Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer causes 1 million deaths annually worldwide. It is the 4th most common cancer in the world and the 2nd most common for cancer related deaths after lung cancer. The overall 5 year stomach cancer survival rate is 20%, which means only 1 in 5 will survive 5 years. However, if the cancer is localized, if it has not spread to the lymph nodes, at least 75% of patients survive for 5 years and eventually two thirds of these survivors are cured. Stomach cancer survival rates based on the stages of the cancer give an overall 70% for 5 years. Unfortunately, only 1 % of all cases are detected at this stage. 6% of cases are detected at stage 2 and their 5 year survival rate is 42%. A reasonable number of patients are diagnosed at stage 3 and their survival rate is 20% for 5 years. An overwhelming majority of 80% Stomach Cancer cases is detected at stage 4 and their 5 year stomach cancer survival rates at this very advanced stage is barely 5%. 

Why am I posting this? We went to see my mom this weekend. We checked her out of the hospital friday, took her to the oncologist to get her $3,000 bone marrow production shot, then home. She was so drained we didn't see her Saturday. We saw her briefly Sunday.  Guaranteed she'd just spent 4 days being poisoned, had kidney stints put in because her kidneys aren't draining (bc her lymph nodes right there are now extremely inlarged and they don't know why yet), and had an enema because she's still not passing things like she should. She only had her stomach removed 4 weeks ago.  She's lost a lot of weight (and when you're only 114 pounds to begin with, you don't have any to loose) . 

Seeing her so depleted and vulnerable really was hard.  When you have such a crazed role reversal, you really start to get reminded that life is very very short. I'm really afraid that she's not going to be here in 10 years.  It's a reasonable assumption. And the chance that this cancer leads to something that kills her, are very high.  

Will my children know her? Will she be there when I turn 30?  Will she be there when I give birth to my first child, when they are baptized?  Will I be able to call her when I don't know what's wrong with the baby, how to handle potty training, when I need to cry?  Will I be parent-less on this earth far too soon?

I'm going to visit her more, I'm going to try and be a better daughter. And I'm also not taking a chance that she won't be there. Maybe we'll try to get pregnant before some people think we're ready, but we are and I'm not willing to risk my mother not being able to hold her first grandchild because I wanted new wood floors. Our priorities have changed, my heart is a little broken, and I won't shed any tears worrying about her death. It's not in my control. But I can ensure that as many things as possible will happen before it ever becomes a concern. We are in a good place in our lives and I want my mom present during as many life changing moments as possible. I will not take her presence for granted.  Life is too short to worry.

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