57gregys recent post about his friend’s cancer diagnosis has prompted me to share my experience in connection with cancer.
Last Tuesday I had an Angiogram. It showed a 90% blockage of the Left Circumflex Coronary Artery, explaining the chest pain (angina) and breathlessness that had returned in the last month despite having had a triple Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) in March of 2019. Bear with me that’s not why I’m sad;
When I started writing this post last Monday, my sister was in palliative care. Sadly, she died last Saturday. Passing peacefully in her sleep.
I have a depth of sadness I don’t recall having ever felt before. I’m now the last of my line; parents both gone along with my 2 sisters. Last man standing so to speak.
Six years ago I lost my older sister following her all too brief battle with a very rare and aggressive type of ovarian cancer. Called (MMU) Mixed Mullerian Uterine Cancer. That means the tumour contained both Carcinoma and Sarcoma cells making it the most complex of all cancers to treat. She was 69 years old. It was only about 6 months from diagnosis to her passing away. It had been growing undetected for quite some time. Some slight blood in her urine was the only indication that further investigations were required. What they found left little doubt as to the outcome. Nonetheless she elected to have the surgery and chemo as prescribed by the best that conventional medicine had to offer all to no avail. Despite being wealthy enough to afford any experimental treatment options there were none for which she qualified due to the nature of the cancer and the lateness of the diagnosis.
Then, 2 years ago, the younger of my 2 sisters was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer located near the head of her pancreas in the Ampulla of Vater (Ampullary Cancer). She was completely asymptomatic, but a chance glimpse of “a shadow” on a routine chest x-ray led to further tests and an uncharacteristically extremely early diagnosis for this type of cancer. After radical surgery (Whipple Procedure) she was declared clear with a pretty good prognosis, only due to the exceptionally early discovery of the tumour. It was less than 0.5㎤ in size. Truly tiny and hadn’t invaded any nearby tissues. She endured the surgery which was long and complex leaving her with a scar that ran right across her abdomen from one side to the other. Likened to being cut in half. Unlike my older sister, she declined chemo and radiation etc opting instead for an alternative approach. She changed to a high alkaline diet and began using CBD oil regularly. Along with a bunch of vitamins and “stuff”. While she had nearly 2 years much of that time was recovering from the absolutely horrendous surgery and her treatment choices left her emaciated with little defence when the cancer came back.
I only recently found out a couple of weeks ago that in December last year, a scan revealed that there were ‘spots’ detected in her lungs and liver. The cancer had come back with a vengeance. When h. er continuing alternative treatment/management of her illness seemed to have failed. She went into palliative care about 4 weeks ago. She was 73 years old.
We live 1500 klms apart and hadn’t seen one another for 4 about years. My sister and her immediate family had kept it all from me until a few weeks ago. Only then because of how dire the situation had become that they decided to tell me. My health hasn’t been the best in the last few years so they didn’t want to burden me. Oh, if only they had. Had I known I may have been able to visit her in the months before COVID locked Australia down. I much prefer to know what’s going on.
I would love to have put my arms around her, sit by her side - to the end. However, family secrecy and the COVID restrictions in place where we live in Australia and my health at the moment it was not to be. She was on too much medication to make a video or phone call in the few short weeks that I knew. I guess my memories aren’t flooded with images of seeing her in her sickness so maybe not seeing her was a kind of protection. It will let me remember her as I saw her last when she was still well.
Two sisters both died of rare and aggressive forms of cancer. Treatment choices didn’t seem to play a part nor did the speed of detection in the latter case. It seems that cancer had it in for them both and there was no stopping it. However, finding it early is ALWAYS better.
Share with your family; don’t protect people from the real world. Stay in touch and in so much as its in your power, try to contact loved ones you’ve not see for a long time, you don’t know when you might if ever, see them again. Regrets will be your companion for all your days.
I only have my memories and grieving left now so I’m prompted to make a record of our family history from the time we emigrated from Germany way back in 1958 when I was just 4 ½ years old.
Just needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening. Maybe for some of you there might even be a message. Take the hint if you need to.
LOVE really is all there is.