It's been just over a month since Mom's second mastectomy. Her recovery was much easier this time around, mostly because they didn't cut a flap of skin from her back to do the reconstruction. Of course, it was still major surgery, but they released her 24 hours post-op and she was off narcotic painkillers within a few days. Much better than last time.
On May 6, she had (what was supposed to be) minor surgery to remove this little flap of skin in her breast area that was cancerous. When the surgeon went to remove it, he found that it had spread...a lot. So he removed as much as he could (about a 12" x17" area) and because he wanted to make sure they had "clear margins" (meaning they got all the cancer) they waited to recover the wound. So, for over a week (including two nights in the hospital) she walked around with a sealed, yet open, wound. This past Tuesday, she had a skin graft to cover that wound. They didn't get all the cancer, but they're hoping to get it with chemo, which should begin the first week in June. She'll get chemo every other week for the rest of her life, or until she can no longer tolerate it. The cancer is officially Stage IV, with "no evidence of disease". In other words, they know it's in her system, but it hasn't "landed" anywhere. Hopefully the chemo will keep it from landing anywhere. But essentially, she'll be on chemo until she dies...whenever that is. This cancer is very aggressive and because it's hormone-receptor negative (the official term is "triple negative") the only way to treat it is via chemo and radiation. The fear is that if chemo is stopped, the cancer will come back on a rampage.
(Deep cleansing breaths)
Back when she was first diagnosed in 2008, all of us (including Mom) were rattled, but took the attitude of "just a small obstacle, let's knock this out of the ballpark." And that's what happened. And then it came back, and this time it's not going away. My Dad had always expected to die before Mom; that may not happen. I had expected Mom to live into her late 80s or early 90s, or even later (my relatives tend to live that long). I had expected her to be around as my children grew up, and that my children would have a relationship with her and remember her. And now, that may not happen. In other words, I'm preparing myself for the very real likelihood that I will lose my mother before I am 40, that my children will only know her through the stories I tell and pictures I share and not through an actual relationship with her. I have lots of friends who have already lost their parents; Harry's dad died when he was 13, and his stepfather (who truly was a second father to him) died three years ago. And I know that I'm blessed that, even if Mom died tomorrow, she would have been there for many important moments in my life (graduations, my wedding, pregnancies, etc) and lived to see me be a self-supporting adult, happily married with beautiful children. But none of that helps me when I think about losing my mom within the next few years.
You know what's really tough? Being a chaplain who has worked in hospice and oncology floors and seen what terminal cancer looks like. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, and the thought of my mother going through that makes me sick.
Major prayer request; my mom is in the lottery for a clinical trial for a new drug. Please pray that "her number comes up" for that. Of course God will know exactly who you're praying for, but you can refer to her as "MJ". Thanks.