Let me back up a bit. I can't remember when I blogged last or what I shared so please forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but this past November, the week before Thanksgiving, my mother and my son Kyle drove down to North Carolina to pick up my grandmother (I couldn't go because I had to work.) The doctors in North Carolina were refusing to give her an aggressive radiation therapy or do any kind of surgery to remove the giant lump in her breast citing that she was too old and wouldn't be able to handle the anesthesia for surgery anyway. That just didn't sit well with me, nor my mother or any of my siblings. It took a group effort, but we finally talked her into moving up here to Ohio to live with me and get a second opinion. Since then, she has had a lumpectomy (they were able to remove the entire lump, YAY!) and is now on a six week radiation treatment plan. She does not need chemotherapy so she will not get sick, her appetite will not be affected, and she will not lose her hair. She's happy about that last part...even at 87 years old, she wants to feel pretty.
The treatment has gone well so far, but from what I understand it's usually a breeze for the first few weeks. About three weeks in, she will begin to get very tired and her skin will become irritated and sore. She's already on a strict skincare regimen to try and keep the irritation to a minimum, but of course she is not cooperating. I get so frustrated with her sometimes, but I understand why she's being a little difficult -- who wants their granddaughter touching their boob three times a day? (Like it's a picnic for said granddaughter...) She's getting better though. I'm just so glad she agreed to come up here. Without this care, the cancer would have spread to her bones, which is very painful. The women in my family live looooooong lives. She's 87 and still has two sisters older than she! Her two sisters that have passed were 99 and 97. The only woman to die at an early age was her sister Alice who was 62 and that was only because beginning around age 18 she had a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other from the time her feet hit the floor in the morning until she finally passed out drunk on the couch at the end of the day. If she had taken halfway decent care of herself, she would probably still be with us today. So, Alice aside, every woman in my grandmother's family has lived to be at least 95. Given her family history, my grandma could live for years. This is why it didn't make sense to me that the doctors in NC would just throw their collective arms up at my grandmother's condition and say "what's the point? She's old and has congestive heart failure anyway." The point is that even with her heart problems, my grandma would probably live another ten years with treatment -- ten relatively pain-free years at that -- but without the treatment, her cancer (which her surgeon here in Dayton says was the most aggressive in nature that she has seen in a long time) would have spread to her bones and she would have experienced an extremely painful death in less than a year.
I get all over the place when I'm talking about this. Lots of conflicting emotions going on here. I'm so happy that she is here and being treated, and yet so damn angry with the doctors in NC. I'm trying to lay that to rest and just be grateful. It's not easy though. Agreeing with and wishing for Buddhist wisdom is one thing; living it is quite another. It's so hard. I'm trying though.
My challenge right now is doing everything I can to help my grandmother through this very difficult time in her life while not losing myself or neglecting my health -- physical, emotional, mental, financial, and philosophical health all -- in the process.
This radiation is only a small part of the journey. She'll be with me for the rest of her life. It's kind of overwhelming to think of it in these terms though so for right now I'll just say one week down and five more to go.