Life With Cancer (Update on Dede Miller)
My last update on my sister Dede's battle with breast cancer was optimistically misleading, but not because I was intentionally being "Pollyanna-ish." In an appointment in mid-December, her oncologist told us that her recent PET (Positron Emission Tomography) showed that the only cancer remaining was in her breast (she has stage 4 metastatic cancer and some cancer had been detected in tissue around her lungs that was diagnosed as "adenocarcinoma" and her diagnosis was very serious).
By the time we went to this appointment, Dede had been off of chemo for several weeks and her breast tumor (which at one point had been all but gone) was growing again, but her doctor sent us to see a surgeon for possible mastectomy anyway.
The surgeon was far from the optimist the medical oncologist was and said that her tumor was too large and too much surrounding skin was involved for surgery to be possible and since stage 4 cancer is "incurable" there is little reason for surgery other than wound care because it's not about getting rid of the cancer, but cancer management and prolonging life. The upshot is, Dede will begin another course of chemo beginning this week for an indefinite amount of time. Her oncologist said some people have been on chemo for 10 years in response to her question whether she would just have to be on chemo for the rest of her life.
We were disappointed, and I am not too proud to say that I am a little scared and even though Dede shows a very brave face to the world, I think she is, too. Her attitude is very positive, so I try to match hers.
Even though living with a person with cancer is a roller-coaster ride of hope, false hope, terror, victory and defeat; after living with her diagnosis for nine months, now, sometimes life with cancer is very mundane. Except for her sparse hair (which is growing back) and the fact that she tires easily, you wouldn't even know Dede has cancer and that makes it easier and harder to cope with at the same time.
I am sorry that my last missive about Dede was overly optimistic, but I believe her medical oncologist gave us false hope. It angers me, but I can't imagine telling a very kind person like Dede that her situation is not that great. During this process, I have had to re-evaluate my style. I am brutally honest, so I expect the same kind of honesty from people I deal with. A little sugar-coating is fine, but to me, false hope is deadly. However, Dede is the one with the disease and she prefers a little fudging with the facts to help her cope with coping with this invader.
As sisters, our styles are different, but our goals are the same. Dede won't be able to move back to L.A. anytime soon to be with her beloved pets in her own home, but the most important thing is that she (we) beat this thing to restore her health to better than ever.
And there is real hope, not false hope. Beating the kind of breast cancer Dede has is uncommon, but not impossible; beating stage 4 cancer is also not impossible and we have been reading a great book called Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner, and I really believe that with the alternative things we are doing and with Dede's great attitude and reasons to live, she (we) can be cured.
I have my sister in the next room, but I need and I'd like my peace-comrade back because so much ruckus needs to be raised against the evil empire that not only wages wars around the world, but has constantly waged wars against poor people here within the borders.
Even though my own relationship with the medical establishment is on rocky ground, I think the biggest thing I have learned so far in this struggle is that early detection is so important. Dede knew she had a thing growing on her breast, but due to lack of medical opportunities and her own relentless denial ("if I ignore it, it will go away") she is in far worse shape that was necessary. We can't look back in regret, but we can analyze past circumstances to learn.
If I am overly optimistic, it is in my own hard work and agency. I really believed that by now the wars in the Middle East would be over---LOL. I've had many friends with breast cancer that were in remission by now and I really thought that's where we would be with Dede at this point. It's been a long haul but we still have a long haul to go.
Below is a link to Dede's GoFundMe page if you are interested in helping us with this life and death struggle. This is the mundane part of cancer, bills still need to be paid and even though Dede has a great team up here in Solano County with Medi-Cal, she still has expenses for her alternative treatments.
Thanks---as Ché said, "hasta la victoria, siempre."
HELP WITH DEDE'S MEDICAL COSTS
HELP WITH DEDE'S MEDICAL COSTS