While catching up on my blog tonight, I realized that my original vision for a blog about health (inside and out), running, healthy eating and peace has quickly turned into a blog about cancer and my reactions/emotions to it. I find this completely natural since who really thinks about how many calories they have consumed in a given day when a loved one is battling a terrifying and earth shattering disease? Not I. On that note, I will continue to include my dad's story in this blog, if not only for myself, but possibly for anyone else dealing with hardship in any definition of the word.
My pops was given the choice (although his doctor advised him on what to do, your health and what you do to your body is always your choice) of either having further treatment or not. I will put this in simple terms.....two surgeries, a body scan and a biopsy show no sign of any cancer left in his body. The tumor is out, lymph nodes removed "just in case" and incisions have healed nicely. The protocol for stage 3 melanoma is to follow through with a type of immunotherapy called Interferon. Think of it kind of like this....the immunotherapy is a naturally occurring thing in your body and the Interferon shots are given in high doses to encourage the body to boost its own immune system and fight off (some times killing) any invisible cancer cells that are left and any that may want to rear their ugly head again. Sounds great, right?
The reality is that the shots are given intravenously five days a week at the hospital for a whole month and then three times a week, at home, for as long as a year (or until a person just can't do it any longer). Symptoms differ per person, but can include mild flu like symptoms, depression and fatigue. Committing to a year of a possible state of "sick" just wasn't what my dad wanted to do. After asking the doctor what would happen if he didn't pursue therapy, he was told that there was a 15% chance of the cancer coming back (this would be most likely less with Interferon, but not guaranteed). He could gamble with his health or he could do treatment.
I had not one bit of advice to give him when he asked, I cried a lot, asked friends and strangers what they would do and in the end decided it HAD to be his choice. His body, his life, his life affected by feeling sick for a year...his choice. Of course, my ever positive father cracked some jokes about how 15% were pretty good odds and that he would hate to miss fishing season this year. Cancer jokes are a regular part of the conversation in my house these days. :)
A couple of nights ago, sitting on the couch with my parents, my dad informed me that I really couldn't move out till after June because my mom had already booked and planned her trip to Yosemite National Park with friends and somebody had to be around to help with shots and treatment. "We're not gamblers," were the exact words my mom said next and the look between the two of them let me know that despite fears and trepidations, dad had decided that treatment was the best choice. Honestly, 15% when it comes to a loved one, sucks. It is horrible odds when you are putting them against someone you can't imagine not being alive and I would never put my chips on a bet like that.
Dad will start treatment in February and we will all be there every step of the way. I have been designated as the "shot giver" since my mom will faint at the very sight of a needle. I am eager to learn about and take on my new responsibility.
Note to self: moving home when you are 29 because of lay-offs and circumstance is not ideal. Things happening for a reason and me being able to be a part of this journey called cancer is an amazing gift. Remember that!