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September/October to August. Check, and mate.

For long-time readers, you know August brings a lot of anxiety and drama to our family. For the last four to five years, each August has resulted in one or both of my parents having some sort of medical emergency. My sister and I like to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that August doesn’t exist. This year, at the tail end of August, we thought we were in the clear. We had even deceived August by having my dad schedule his shoulder replacement in July. We front loaded the shitty part of summer. Naturally of course, with three days left in the month, my mom ended up in the ER with some complications from her Multiple Sclerosis.

Those complications lead to a catheter being placed until they could sort out the issues. While uncomfortable, the catheter was generally fine for the first few days. At one point, we noticed what looked like blood and tissue coming through the cath tubing. Thinking it was a result of irritation, we let it go for a day or so. When it continued, I texted two RN friends I have, and both concluded Mom should be seen at the ER the next day.

The emergency room docs couldn’t find a source of irritation, so they ordered a CT scan of the abdomen to try to find the cause of the bleeding. The scans came back almost immediately, and what they saw was a big giant mass in her liver. They wrote up a little summary – full of big scary words I had to google – and recommended a follow up biopsy in a few days. One of the striking thing in the report was a notation that the mass had grown fairly large compared with the mass found on her 2014 CT scan. In August (of course) of 2014, Mom had an episode that landed her in the hospital for a few days. Apparently during that stay, and CT scan was ordered, the mass was found, and no one bothered to share that information with her or our family. Neat.mom

The biopsy was done a few days later, and we were told it would take up to four days to get the results back. Less than 15 hours had passed before we got the call that the tests showed liver cancer. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck man. Mom was referred to Swedish hospital in Seattle, and due to miscommunication between the original hospital and Swedish, it took too long for her records to be sent over, meaning we missed the weekly “expert” group that meets to review new cases. So, that added another week of no answers to our already anxious state.

We got the call last week that the group came to the conclusion that her type of cancer was called Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), which frankly just sounds like a dinosaur to me. Given the large size of the tumor, and her overall health from the MS, surgery is not an option that they are willing to undertake. The next best thing is going in to cut off the blood supply to the tumor using a process I think is called a “bland emoblism”, and doing follow up CT scans to see how the mass is shrinking. There is some talk of injecting chemo in to the tumor during the procedure, but we’ll get additional information soon. The doctors were unable to give a life expectancy or ballpark guess yet, because they don’t know how the tumor will react to such an intervention. It was a big heavy phone call on Wednesday. It was also my 35th birthday.

This post is not meant to go Debbie Downer, but I also want to share some other things that have going on in our lives. Some of you have noticed posts have dropped off, or my tone has been different, and I need you to see the whole picture to understand why.

When we landed in Seattle after Anne’s wedding, a friend called me with the band news that a mutual friend had been hospitalized with a brain tumor and was having surgery the next day. The hospital was on the way home, so we stopped to see her and share hugs, prayers, and most importantly, tell her we loved her very much. The surgery was a success in terms of getting most of the tumor out, but unfortunately the path report was positive for a very aggressive issue that would return. They are going to attempt to treat it with chemo, but the odds are stacked against her. I fully believe in beating all the odds, but I’m not the one who has to fight that fight.

If bad things come in threes, our third is the passing of my mom’s uncle at 94 from complications from a stroke. He was a lovely man who was kind and good, and the world needs more like him. The world was a better place for having him in it for as long as it did. He will be sorely missed. My mom was tolerating her news as well as could be expected, but adding on the sadness of her uncle’s passing was a big hit both emotionally and physically.

The heap of crap that has hit our family recently has been rough. There are more questions than answers, and horrible things hanging above our head that could spill over at a moment’s notice. So, what do we do? Well, we do what we always do in my family. We take a few days to internalize the news, wallow a bit, and then we hitch up our big girl (and boy) panties and we get ready for a brawl. Cancer can invade, and infect, but it can think twice before it gets to take over without a fight.

Listen up cancer, we’re Norwegians. Our people were Vikings. They traveled the world and may not have always been on their best behavior…but they saw a lot and experienced a lot. They clearly saw other cultures preserving food by drying or salting it, but they were so damn tough they’re like “nah, let’s just pour some lye on this white fish, wait for it to turn to jello, and eat it. We’ll call it lutefisk”. My people could have been dining on smoked salmon, and we chose the fish jello. Ok? Those are my people. We don’t take the easy way out. We don’t give in. We rally the fuck up and we get to the business being bad ass.

Cancer, you have no damn clue of who you chose to mess with. None. We came here to chew bubble gum and kick ass.

And we’re all out of bubble gum.

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39 comments on “September/October to August. Check, and mate.”

  1. Hey Sarah, just read the post about your Mom’s diagnosis (I have been having computer issues). I am praying for her and all of you. Also, am getting all of my praying friends in on the act. God is bigger than cancer. He healed my Mom of bladder cancer in 97 and let her stay her with us until Sept 9th of this year. God is good, lovely, gracious and kind. Just remember that you all are not alone.
    Robin

  2. Thank you for this, it totally hits home for me right now. Friday i had my yearly physical and the Doctor said she wanted to order me an ultrasound to look at a few spots in my breasts. Immediately the “C” word comes to mind. Family history of breast cancer doesn’t help either. I’ve been in a pretty negative place all weekend and didn’t get a lot of sleep. I mean I’m only 29 with a husband and a daughter and I want to have more kids. This shit is supposed to happen in the news and not close to home. Anyways I read your blog religiously cause you have my kind of humor. . 🙂 Just know that you sharing (and joking) helped someone if small town NH today. Thank you!!

  3. I will be praying for you and your family!!! We appreciate you sharing so we can fight with you guys!!!

  4. About a year ago a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. They removed one breast and suspect tissue from the other, then they discovered spots on her liver. She has been through 3 different kinds of chemo for the liver issues. So far, holding her own BUT the other thing she worked at was improving her over all immune system. She used elderberry tonic and hemp tonic, for example, and this spring asked for things with dandelion so I made her a strawberry/dandelion root shrub. I’ve got a dandelion tincture almost ready to decant too. So far, for her it’s working. Why am I babbling about this – just trying to illustrate that along with whatever the doctors suggest – work on her immune system, quietly, in the back ground. It will help. Those blueberries you’ve been growing would be good, for example. Maybe just a few frozen ones in a bowl to suck on when she’s not feeling like eating. Good luck.

    • She eats blueberries almost every day, and I can make some elderberry soon. We all need it frankly.

      One of the weird side effects of MS is that most MS patients actually have a great immune system. Their body is always busy attacking itself, so any new viruses that come in are generally dealt with swiftly. I can count on two hands the amount of colds I can ever remember my mom having.

  5. my late husband had liver cancer (he received two units of whole blood in the pre testing day sand got hepatitis C). The so called embolistic proceedure and the injection directly into the tumor from my experience ten years ago would be the best choice. Do be aware that the nerves from the liver go up the back and into the shoulders so if Mom experiences back pain that’s part of the issue as a whole.

    LIver cancer is not a fun disease, and more importantly it is not usually a slow moving cancer. So be aggressive in advocating for your mom.

    You will get through tis.

  6. Your family will be in my prayers.
    mother in law, who is also of Norwegian stock btw, was diagnosed with stage 4 of a form of endometrial cancer that only has a 15% survival rate at 5 years. She has now been cancer free for over 13years. I hope that your mother has similar success.