Exactly two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 1C breast cancer. A year after that, it seemed like the cancer spread to the liver making her a stage 4 (terminal) patient – by God’s grace, that finding was reversed because her liver biopsy results showed it was only nodular cirrhosis. Her recent check up revealed a normal liver, normal lungs, a normal heart — but a suspicious radioactivity in her bones. Our visit to her medical oncologist confirmed that the suspicious areas were lesions in the bone – meaning, the cancer has recurred in my mother’s bones. Her doctor changed her hormone therapy medicine, prescribed medicine to strengthen the bone and prevent pain and ordered radiation therapy immediately.
After our eyes cleared from crying and our emotions kept at bay, one thing remains – we are not ready to lose our mother to cancer yet. While it may be true that breast cancer generally metastasize to the lungs, liver and bones, the metastasis in the bones is actually the easiest to manage. In fact, her medical oncologist told her the condition is not life threatening as it will just be treated as an ordinary bone disease. Unfortunately, we have to make sure the cancer is contained in the bones only, otherwise… it’s gonna be a dreadful fight.
So our family had finalized our action plan for my mother’s recent condition. She and my brother will be flying to Manila to seek second and third opinions on her case. If the findings are consistent, she will undergo radiation therapy there as well. Radiation therapy is only an outpatient procedure which merely lasts for around three minutes per session (it’s painless by the way). It would have been more convenient to have her therapy in Cebu because we are already familiar with the hospital and the doctors but since she will be having five radiation sessions a week for four consecutive weeks, it would be very costly in terms of hotel expenses and others. Having her radiation therapy in Manila is the best choice because my two sisters are there and she can just live in my sister’s condo. Aside from that, my mother will be happy in the arms of my niece Nadine who will cheer her up.
The prognosis median for my mother’s condition is two years. Some still live up to ten years after diagnosis though. Even then, I am emotionally preparing myself for the worst. While I also had two years to prepare for my father’s death, it is not the same.
My father had conditioned us while growing up that he will not be living a long life because of his type 1 diabetes which started when he was 27 years old. He even told us, he will only live up to 50. When he turned 50, he told us he bargained with God to take him at 55 instead. He was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, a complication of his diabetes, when he was 53. He died eight months after he turned 55. When we lost him, I did not mourn so much because he prepared me for it. The last two years I had with him were well spent. I had said all I wanted to say and did what I wanted to do with him.
My mother is a different story. She has always been healthy and I assumed she will live a long life like her parents who died in their 90s. When cancer hit her two years ago, I had prepared for our goodbyes since then. I’m always mindful of the fact that my time with her is running short every minute, that’s why I always spend my free time with her. Our periodic trips to Cebu for her check ups were our bonding time where we rejoice when the results are good and cry together when they are not. My siblings and I take turns accompanying her to her check ups and each of us had our individual quality time with her. My mother’s disease has caused us to make more effort in being together and forming happy memories to last us the rest of our lives.
Nevertheless, I am still asking, demanding and bargaining with God not to take my mother soon. I told him He’s got my father already and He cannot take my mother just yet. She is my rock and I do not know how to live without her.