Monday, August 15, 2016

Being Mortal

Having seen a documentary on PBS of the same name as this post title a couple years before, I knew where to turn when I first learned of my mom's diagnosis. I had bought the book of the same name by Atul Gawande for my wife after seeing the documentary but had never read it myself. Unfortunately she had loaned it to a colleague of hers and probably won't get it back anytime soon so I bought another copy and began reading it again. It has really helped me digest what is probably in my family's future.

My dad said it best when he said that it isn't just my mom that has brain cancer but rather our whole family has it. We all are going to have to deal with it in our own different ways. Gawande's book "Being Mortal" deals a lot with how families and their doctors deal with terminal diseases and what questions families should address when living with one. My wife obtained another copy of the book from another colleague and gave it to my parents so right now we are all reading the book like a family book club. We haven't yet had the discussions addressed in the book but we will in due time.

Right now we only know generalized statistics and won't have any life estimates for some time. Looking at graphs of the prognosis of someone with anaplastic astrocytoma are grim but do contain some hope. As I noted in my previous post, only 50% of those diagnosed with it will be alive 2 to 3 years later. At five years, only 25% will still be alive. But at that five year mark the trend line almost flat lines going out to infinity. To me this offers hope that perhaps there is a 1 in 4 chance of treating this cancer to a draw. It may be for five, ten or more years but at least it is a draw that buys one more time. Definitely not great odds but also not without hope.

My mom however is in the "I'm going to beat this" mentality still and who am I to say no. I truly hope and will pray that she does even if everything I've read thus far says she won't. I do believe in the power of positive belief so for right now, I'm content to back her up when she says she will be cured with the upcoming treatments and life will return to normal until old age takes her. But I will be prepared for the day, if and when it arrives, when she realizes that time is getting shorter than she had hoped.

The most immediate side effect of all this is that we are spending a lot more time being together as a family. I've made more trips down to the farm in the last month to help with gardening preserves or just to visit that I normally do in a summer. It gives the kids and me a chance to be with my mom and just enjoy life. Since my mom can't drive for the next five months due to the seizure and my dad has a farm to run still, I have volunteered to do the grocery shopping and errand running for them during that time so I know I will get lots more time to spend on the farm. Another side effect is that before, hugs and I love you's were offered some of the time but not all the time. Now they have become mandatory. That is a side effect I can enjoy!


Kelly said...

I put this book on my wish list when I read Bob''s review of it. I definitely want to read it at some point. I still think you might benefit from reading 'Chasing Daylight'. I looked back and while the diagnosis isn't quite the same (glioblastoma multiforme), it still gives some insights on facing something like this.

I admire the way you're all approaching this and I especially admire your mom's spirit. From my own personal experience, I encourage you to be honest with your girls, even when they ask hard questions.

I'm depressingly realistic (which comes in part from having a brother who is a pathologist), but I'm also filled with faith and never doubt God's power. Healing comes in many forms and I pray for you and your family to find the healing in this process, whether it's literal or not.


kymber said...

+1,000 to Kelly above. i, too, truly believe in the power of positive thinking and trusting the Lord during times like these. your mother has been fit all her life and that will also help.

sending love and keeping you all in my prayers. your friend,

edifice rex said...

I was very sorry to hear your Mom is going through this but, as the others here have said, your Mom's good attitude and faith is a mighty weapon. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." So, we will pray that she may be healed.
Peace and love to your whole family.

Hữu Tú Trương said...
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Bob said...

You are handling all of this well, Ed, and I know your parents are thankful for your love and support.

Ed said...

Thanks again everyone. My mom is back to doing what she loves, bicycling somewhere up in northern Minnesota with a group of friends. On the way back she has an appointment with Mayo and then treatment starting somewhere in the first part of September. Between that and harvest, it is promising to be a really busy fall this year.

Kelly - Thanks for the book suggestion. I have it on order.