‘I’m here with my sister now, so I gotta go soon.’ I motioned to my brother for the car keys and went and sat in the car while he finished his call.
We had just finished lunch while discussing my mom’s lung cancer diagnosis and early estate planning. As one of my besties pointed out, it was a huge moment. For him to acknowledge me as his sister to someone I don’t even know when compared to past behavior is really amazing.
It’s another sign of how what used to be extraordinary is becoming ordinary. The past week has been a rough one, so that was a bright spot.
My mom went into the emergency room last Thursday with shortness of breath and a CT scan revealed a large mass pressing on her bronchial tubes. She had a bronchoscopy Saturday and the biopsy results reported non-small cell carcinoma lung cancer.
The good news is yesterday’s PET scan revealed the cancer hasn’t spread beyond her chest so she’s stage 3 instead of stage 4 and there’s a hope for a cure. The bad news is it showed some pneumonia and the five-year remission rate for her cancer is 14%, with the overall cure rate being 33%.
These are not good odds. She’s smoked for 60 years, so while I’m sad about her diagnosis, the only surprise is that a heart attack or stroke didn’t get her first.
She’s resting as comfortably as possible with pain medication and supplemental oxygen. Radiation treatments start this afternoon. Chemotherapy should start about a week out after she’s stronger and is breathing easier. After the initial chaos of the ER and waiting for a diagnosis, we’re now down to waiting on treatment and seeing how she responds.
I’m marked on her hospital room whiteboard as, ‘Heather – daughter’ and none of the staff has misgendered me. My mom and my mom’s boyfriend have been misgendering and deadnaming me about 75% of the time, and my brother about 25%.
I chalk it up to stress—there’s no malice on their part. I correct them each time and they’re apologetic every time. While it’s an annoyance, especially when they’re referring to me with the medical staff in the room, it’s really a small thing in the grand scheme of things right now.
Its been helpful to have my brother here. He lives overseas and just happened to be in town for a business trip. That’s saved having to relay information on a time-delay and I know he feels better being able to quiz the staff directly. It’s also a relief to not be the only person shouldering the patient advocacy duties. My mom’s boyfriend is not very confrontational or pro-active and I know this would be a much rougher process for her if it was just him.
For now, I wait and advocate.
Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store!