may be the best one for my mom. I wanted to be informed, so I could help in some way. But the results from these trials were depressing, since most patients didn’t live a year from diagnosis, and results that were considered to be “significant” gave patients a week longer to live.

I remember looking at these results in horror thinking “how could a week be significant?”. But as the end neared for my mom, I saw how a week, even a few days, could be considered important in these trials. My mom lived for 349 days from the day of diagnosis until the day she died. And now I would give anything for just one more day with my mom.

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