Wednesday, 30 September 2009

There's a spot

My brother called. I have been waiting up for him. He has been in the meeting with my parents and the oncologist for the last 2 1/2 hours or so. He had to leave early to catch a plane home.

So, it's pretty grim. My father had an MRI yesterday "just to check" that there were no spots on his liver, and they found one. One. Usually there are loads, which makes it officially stage 4, inoperable and we are fucked. With one, they can't tell yet. PET scan tomorrow to confirm, if they even can confirm anything. So it might be Stage 4, or not. And the relevant question is now "It took them this long to figure it out!?"

My brother says that my parents don't believe that the spot is cancerous, even though the doctor says that there is a 90% chance that it is. However, so far, this entire thing has been atypical, and not in a good way. If it's stage 4, they won't operate, because it could "anger" the cancer and make it much more aggresive. Personally, I don't care about making it angry. Frankly, I'm angry.

They will be staying in Houston for the next two weeks, in any case, because they want to start him on chemo early next week. I am wondering what the damn point is, if they don't want to operate on it.

So we may well be flying out of here. At least I will have a better internet connection, as I am poaching internet from the flat 3 floors beneath us at the moment.

Now what? My brother says that they will probably be unwilling to operate for at least 8 months. So, as our doctor friend claims, does that mean that we are supposed to go back to normal, just live our lives? Am I supposed to go back to London, fiddle around in the theatre and hope for the best? Or could I possibly be squandering any time that I have remaining with my father? Is this not the time that people later wish that they had had with their parents? I have many things that are unresolved with my father and frankly, I am not entirely sure that we want to resolve them now. It's too soon. He's supposed to have 10 months to decide whether to come to my wedding, and then several more years to figure out his relationship to any potential children we might have. We have never talked about god, or about the damned money, or about what the fuck I am going to do with my life. And I'm not sure we can do it all now.

So now what? Does everything stop while we hold our breaths and pray in vain? Or do I trust that tomorrow will be another day and pretend that today is normal?

Fuck normal.

"I don't even have cancer"

My father is due to meet with the oncologist today. Last night he had another MRI. They are worried that the cancer has spread to his liver, so they just want to check that. Also, my parents are pushing for it to all be done as quickly as possible, so that there cannot be any reason that he can't start treatment as soon as possible.

In the meanwhile, he is in denial. He told my grandmother yesterday that it's all a mistake, the doctors don't know what they are on about and that they've got it wrong. This is confusing her. My mother says that it's ok to let them confuse each other. He's seems to be going through Kubler-Ross in a weird order, but that's fine. I find it all very weird.

I have been scaring myself with internet statistics today, which I am going to stop doing because it makes me want to drop everything and just spend 24/7 with him. I don't know if it's a good or a bad thing that I am thinking that there are now many things that I might have to do this year or not get to do at all. It's scary.

I have ordered my brother to call me at any hour tonight, as soon as they know what they are going to do for treatment.

Also, my grandmother has had a steady stream of visitors since the holiday ended, regardless of whether she wants them or not. I find this intrusive, especially when they are quite happy to say "even if you don't want company, I'm coming over". Great. So she needs to play the hostess and keep everyone else amused, when all she wants to do is watch TV and drink lots of tea. Also, it is beginning to feel very much like a wake, which this blatently isn't, and I am getting annoyed at the thought that people are coming to sit with her for their own selfish, albeit well-meaning, reasons.

Tired of waiting now. Please make something happen. 12 hours until we know something. In the meanwhile, I am going to my other grandparents to help build a sukkah. I have never been in Israel during these holidays. Maybe I will learn something.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Waiting in Israel

It's the Jewish day of Attonement today. All is quiet outside, with no cars, no television, although there are slews of children on bicycles riding around the empty streets.

And we are waiting. I came home to my grandmother yesterday morning, after a very long flight, feeling tired, dirty and anxious. The conversation in the car centred around me telling her the news, but, in the end, the doctor told her, while I sat beside her. He kept talking about "growths" and I have been thinking about the word "cancer" and how people don't say it as if saying it makes the tumour grow.

Because my parents aren't talking to anyone until Wednesday, we are waiting. I am about to apply for a visa waiver for my grandmother to the States, in case we are going to pack everything and go back to Houston. The tired part of me does not really want to do that.

