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09 February 2014

So my mother has breast cancer This is one of those things I just can't come up with a clever, meta reference post title for.[More:]
Something turned up in my mother's yearly mammogram a few weeks ago, a shadow that might have been cancer or nothing. She had a biopsy done January 29 and got the results this past week and called me tonight to tell me it was cancer.

The doctors won't be able to tell her the extent or stage of the cancer until surgery is done. She has an appointment with a surgeon February 20, and hopefully it won't be much of a wait for surgery. The best outcome at this point is that the cancerous matter is small and easily removed, because if so the surgery will be all she needs. If the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, she will need chemo and/or radiation and her prognosis will be grimmer.

My mother seemed to be her usual brisk, practical self on the phone. She has noticed no lumps or symptoms and says she feels fine, though she has lost 5 pounds since Christmas despite the fact that she hasn't been making any effort to lose weight.

My dad actually sounded upset (for him, that is — he's one to keep things inside), and said he was just trying to take it all in at this point. We talked about their Valentine's Day plans and I looked up the address of the closest location for the restaurant he said my mother would like to go to, and I encouraged him to get my mother flowers and a gift card for a massage if he can't think of gift for her (Mum is really hard to please and to shop for when it comes to gifts).

I hope for the best outcome, that the surgery will be all that's needed and that Mum will stay cancer-free afterward, but I had hoped for the best outcome of the biopsy only to get the worst. The surgery as well may take a bad turn. I have lost three members of my family since late 2011 (a brother, a cousin, an uncle) so I think, "Not this too...." and then I realize the futility of all wishes and hopes and the tallying of losses and gains. Life does not work that way.
That's really rough news, Orange Swan. I'm sorry.

I think over the years I've gleaned enough of your personality, and your family's dynamic, that I feel you will all take whatever comes with strength and grace, but I sincerely hope you won't need to, anytime soon.
posted by gaspode 09 February | 23:30
*crosses fingers*
posted by brujita 09 February | 23:33
Ach, that is such a frightening thing to hear. How old is your mother?
Do they live nearby so that you can spend more time with them? People often live so far away from eachother in the US.
Best wishes. Let's hope for a quick recovery.

(I know what you're going through; two weeks ago I heard that my father has been diagnosed with bowel cancer. His surgery is friday.)
posted by jouke 09 February | 23:41
Hugs to you Orange Swan and also to you jouke.
posted by arse_hat 10 February | 02:31
Cancer effing sucks.

Wishing the best of outcomes to you Orange Swan and jouke, and to your families. Hugs.
posted by mightshould 10 February | 06:24
Cancer indeed sucks. A friend is dealing with breast cancer also; she has a 7 year old daughter and it's tough. I will hold good thoughts for your mom, Orange Swan, and for jouke's dad. Hugs to you both.
posted by Kangaroo 10 February | 07:21
Hugs to jouke and Orange Swan.
posted by needlegrrl 10 February | 08:33
(((((Orange Swan)))))

The waiting really sucks, doesn't it? I have you in my heart. Many good thoughts and positive healing vibes to you and your family during this difficult time.
posted by msali 10 February | 09:20
posted by sperose 10 February | 09:22
Hugs and whffles.
posted by lysdexic 10 February | 09:25
Damn, so sorry. But, I've known lots of women who have gotten through breast cancer and lived many years after. My mother-in-law has been free for more than a decade now.
posted by octothorpe 10 February | 09:27
So sorry dear :(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 10 February | 09:48
Thanks all of you, and what an especially lovely thing to say, gaspode.

So sorry to hear of your father's diagnosis, jouke. I hope his surgery goes well. Best wishes to your friend also, kangaroo.

My mother is 75. She has always taken good care of herself and been in excellent health. So far as I know this is her first-ever surgery, unless you count oral surgery and five childbirths. But her mother died of cancer (it was colon cancer that spread), and her older sister has had it three times, although it was melanoma and Aunt Freda is still alive and well at 77. And yes, a number of my friends' mothers have had breast cancer over the past ten years or so, and all of them recovered.

