For those of you who are new to the blog, Dad’s got lung cancer. And the situation is very grim. There is very little new news since my last post on the subject. He has three options:
1) Surgery. This is normally the recommended treatment for lung cancer. If you can excise the tumor, the cancer can actually be cured. Unfortunately, Dad’s got severe emphysema. The pulmonologist believes that this will kill him outright, or, at best, leave him bedridden for whatever time he has left.
2) Chemo/radio therapy. This can halt the grown of the cancer indefinitely, and sometimes even bring on a remission. But it kicks your ass. Severely. Basically, the drugs are toxic. The idea is that the drugs and radiation kill the cancer slightly faster then they kill YOU. In addition to the emphysema, Dad’s got advanced COPD, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and a severe case of old guy. The oncologist doesn’t think he can stand the treatment.
3) No treatment. If he goes with this option, he will most likely live 6 – 18 months. In the first half of this period he will very likely enjoy his current quality of life. About halfway through, it will start to suck, and continue to suck worse until he dies.
I’ve been over this before, but I keep turning it over in my mind, so you get to read it again.
Options 1 & 2 will immediately turn his quality of life to 100% suck. Option 1 is his only chance of recovery, but that chance is so small you can’t see it with an electron microscope. Option 3 is the only one that offers him any quality of life.
We got a couple of new facts/opinions at this visit.
First, there may be problems with the lymph nodes on the cancerous lung. Removing the cancerous lobe might not be enough. They may have to take the entire lung. And he just can’t spare it.
Second, the pulmonologist finally gave us a long term prognosis.
Untreated, he has three to nine months left in the sun. Without treating the cancer, he will be able to maintain hsi quality of life for from three to nine months. Then maybe three to nine months more in the shadows. His ability to live alone and see to his own daily needs in any comfort will begin to decrease between four and nine months from now. He will begin to spiral down toward the end. And finally darkness. In nine to eighteen months.
All the other stuff has just taken all his reserves. He’s got nothing left with which to fight the cancer. I can’t focus. Nothing seems important. It hits me at odd times. I was watering my garden last night, and realized that my tomatoes may out live my father.
After we got done at the doctor’s office, I took the rest of the day off, and Dad and I drove up to Walland. Walland’s an odd sort of place, if you’re from the city or the suburbs. Leave Knoxville headed toward Alcoa. Go through Alcoa, Maryville, the Middle of Nowhere, and then turn left. About 15 minutes up that left turn is the little, unincorporated village/town/place of Walland. There, on a creek with no name, is the tiny plot of my Ancestral Land. In his boyhood, my Dad spent every summer there, in Aunt Betty’s cabin. Running wild on the ridge, swimming in the swimming hole, and in general acting like a little boy, and, later, a teenage one. The cabin was pulled down long before I was born. It had become a health/safety hazard. The plan was always to put up a bridge over the creek, and then a new cabin. But something else was always more important. Anyway, I took him up there yesterday, to see it again. The creek was up too high for him to cross it over to the old cabin foundation, but he was glad we went, and so am I.
I’m going to talk to him tomorrow and see what decisions he’s made.
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