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My mom Judi was just short of 61 1/2 when she was diagnosed on Oct. 6, 1998. Two days earlier, on my 39th birthday, she became jaundiced - which suddenly added urgency to what had been a leisurely process (for her HMO, anyway) of figuring out what had been giving her intestinal discomfort for a few weeks. An abdominal ultrasound & CT scan revealed the pancreatic tumor; on Oct. 21, laparascopy (which was meant as a possible Whipple prelude) revealed extensive liver involvement, so Mom got a bypass to relieve the jaundice, and they closed up. She decided to decline chemotherapy, choosing not to run the risk of side effects which would likely detract from the quality of her remaining life (nausea, for one, would likely cause more weight loss, which she can ill afford, now that she's down to 110 on a body that is slender at 135). For the first few weeks post-dx, she was losing weight at a frighteningly rapid pace, and the oncologist we met after her surgery had little advice for countering it, so we sought out a naturopathic cancer specialist at the Seattle Cancer Treatment & Wellness Center (part of the CTC's of America chain). He prescribed supplements - pancreatin, Vitamin A, melatonin, soy protein powder - and for the past month, her weight has been stable at 110ish! She has been taking continuous low doses of oxycodone, but is just starting to experience breakthrough pain and has received a Dilaudid prescription for that. Now a few personal details ... the heartbreaking thing about all this is that, one year ago, I was also a "caregiver" for Mom, helping her get help for depression that had sunk her into unemployment and near-agoraphobia. She spent several months on Prozac, got job retraining, and by June 1998, had secured her first good job in several years, as an administrative assistant at the local Senior Center. She was having a great time. Then -- this. She could not keep the job post-dx, as she had no sick leave, no disability leave, and they would not hold it open for her. So she is not working, and is mostly hanging around the house in her bathrobe, watching TV, which is how she lived for years during the depression. Sigh. As for me -- I am her oldest child (also have a 37-year-old brother), and live 1 mile from her - she moved up here to join us in Seattle three years ago when I was expecting my first (and only, so far) child. I work at a TV station, as a newscast producer, and am about to switch into fulltime online news work. As for family history of cancer - my father died at 44 in 1980 of what I always thought was alcohol-induced cirrhosis, though there's some rumbling now that cancer may have been involved; though his natural parents gave him up for adoption, we do know his natural mother died of metastatic breast cancer, which is also what killed my husband's mother at age 59 in the early '70s. My mom, BTW, has been a heavy smoker since teenagehood, and also a moderate-to-heavy drinker till dx (half a bottle of red wine nightly) PLUS a heavy acetaminophen user till dx. Who knows what triggered the pancan ... but now that it's "too late," she is continuing to smoke. Sorry, no happy ending here, but that's our story. One more side note, my son is likely to grow up without ANY grandparents :( -- besides my mom's illness, my FIL is now in a nursing home, deteriorating with Alzheimer's. (He is 85.) We're going to have to find some honorary grands ... t.r. in Seattle

Posted 12/12/1998 03:53 am by t.r.
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