Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The C Word

When I was growing up, cancer was the ultimate scary, obscure disease that you heard about. When my parents were young adults, they knew no one with cancer, and in all my years of school I never heard of a single person, in any grade, in any school, with cancer. Times have changed, unfortunately, and it feels like cancer is dropping C-bombs all over the place, wreaking havoc on people's lives.

A 3-year old boy in my son's class was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died shortly after his fifth birthday.

A thirtysomething year-old co-worker of mine, the lead singer in a local punk band, came down with glioblastoma multiforme last year (the same kind of brain tumor Ted Kennedy had). He is now on hospice.

A good friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare cancer just a few weeks after she got married, while she was in her late twenties. She is currently undergoing chemo, and thankfully is tolerating the treatments well.

Heck, even the guy who came over to give us an estimate for redoing our hardwood floors earlier in the summer was diagnosed with a brain tumor two short weeks later.

Sorry for the bummer post, but here's the 'good' news. My brother Matt, my only brother, who is also a wonderful husband, father of two gorgeous young children, and a Pulitzer Prize-Finalist kick-ass investigative reporter, was just diagnosed with the 'easy' cancer--Hodgkin's disease. The good kind, like this whole experience will be a walk in the cancer park. Luckily, he didn't ignore the small lump that he felt in his neck a week or so ago. The doc immediately suspected cancer, and things went quickly from there. My family and I all held our breaths as the fine needle aspiration, CT scan, PET scan, and full biopsy were performed. I handled the stress by 1) crying more than I've cried in the past 10 years combined and 2) reading as much as I could get my hands on about everything and anything this could be. I wanted to know the worst it could be and the best it could be, and everything in between. I basically took the short course in blood cancers and am now Gaylord Street's leading expert on lymphoma. A big fish in a very small pond, but it's the best I could do in a week's time.

Matt's official diagnosis is Stage 2 Classic Hodgkins (the subtype still unkown), which means he has tumors in his neck and chest but everything is above the diaphragm and there's no involvement with the spleen or other organs. More good news--he also doesn't have any of the B symptoms that are sometimes present, like night sweats, considerable weight loss, or severe itching.

I'll be periodically using this blog to write updates on how Matt is doing, in an effort to spare my mom's poor iPhone from overheating. Feel free to check in regularly, and I apologize in advance to Matt's childless friends if you happen upon any mundane details about my children's lives I also include here.

Matt's first meeting with the oncologist was today and went well. It's good news when the oncologist seems bored by the diagnosis--you certainly don't want a case that is leaving the docs scratching their heads and flipping aimlessly through their medical textbooks. Just to have the most accurate picture of what is going inside his body, he will have a bone marrow biopsy performed early next week, and while they have him under anesthesia they will also put a port in his chest to make the administration of chemo easier. This means he won't have to have an IV placed each time. I think he's looking forward to the fun anesthesia meds--last week after some Valium and Versed he told the doctor that he hadn't felt that good since college. :)

On September 15, Matt will officially start his trip down Hodgkin's lane, beginning with 4 rounds of ABVD chemo (adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine, for those of you keeping track), administered once every two weeks for four months. He won't feel great, but there have been some huge strides made with anti-nausea meds, so I'm confident he'll come out of this okay albeit with a larger appreciation for the morning sickness Bodia went through with her two pregnancies. He'll also lose his hair, but like my mom said, with his height he'll just look more like the NBA star he's always wished he was. A number of doses of radiation to get any microscopic buggers that may be hiding in the shadows will bring him to the end of this road, where in all likelihood he'll be cured and be able to close the door on this damn experience.

I didn't need Matt to get cancer to know I love him and care about him. I don't want to hear anyone say there's a reason for everything, and spare me the 'it's God's will' talk. It's not fair, but I know that life isn't fair. What I do know is that Matt is strong and he has his family rallying around him for support, so we'll get through this. And then I'll just add two more words to the list of reasons why I look up to my big brother--cancer survivor.

1 comment:

  1. Well written with lots of love throughout. Both Kathy, Jason, Sarah and I are thrilled with the good news and are happy for all of you. I am now officially retired although I do start a part time job next week with the Department of Education. The extra money will help with the vacation house which I hope to see you in at some point! My best to Sam and the boys.