Mom was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer on Wednesday, 12.22.10. She had been having severe head and neck pain for about a week and a half and spent a couple non consecutive days in the ER before being admitted to Overlake Hospital on Monday, 12.21 (ish-the days and dates are hazy for me). They ran several diagnostic tests before finally running the MRI of her head and neck on Wednesday that found the cancer. The cancer is in all of her cerebral-spinal fluid, but has not penetrated her brain. It is also in her sternum and maybe some other bones. The theory now is that it began as breast cancer and spread through the lymphatic system; two of her lymph nodes near the breast tested positive for malignancy.
As soon as she was admitted to the hospital, she got her pain managed and felt much better. She is 100% aware of everything that is going on, knows all of her doctors' and nurses' names and knows her diagnosis. She elected to begin radiation therapy on her head and neck-as far as I can tell, the benefits of the radiation are to stop the cancer from entering her brain and get it out of her head and neck. This should also reduce the pain within a week. The immediate side effects of the radiation are fatigue and sometimes a little naseau. She will also lose her hair permenantely.
Her doctor asked her on Thursday if she wanted to know her prognosis and she said no. I shouldn't be surprised that my mom is such a kick-ass fighter; though I've only spent one day with her in the hospital, she has impressed me so much with her determination and patience.
Gary and I arrived from NYC late Thursday night (12.23.10) and went straight the hospital where Mom was alert and cheerful. Friday, yesterday, was the first day of radiation and we were warned that it was going to be a rough day. She had to be "mapped"-the radiologists had to mark along her body where the radiation was going to be aimed. They also created a mask for the back of her head which is marked and she wears each treatment. Yesterday she spent about 2 hours in the radiology department having the mask made and having her body mapped. She had to lay on her belly twice for one hour at a time, which was really uncomfortable for her, but that was the longest she'll have to be in that position. After the treatment, she was uncomfortable for the rest of the night; she couldn't stay asleep for more than a few minutes at a time, she kept fidgeting and couldn't stay still, and kept pushing her pain medication pump. But when the nurse came in and asked her what her pain level was, she said a five. Such a trooper.
Today she had a great morning-she slept really well last night and had an appetite for breakfast. We arrived at the hospital around 9am and breakfast arrived about a half an hour later. She ate a few bites of french toast and a few bites of cream of wheat with strawberries, her biggest breakfast in a couple of weeks. She was energetic and lucid and joked with everyone. But pretty much right after breakfast, she started feeling a lot of pain again. The pain is in her head, neck and back. In addition to the pain medication, she has ice packs on her neck and back. We also put a pillow under her knees sometimes which helps her to be more comfortable.
Yesterday her big concern was that the second hole in her ear would close, so she asked me to bring a pair of earrings to keep in her ears. And today she put me in charge of grooming patrol-if an eyebrow or something gets out of control, I'm to take care of it. :-)
Tomorrow she doesn't have a radiation treatment, so I'm looking forward to a better day. She wants to go through all of her email, communicate with work and send an email to all of the friends and family who don't yet know what's going on. Ross, Claudia, Gary, Dad and I are all so appreciative of all of the love and support we've received so far; we've been so inudated with love, care and support. Please forgive us if we don't return phone calls or text messages right away~we're all rotating in and out of her room, talking with doctors and spending time with our many wonderful visitors. We so appreciate all the communication and will return calls, texts and emails as soon as we can.