My parents live a two-hour drive from me, I don't have a car, and it's nearly impossible to take transit to their little town. So it will be difficult for me to spend time with them.
posted by Orange Swan 10 February | 10:39
What rotten news; I'm sorry to hear it. I hope it's early and one of the less-awful cancers. So glad your Mom has you for support. Sending hugs and whatever healing light I can muster up your and her way.
posted by theora55 10 February | 10:51
I'm so sorry to hear that, orange swan and jouke.

We had similar news a couple of years ago, when my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She too felt well when she was diagnosed, and had just had some local symptoms (blood in the stool - boy am I glad she didn't ignore it).

It was a huge shock, since she was only 58. My dad was particularly upset, as he's 7 years older than her and did in no way want to plan for a solitary retirement.

The disease had spread locally but not to the lymph nodes. She needed radiotherapy to shrink the tumour, then surgery to remove it, then chemo to "mop up" the remaining disease, as well as an ileostomy to bypass the bowel as it healed. It was a very rough time.

Now, though, she's 60, in good health, disease- and ileostomy-free and is retired and enjoying her two new grandchildren. I hope things eventually go as well as this for your mom, OS, and your dad, jouke.
posted by altolinguistic 10 February | 11:40
(also favouriting gaspode's comment really hard)
posted by altolinguistic 10 February | 11:42
Sending you love and best wishes, my dear. Take good care of yourself, as well as your mom.
posted by Senyar 10 February | 13:18
So tough. Take it one step at a time and have hope. A friend of mine just returned to work after less than a year of treatment got rid of all signs of STAGE 4 ovarian cancer. My sister in law is completely free of any sign of breast cancer now, after 5 years plus since her diagnosis. There is no reason to fear the worst at this point.

Thinking of both of you.
posted by bearwife 10 February | 15:57
I am very sorry, OS and jouke. I hope that modern medicine comes through for both of them.
posted by danf 10 February | 16:56
I'm sorry jouke.
posted by brujita 10 February | 17:33
(((Orange Swan + jouke)))
posted by chewatadistance 10 February | 19:21
OS, are you sure you can't arrange something to go to your parents more often? I find that it's the one thing I can do; to spend more time with them and in that way somehow to stand with them.

Thank you for your well wishes. My father is 84. So they've had old friends die for a while now. Which makes the notion that "you're next" hard to deny. My parents are very chipper and stiff upper lip about it. F.i. I asked my mother whether the operation in itself is dangerous at his age. She said mostly no. But I notice they've been doing more stuff together last week. Which for them means going to an art exhibition on romanticist paintings in Haarlem and going to a movie for the first time in 15 years (a 4 hour German epic, follow up to the Heimat tv series from the 1980s) and taking a trip to a German city nearby.
So I think my mother is taking the small chance seriously that this might be it.
The choices of fun outings are so typical for them btw. Aww.

Tangent; the 'hugs' thing. I've seen that expression used a lot here and on metachat. Do people really do that in the US? Or is it a saying?
It's not something I ever do or witness around me here in NL.

posted by jouke 10 February | 20:13
Best wishes for your loved ones, Orange Swan and jouke... you're in my thoughts.
posted by Pips 10 February | 21:07
Sorry to hear that, Orange Swan & Jouke. Best wishes for their recovery. Take care.
posted by Firas 10 February | 21:37
Best wishes to you too, jouke.

Yup, people hug people. Hello hugs, goodbye hugs, I'm sorry for you hugs...
posted by gaspode 10 February | 22:22
My mother was 85 when they discovered that she had lung cancer. They removed half of a lung and implanted a pacemaker. Today she is fine and feisty as ever. I guess what I am saying is that cancer treatment these days is amazing and older women are tougher than we might think.

Be strong.
posted by Splunge 11 February | 11:39
Yes, we hug friends and family a lot to console in the US. I think Canada too -- I still remember watching Kurt Browning, watching his scores in 1994 after a disappointing performance, saying sadly, "I need a hug."

Hugs to both of you.
posted by bearwife 11 February | 13:13
Orange Swan and jouke, know that you are both in my thoughts.
posted by Stewriffic 11 February | 15:52
I know many cancer survivors. It seems to be the likely outcome. (I'm getting Mohs surgery in 2 weeks for skin cancer.)
posted by Obscure Reference 11 February | 16:53
I'm with my parents now; the day before my father goes to the hospital. I guess I should tell them that a room full of people from across the atlantic (mostly) are wishing him well. :-)
That would surprise them.

