I was six years old when my Mother was diagnosed. Six years old when I was told that she had less than a year to live. Anaplastic oligoastocytoma stage three, were the words my Mom heard, when she was 37; an advanced type of brain cancer, in which survivors beyond one year were rare. I was 19 when she died; and she was 50. 12 years longer than then the doctors told her was possible; 12 years longer than most people lived with her prognosis. I am told that as soon as she heard what she had, she stopped doing the research she was working on (she was a biochemist) and began researching cancer, most specifically the type of cancer she had. I know that she emailed others with the same disease she had, and that she went to discussion boards. I have no clue whether she went to support groups, or met any of them in person. I was six years old, and my brother was eight; we lived with our Mother when she was diagnosed.
I never understand it; never really grasped what was going on. I knew she was sick, and that she would have to go to the hospital a lot. I knew about the headaches and the nausea, but that is all. My grandparents would come down from Canada and watch my brother and me when she was gone. But for a while, for the most part everything was normal, I guess, my memory of before she had cancer is hazy. As I grew up, it slowly dawned upon me how brave my Mother was. A single parent, with two kids and a deadly cancer devastating her brain, and yet she did not quit. She still loved us and cared for us as best she could. Once I asked her how she did it, and she said that she could either fight the disease and be with us for as long as possible or she could she sit idly by and let cancer win. Mom got all the treatments available at the time, Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery in which they removed both the tumors and parts of her brain. And she still stood tall. I never once saw her cry, or curse her condition. She was so brave.
Like my Mother, James “Rhio” O’Conner was diagnosed with cancer, and told he did not have long to live. Rhio had mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that attacks a thin layer of cells surrounding the bodies organs. As far as I have been able to discern the only way to get mesothelioma is by exposure to asbestos. (For more information please visit https://survivingmesothelioma.com) He threw himself, like my Mother did into outliving his prognosis, and was very proactive in the cure for it. Unfortunately Rhio was lost to the disease, but he lived longer than was expected for people with mesothelioma.
Like Rhio and my Mother, I would throw myself into the fight and choose the best and most viable treatments for survival, and I would be in contact with others who like me were fighting for their lives. I’d speak to survivors and those who were in the midst of their battle. I would also speak to numerous doctors to see what their opinions were. But I could never do it like my Mother. I could not do it while raising two kids, and working full-time. I could not do it, without someone by my side, I could not do it alone, the way she had to.
Since my Mom’s death there have been advances in the fight. I have heard news of lasers being able to destroy the cancerous cells with minimal damage to the surrounding cell. Radiation is more focused; concentrated at a more precise location. I’d go to the best oncologist my money could buy, and search out the best treatments. More than likely I’d try to veer away from holistic treatments. I do not believe in a diet that will clean toxins from your body and thus resolving the illness. This is not to say I will not eat a healthy diet. But I would not rely on healing foods for my cure.
In regard to others, especially if I had kids, I would write down a narrative of myself; my past, present, and aspirations for the future. I’d let my children know who I was/am; so that they’d feel connected to me. I would have them be in the fight as much as reasonably possible. They’d know what each treatment did, and why it would be beneficial. And conversely the side effects of each treatment. I’d try to let them help me make the decisions that would affect not only my life; but theirs as well.
I would also broadcast my story. I would let others know what my feelings on the disease that I was fighting was; how my treatments were going, and let them know, that if they needed someone to talk to, I’d be there for them.