Many years ago Leroy had a procedure called RFA...radio frequency ablation. He actually had it more than once and it was designed to turn the tumors in his lungs to ash. It certainly wasn't intended to be a cure-all, but it helped stem the metastatic tide of his cancer for a while. He wrote about it on this blog, never dreaming it would cause a flood of phone calls to pour into Johns Hopkins, but it did. The doctor who performed the procedure needed help with his phone lines for a few days, because cancer patients from all over the country were calling wanting to ablate their cancer too.
Fast forward to the news a few days back about Angelina Jolie and her choice to have a double mastectomy after testing positive for a gene that greatly increased her chances of getting breast cancer. She did her research and consulted with many experts before taking this step.
I was talking to my OB/GYN about this the other day and something similar has happened at her office. Women have been calling wanting to know about having this procedure too. My doctor was telling me that most of the calls were coming from women who wouldn't qualify for various reasons, even if they did test positive for the BRCA1 gene and she is carefully explaining what this test and procedure involves. It's a difficult surgery and one that is discussed in detail before deciding it's the right way to go.
Angelina Jolie showed great courage making her choice. No doubt she will help to educate many women about genetic testing and its value in cancer world.
But this was just not as easy as it seemed. Nothing ever is with cancer.
It was warm this morning. Finally, a typical Spring dawn with a light breeze and a little humidity. The day was waking up with birds singing and blue skies.
It was the perfect day to be born.
7:10 a.m. and I looked out the window to see the miracle of life right outside my back door....times 3!
A huge mother doe was giving birth to triplets. She had chosen the biggest oak in the yard as her shield from any interference from the outside world. One by one these adorable little fawns stretched out in the leaves. Mom quickly cleaned-up her new family and together they began to explore the world around them. They are all legs and little bodies, spotted and speckled, so when they plopped down on the ground, they disappeared into the leaves and twigs pattern of Mother Nature.
These little guys got braver as the day went on....but each time they strayed a little farther from home base, mom was there as head wrangler to ensure their safety. Just hours old, I watched one new born take command of the yard, while the other two followed, trusting the choice to step out into the clearing to take a quick sunbath, then back among the trees to hide and nap and huddle near mom.
'Life' ruled the day today.
3 X times life
"Life" ruled the day today.
3 X Life
I'm going to call that cylinder of radiation a time capsule filled with hope and healing.
Your brother sounds like such a brave man. I can't even begin to imagine what that procedure was like...painful, yes, of course, but just knowing what the surgeon had to do to get the radiation placed properly...well, I can't even go there.
I know we talk here all the time about the forward steps in cancer treatment that have been made over the years. This procedure has got to be on the list.
Now the wait begins. I'm sure his check-up in a month will tell them a lot. The waiting after that will be very hard. So your sister-in-law will need to find ways to encourage living rather than thinking about what's going on behind that eye. It sounds like they are quite a match for this cancer, so together I hope they plan gentle adventures that will keep their minds occupied and their hearts locked-in step with each other.
We will be sending the 'good vibes' from this end.
That little time capsule of hope has a big job to do...the job of healing.
The definition of a threat according to Webster's is "warning of plan to harm."
That's exactly the way it seems Angelina Jolie sized up her health future after genetic testing showed she had a high risk of developing breast cancer. It was revealed today that she's undergone a preventative double mastectomy. This decision could not have come easily. No doubt she had many medical experts weigh-in before she made this choice, but when it came down to it, it was her's alone to decide. Courage is a wonderful quality.
She's become another warrior in cancer world, the way I see it. Instead of fighting cancer in the treatment room, she reached out ahead of it and took away the power this beast holds over its victims. Hooray!
She joins many others who have made this extreme choice. They're all warriors in this fight.
This isn't the road for everyone and luckily there are other choices if genetic testing reveals this threat. The best part about this is, it wasn't that many years ago when women didn't have any choices at all. If the genes were there, the cancer would follow and you know the rest.
Pre-emptive strikes against cancer are not available to everyone...not yet. Genetic testing is clearly the way cancer diagnosis is headed and eventually it will be affordable and efficient for all.
This wasn't a movie role this time...no make believe.
This was as real as life gets...a serious threat.
The phone rang with happy news today...A baby is due in September! A baby girl to be exact.
This is a lucky baby. She has chosen an amazing set of parents. They are a caring, responsible couple who cherish each other and will do the same for their little girl.
I know this because this wonderful MOM-to-be was there for her pal Leroy during some very tough days. She was a young, talented producer with a lot of potential when he welcomed her to the staff of 'Nightline' years ago. He saw a passion for life, a desire to learn her craft and a love of adventure back then. And when he was fighting his cancer and wanted so badly to be thought of as "Leroy" and not as "Leroy with cancer," she would come to visit, sharing stories and asking for his guidance as a mentor...something he appreciated more than she will ever know. She's gone on to fulfill her dreams of seeing the world and covering stories in places most people only read about. She often says to me, "I'm still trying to make him proud."