In any case, my grandmother cried, obviously, but since then she has been utterly amazing. About 7 hours after we talked to her, she finally got to speak to my dad. She had been saying that she doesn't trust the doctors, that they have been wrong all this time and that she can't lose her son in the same way she lost her brother. Then, on the phone to my father, she said "I can feel in my heart that we are going to beat this. I just know it. And you are getting the best care in the world". And, at that moment, I thought, when I grow up, I want to be just like her. When the moment of truth came, she stepped up and consoled her son in a way only a mother can, putting all her doubts and fears aside to tell him that everything will be alright. And I love her for that more than I can possibly say. This 80 year old woman is my hero and I will be pleased if I can get through this with half as much grace and courage that she is showing.

So we are waiting. We are watching DVDs to pass the time until the television comes back on, but we have had a steady stream of guests. My dad's cousin lives nearby, and she has been with us for a good chunk of the last two days.

People sometimes think that my family is odd, because we are so closely knit and seem to be in each others affairs a lot. But now I know how to answer them. In times of crisis, it is my type of family that survives. Because we will move heaven and earth for each other and never let the support flag.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Off to tell Gran

I am flying out of Houston in a couple of hours to fly to Israel to break the news to my grandmother. I am taking an oncologist with me. Ok, not quite like that, but the way it works is that this guy, a friend of my parents, has been here all along and is now going back to Israel and will come with me to my grandmother. My role, for the next week or so, is to keep her calm and busy until my parents meet with the doctor who will be coordinating my father's treatment. Only then will he decide whether we are coming on a plane to Houston (oh the fun of transatlantic travel) or if they are coming to Israel.

In the meanwhile, my brother has arrived in Houston and the other one will be arriving today. They are not alone, so, as much as it loathes me to leave, my task lies elsewhere.

Luckily, I will not have to do the talking. My job is hand-holding and hugging. And then keeping busy until Wednesday. When I told my grandmother I was coming, she was utterly thrilled, but this will not last long. My job will also be to check that she is physically alright after we tell her. She is 80 years old and healthy, but still, 80 is 80.

I will take her to the theatre, and opera, and restaurant, and I will have to let her buy me clothes, which I despise. But before it sounds like self-pitying martyrdom, I need to point out that I love her very much and this is the next best thing to being with my parents. And, either way, I will be seeing them before the end of next week anyway.

The show opens again this afternoon. I will be on an airplane. C'est la vie.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Journey starts here

I am starting this blog because it is important for me to write stuff down as it comes. I have a feeling these are going to be a tough few months. A friend a few days ago commented "This seems to be many people's annus horribilis." Fair enough.

The gist is that my father has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has been having problems in that area for a while now and had scans done in June and then in August. He has a condition called pancreatic divisium, which is completely harmless. Except when it isn't. The point is that the doctors thought that it was chronic pancreatitis, except one doctor, with whom the whole thing didn't sit right. So he talked to another doctor. An oncologist. And he looked at the scans and said "I think I see something here". So my parents trekked back to Houston, with me in tow this time, and yesterday he had another endoscopy to take a biopsy.

The doctor was slightly shocked. My father is in the completely wrong demographic for this (except for being in the same age bracket as Patrick Swayze). He is young, healthy, strong, and so there is a belief somewhere that he has a good chance. Problem is that, worldwide, pancreatic cancer has a survival rate of 5%. At MD Anderson, the cancer hospital, these odds are 27%, hence the title of the blog. My brother says "that's 27% of crap", but it's what we have to hang on to right now.

I have been supporting my mother and my father over the last couple of days. Badly. I have gone and caught a cold (I blame the air conditioning in this stupid country). However, I think that my next job is going to be going to Israel to bring over my grandmother, who is blissfully ignorant right now. It's going to be a relief not to have to lie to her, but I don't envy her future position in any way.

In any case, this is a blog to chart our progress through treatment (of which we know nothing right now) through the weirdness and to keep friends updated as to what's going on, in case anyone cares. It sounds like the treatment will take six months, although we really don't know right now. Some of this blog will be medical jargon (as far as I understand it), some of it will be just thoughts.

I'm OK, although I am not really sleeping and I feel like I am jet-lagged all the time. In the meanwhile, I have a show that I am supposed to be running. Luckily, I trust my team to get on with it. I know that I was looking to take a break, but this was not really what I had in mind!