The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 3, 2013

Cancer As a Non-Tragedy: How Far Can a Positive Attitude Go?



On my Mom's 76th birthday, in late January, her surgeon performed a mastectomy and also removed 22 lymph nodes.

"Everyone was so nice to me!" Mom said that afternoon, groggy from the outpatient procedure. She didn't feel as if she'd been mutilated. She felt that she'd been the star of the show.

The next week, she heard the pathology report, and it wasn't good: cancer in all 22 nodes, officially stage 3 cancer. The initial chest X-ray showed no tumors in vital organs; a subsequent PET scan also turned up no sign that the cancer had spread beyond the nodes. "It's curable," Mom said, getting right to the point.

She's being treated at a cancer center by an oncologist who has his hands full. Twice during the brief initial consultation, he was summoned from the small examination room by nurses dealing with emergencies.

I asked him if the cancer looked aggressive.

"It has some characteristics of being rapidly acting," he said.

He went through the whole scenario: Chemotherapy for 18 weeks, then radiation for six weeks, then years of hormone therapy. Mom would get a port surgically implanted, then receive three cycles of cytoxan, epirubicin and fluorouracil for nine weeks, followed by three cycles of Taxotere for another nine weeks.

My mother took no notes. I later suggested that she research her disease thoroughly. But whereas I saw a problem to be solved, she saw one to be ignored to the extent humanly possible. Her doctor is the expert; she's the plant lady. She's going to live her normal life, and won't spend time, mentally, in Cancerland.

— — —

All is not as it was, of course. She's slower since the surgery. She's got less "steam," she says.

Text Only