I realized, listening to her voice today, that she is in a different place now...the big stories will still be important, but her new obligations will take her in a different direction in life. Something that won't change is her gift of caring and support. Just that short call today, told me she still remembers how important it is to stay connected.
To borrow a phrase Leroy would often use..."This baby chose wisely."
I was part of a great family tradition last night....the celebration of a birthday.
Birthdays in this house were always celebrated with a lot of fanfare. You may remember Leroy writing about how much he loved the thick icing on the grocery store bakery cake that was a mandatory order every year. Even on his last birthday, just two months before he died, he couldn't wait to eat birthday cake. Actually, he couldn't wait to eat birthday cake icing!
This birthday belonged to a very special friend of mine. She's a beautiful young woman who is exploding into her grown-up teen years; it's all about clothes, boys, college around the corner and who knows what after that. If we all think back far enough, we can still remember those years too!
It was a real honor to be invited to join her and her brother and mom.
The hard part was her dad was there only in spirit. Cancer took his life 20 months ago. But this family has prevailed. They are a strong unit that has held on to their family traditions. Birthdays being one of them. The birthday girl got to choose her favorite dinner. Among all the wonderful gifts, was a gift from her Dad....a cherished present.
The best treat of the night...the birthday cake. Yes, you guessed it...the very same grocery store bakery birthday cake with that amazing icing.
Some traditions just can't be improved upon!
It's an envelope, torn, worn and scribbled on. It's probably six years old, but it's held-up well, considering.
I remember the time and place where I used it, just like it was yesterday. It was a very serious spinal surgery Leroy was facing and for some reason, I didn't have my journal with me, so I used what I had to record the day.
A day in the life of cancer...
6:15 a.m. Waiting room...full of family members.
7:27 a.m. Wheel in OR
8:53 Operation begins
11:25 a.m. Nurse calls..stable..working in bone..long way to go
1:30 p.m. Nurse calls..stable..lots of fluids
3 p.m. Nurse calls, stable...fusing spine. "probably 3 or 4 more hours" "he's strong"
5:45 p.m. Dr. G "went very well"
had candy corn
7 p.m. nurse comes to get me...Leroy awake.."he's strong"..in ICU.."wants Starbucks"..NO WAY..collapsed lung..tube in
one man tells me about his mother in law...brain tumor and a lot of mets..she's decided to take out the brain tumor, but will go home to die. They've never been through anything like this before.
9:45 p.m. Call into ICU...Leroy sleeps.
What would it be called if it wasn't called CANCER?
Hippocrates is given the credit for the word cancer. He used the Greek words 'carcinos' and 'carcinoma' t describe tumors. He actually called it "Karkinos" because the tumors looked like a crab by that name and he thought the cancer resembled the crab...hence the constellation in the Northern Hemisphere near Leo and Gemini.
But 'the beast' as it's called by many today, was around long before Hippocrates. It was in ancient Egypt where cancer is first evident...and the Egyptians thought it was caused by the Gods.
We have so many different names that go with cancer today. They describe in detail, what type of cancer has been diagnosed. But when you get right down to it, it's still "CANCER." The name stuck for a reason.
I call it EVIL.
He leaned back and there was a thump when he hit the back of the elevator. He let out a huge sigh just as he hit, so much so, it got my attention.
It was late in the day at the cancer center and as soon as I looked at him, I knew he'd been there since the crack of dawn.
His eye lids were draped over eyes that had seen too much of cancer this day.
When he looked over at me, all I could do was smile and say "Long day?" He barely smiled back, happy now, that the elevator provided such a strong shoulder for him to lean on. He nodded and almost in a whisper said, "My wife had so much to do today. She's here for her cancer...and radiation." "I'm just here for her."
When the doors opened and he made his move to leave, I told him to take care of himself...that it's important for her, that he stay rested and strong.
"It's so hard," he said "but I'll try."
"I know," I answered.
It was 17 years ago today that my Mom died of cancer. The healthiest woman on the planet was diagnosed with metastatic disease in November and died six months later. She was offered chemotherapy and told it might extend her life a few months, but she made the choice to live out her days as they came, just like she had done before being told her life was now on a different course.
I think about her care as the cancer moved through her body. Her doctors really didn't do much for her.I'm not sure they knew any better.
I traveled West and stayed with her for the last few months of her life and even then, I was so new to care giving and with no one to offer guidance, it was me and my Mom working together, to find that comfort zone. Palliative care really wasn't a developed program so long ago and pain doctors weren't even on the map. It was morphine for the dying in those days and that was it.
She did have a wonderful nurse with hands of silk. She was so tender and caring toward my Mom. I think she really did feel her pain and did everything in her power to ease it.
Cancer care has come so far, not just in the treatment rooms, but in the care of the patient....the whole patient.
Care givers have come a long way too. We learn from our experiences and improve with each challenge.
Older and wiser...