So that goal for 2015? That subtitle of my blog?
Persistently choosing joy?
That’s going to be a bit of a challenge for a while. Not to say it can’t be done, but it’s very difficult to find the joy when an oncologist tells you your mama’s recent mild headaches are being caused by 15 brain tumors — melanoma that metasticized from the mole she had surgically removed “successfully” three years ago. Not only that, but there’s a bonus: six spots scattered around both lungs.
Because it’s hard to find right now.
So here’s the plan: whole brain radiation for ten days (Monday thru Friday with a break for the weekend, and then Monday through Friday again), and on each of those radiation days, chemotherapy in the form of a pill. After the radiation oncologist at MD Anderson finishes up with that, they’ll do a lung biopsy to see if the spots on her lungs are also melanoma, or another kind of cancer. Which, the melanoma oncologist said, would be even worse luck. I’m not sure it’s possible to measure degrees of good or bad luck when talking about cancer. It’s CANCER.
- Chemotherapy: works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. Chemotherapy is used to:
- Treat cancer Chemotherapy can be used to cure cancer, lessen the chance it will return, or stop or slow its growth.
- Ease cancer symptoms Chemotherapy can be used to shrink tumors that are causing pain and other problems.
- Targeted Cancer Therapies: Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth and survival. Traditional chemotherapy drugs, by contrast, act against all actively dividing cells. Targeted cancer therapies that have been approved for use against specific cancers include agents that prevent cell growth signaling, interfere with tumor blood vessel development, promote the death of cancer cells, stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells, and deliver toxic drugs to cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to stimulate a patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Several types of immunotherapy can be used to treat patients with melanoma.
The doctor we spoke with is leaning toward the immunotherapy approach. If I am remembering correctly, she said she would use Pembrolizumab (which, according to the article linked above: “By blocking PD-1, these drugs boost the immune response against melanoma cells, which can often shrink tumors and help people live longer (although it’s not yet clear if these drugs can cure melanoma).” She seemed to think this treatment had the best possible chance of success with the fewest side effects. The only thing (and only is a big “only”) she seemed to have a concern about is that my mother has had corneal transplants in both eyes for several years. This therapy could perceive the transplants as “invaders” and attack them, too. So she could lose her vision.
Ultimately what it all comes down to is this, at least as far as man is concerned: the cancer is stage 4. There is no “cure” to speak of. The treatments will hopefully slow the cancer down and buy us some more time with Mom. The only other solution is a real miracle from the Lord.
I am praying and hoping for that miracle. In the meantime, I’m thanking the Lord for the opportunity to spend time with my mama, taking care of her and making a few more memories to last me until I see her again in heaven.