Cancer Angst: Stop It Already, Cancer

Two-time cancer survivor rants a little about her mom's breast cancer recurrence.

Mom and I had two oncology appointments for her breast cancer recurrence today. The oncology surgeon said Mom’s double mastectomy was healing well. The surgeon also told Mom that she will have choices, including deciding whether quantity of life or quality of life is more important to her. It was probably an accurate but unhappy way to frame Mom’s decisions.

The next appointment was with Mom’s medical oncologist. The oncologist informed us that she did not recommend chemotherapy for Mom based on her age, health situation and assisted living circumstances. Mom said she didn’t want chemotherapy anyway. The oncologist suggested a consultation with an oncology radiologist so that Mom can make an informed choice about whether or not to have radiation. Mom isn’t inclined to do radiation, but she did agree to the consultation.

My mom, at age 83, is a trooper. I am not. I want to cry and scream and rant at this nasty thing named cancer that appears in so many forms. I had breast cancer at age 46 and melanoma at 50. Now I am trying support my mom as she works her way through her recurring breast cancer. She has a different type of cancer from mine. Her circumstances are different. I know that. Maybe it is selfish to say that her stuff stirs up my stuff, but it is the truth.

I don’t want her to suffer physically, mentally or emotionally. I know what having cancer feels like. I would guess it feels similar, but not identical for her. I want to spare her. I want to shield her and I can’t. I don’t like feeling helpless. I don’t like feeling helpless again.

I don’t want her to feel the loneliness of this disease, but ultimately her decisions are hers and hers alone to make. Nasty cancer is a lonely disease, even breast cancer. Breast cancer is common, but everyone is unique and has different circumstances, and their choices are unique as well. I want to cry. I want to hit something for Mom.

I have anger and angst and worry and fear for her. Now I am learning about some of these things from the caregiver’s perspective. I would like cancer to get away from me and from my family, but life doesn’t work that way. So, I keep the faith, take a breath and we hold hands and move forward.

We will fight this together. I will love her and support her to the best of my ability, though I can’t make this go away for her. That really stings. Today these realities hit home a little further for both of us.