This years as June slipped into July, my mom passed her one year anniversary of her diagnosis of anaplasic astrocytoma grade 3 brain cancer. It. Since I haven't seen any cards or t-shirts saying that, I just gave her a hug and said congratulations. She knew exactly what I meant.
The MRI's continue to come in every couple months showing no new growth of IT. I can always tell when an MRI is coming up because my mom becomes stressed and when stressed, she exhibits non-typical behaviors that only came about as a result of IT. It took me a long time to realize that when somebody scoops out a golf ball sized part of your brain and then nukes some more of it with high doses of radiation, those cells aren't coming back, for better or worse. As time passes, the non-typical behaviors seem to be reduced to the point I don't think other than my immediate family, anyone would even know but they are there. The brain is a marvelous object and seems to be able to rewire itself with time.
When the MRI has been completed and results reported, life is back to normal and even better than normal. So much relief at knowing IT hasn't come back yet and there is still time to do things. Slowly but surely we have been making plans to cross off items on my mom's bucket list of life. As you read this, she will be off in Ireland and then England on a bicycling adventure with my dad and another couple. I can't wait to hear about their adventure when she returns.
Fear of IT never goes away though. Almost to the day that my mom felt like she was having a stroke which led to IT being diagnosed, we did a spur of the moment trip to an urban jungle up north. The last similar trip we took last year was interrupted by a phone call saying my mom was being life-flighted to a hospital. This trip was also interrupted by a phone call saying my mom was on her way to the emergency room. Immediately fear grips me thinking that perhaps this is the beginning of the end that I know is coming. Despite being bone weary from hours on the road, we drop the kids and mother-in-law off at home and keep on driving to the large hospital where she was transferred too. Long hours were spent keeping her company in the emergency room and trying to avoid the elephant in the room and eventually we drove back home for the evening only knowing what it wasn't. In the end, everything was ruled out and she was sent home the following day with guesses that what occurred might have resulted from a past surgical procedure long ago. Still, the fear of IT never quite goes away.
My mom is still taking chemotherapy and will continue to do so for at least one year after she started it which means until late fall this year. Although she doesn't like the thought of swallowing poison pills, she seems to get along fine with them and as long as those clean MRI's keep rolling in, it just seems like the right thing to do. At some point during her treatments, they did a DNA sequencing on IT and found that the version my mom has responds well to chemo which is why they went from six months to a year. Although it responds well, it isn't a cure and IT won't go away. We weren't really surprised since in the beginning before radiation even started they told us that chemo might continue for the rest of my mom's life. Of course it wasn't until much later that I grasped that they might be saying that because perhaps her life wouldn't be very long. They don't say that anymore which I hope means that they feel my mom's life will be longer than the chemo treatments. It's those little things that we grasp for hope. Hope is a wonderful thing.