OR, my father had the same surgery for skin cancer recently. They're really good at it. I'm sending you a supportive pat on the shoulder. (I'm not the whuffles/hugs kind)
posted by jouke 12 February | 06:02
Supportive pats then to you and your family, jouke. I hope the surgery goes so uneventfully you forget to update us. (no. please update us.)

Good luck for yours, too, OR.
posted by gaspode 12 February | 10:51
Best of luck, OR. And to your father, jouke.

Jouke, I can be a hugger in the right company but we have a strange/shifting attitude to it in the UK - I find it hard to gauge when a hug is appropriate and often err on the side of not hugging.
posted by altolinguistic 12 February | 15:27
So, supportive pats it is, or an embarrassed British sympathetic smile.
posted by altolinguistic 12 February | 15:28
My mother had breast cancer surgery past Wednesday. They removed the tumour and biopsied her lymph nodes. My father reports that my sister came up for the day to be with Mum at the hospital and to cook meals, and that after that the neighbours all brought quantities of food over (because no one believes Dad capable of cooking apparently). Also that my mother was out shovelling the driveway(!) yesterday. Mum says her incisions are bothering her some but otherwise she feels nearly as well as usual. Now it's a matter of waiting another 1-2 weeks to find out the results of the biopsy of her lymph nodes. If they are clear of cancer, she'll need no other treatment but monitoring. So.. things are progressing as well as can be expected as this point.
posted by Orange Swan 03 March | 11:42
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your mother OS.
posted by jouke 03 March | 14:44
Talked to my mother tonight. She's still very sore from the surgery, which is to be expected, but says she's also very tired and is continuing to lose weight, which is not a good sign. Mum's had one follow-up appointment with the surgery to check the healing of her incisions, and hasn't heard about the results from her biopsy. The earliest she is likely to get any more news is during her next appointment, on March 18th. She tells me Dad refuses to let her shovel the driveway. Normally I would be against any sort of overbearing behaviour on the part of one spouse in any marriage, but in this case... work that manly authority, Dad.
posted by Orange Swan 09 March | 21:16
Hm. youllee aren't out of the woods yet it seems...
posted by jouke 10 March | 10:28
Just got off the phone from my weekly call to my parents. Mum has received the results of her lymph node biopsy and it was clear. She has since had an ultrasound on her stomach and some bloodwork and she'll get the results from those when she sees the surgeon on Tuesday. She will also find out for sure whether she needs radiation as a nurse has told her she will, because the tumour she had removed was not small. She still doesn't have much energy and is still losing some weight, though not as quickly as before the surgery. The neighbours are still bringing over care packages of food, which Dad is happily helping her to eat.
posted by Orange Swan 16 March | 21:46
Hm. Partial good news I guess.
Also it's a comforting idea that people around them are taking care...
posted by jouke 18 March | 17:15
Called my parents tonight as usual. My mother reports that she is feeling stronger and better and has been out shovelling snow again (!). She has seen the surgeon and he told her her incisions are healing well and that she won't need to see him again. The ultrasound on her stomach did not show any cancer. She will likely need radiation to kill any last cancerous cells that remain and that is being arranged for. She will be receiving 17 courses of it (5 a week for 3.5 weeks), which is at least less than the 25 courses a nurse had told her she would have to do. She'll get another 2-3 weeks to recover from surgery before her radiation treatment begins.
posted by Orange Swan 23 March | 21:32
That's good news, OS. Shovelling snow again! Damn, your mother is unstoppable.
posted by gaspode 23 March | 21:39
Just made my weekly phone call to my parents. Mum says she feels more tired than a week ago. She has another week and a half or maybe a little more before she begins radiation and is hoping she feels better by then. She also saw an oncologist this week who wants to put her on medication to supress her estrogen levels for the next five years, because estrogen can enhance the growth of cancer. Mum isn't thrilled with this idea, but is to start that medication tomorrow and is going to wait and see how it makes her feel.
posted by Orange Swan 30 March | 21:18
The mystery of tiny coffins... || Is it my imagination,