Monday, 15 February 2016

The cancer diaries: Here we go again





Last week, I received a frantic call from Jennette.
"The radiologist called," she said. "He wants me to come back in."
Just a week before, Jennette had received a clean bill of health, a thumbs up from both her surgeon and the radiation oncologist who both assured her that radiation wasn't required as a safety net against the return of her oral cancer which had already robbed her of part of her jaw and most of her bottom teeth.
I couldn't believe it.
First they give us hope, then they take it away.
We returned to the Ottawa Hospital for a meeting with the radiologist who looked very sombre, almost grim.
"I know I told you that you wouldn't need radiation," he began. "We had a meeting with your surgeon and the pathologist, looked over your charts at our meeting...
"And something just didn't sit well with me."
The cancer was too close to edge, is a simple way to say it. The surgeon couldn't take anymore tissue; there just wasn't enough to take. So the fact was, if Jennette didn't have radiation, there was a 40 percent chance of it coming back. With the radiation, she was looking at 10 percent.
I'm a betting person, and I didn't like those odds, either.
"What happens if it comes back?" I asked.
He looked at me with sad eyes.
"Then, I'm afraid, because of where it is, there wouldn't be anything we could do."
So tomorrow, we go to the hospital dentist who will make a mesh mask of her head. Then Jennette will start a six-week regime which will require her to attend the hospital for treatments once a day. Ten minutes, 15 tops.
At first, it won't be too bad. It will be a little sore.
But after a while, it will start to really hurt. She'll lose her speech again. She'll be on heavy meds and back on liquid foods, maybe for months.
Sucks to be her.
The doctor warned her that she wouldn't be able to do much, wouldn't even be able to visit her ailing father who is in the hospital. That's what's she's worried about, taking care of somebody else while the fickle finger of cancer fate wags in front of her face.
After the meeting with the radiologist, Jennette and I went to Kelsey's for a couple of belts. She seemed ok with it all, the stalwart soldier she's always been through this cruel journey.
I so admire her strength, and her get 'er done attitude. Me, I'd be thrashing about on the floor.
It is what it is, she said.
A few days ago, she called me in tears. Her father is going into palliative care at the same time as she's having her radiation. He only has a few weeks to live, she said.
The journey couldn't get any rougher.
The jaws of life are swallowing her up.
I'm glad to be her friend, to hold her hand, but it's even beginning to wear on me.
We love Jennette, and her little dad who always has a smile for company. He'll be celebrating his 88th birthday next week in the hospital. For the first year, he won't have a dinner out, or be in Florida or on a cruise. He'll just be playing the waiting game along with his daughter who knows things won't be getting any better. For either of them.
When it rains it pours, as they say.
Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.
It's gonna be a bitch.


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