9:13 am - 08/19/2017

Mom facing potential ovarian cancer diagnosis; terrified

While undergoing a scan for an unrelated issue, my mother was found to have a 4.6 cm complex ovarian cyst and cancer was "a concern."

Her GP looked at the report and while he said he didn't think it was cancer, he sent her to a gyn/onc. The dr. is apparently comfortable not seeing my mom for a month (vacation time of course), but I'm not comfortable at all.

It has arterial flow, is partially solid, has a papillary projection (though no flow within that if that makes a difference) and she has a fallopian tube blocked with fluid (there's a word for it I can't remember.) And she's 74, which...at her age, I can't see how it isn't cancer. It said cancer is "a concern" on the report while a normal cyst merely "can't be ruled out". Everything sounds so grim to me. The lack of septations made me feel a little better until I read that in people her age, most ovarian cancer doesn't have those.

I'm trying to prepare myself for what seems like the inevitable, but I know ovarian cancer at her age is a death sentence. I haven't done anything but cry for the last two weeks. And I feel like that's all I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life.

I'm also terrified of being her only support/care person during this time. I have health problems myself and I have no idea how I'll function. Let alone how I'll function without my mom (I saw ovarian cancer kill a friend of mine in her 30s, never sick a day in her life. I know how it goes.) My only support system is my girlfriend who lives half an hour away. Does anyone have any advice for getting through this?
archangelbeth 21st-Aug-2017 03:42 am (UTC)
*sends hugs*

Well, with luck, whatever it is hasn't spread and can be removed. Surgery is not good at that age, but depending on overall health, it's something a good hospital can cope with.

But you need support anyway, because 74 is when the warranties on human bodies start wearing out. Which sucks and I'm compartmentalizing like heck right now for other reasons, so I sound terrible saying that. Sorry.

So... 1: do you and your mom have any other family you could draw upon? People who could come visit, etc.? Cousins who do are not terrible? (If you only have terrible bloodkin, then don't throw yourself on their mercy; the odds are that that'd only make things worse.)

2: Do you have access to any other doctors who are able to see your mom sooner? Getting it out ASAP seems like a good idea even if it's something else.

2a: If it is cancer, you may want to discuss if it can be treated much as veterinarians treat cancer in animals -- rather than the all-out stuff that humans get, to try to eradicate it, many vets use it for quality of life, to extend "feeling okay" time. I don't know if there's "palliative chemo" possible for humans but you probably want to talk about it with the doctor and your mom.

3: It is cold, and it is heartless, but if you and your mom don't have a support network where you are now, can you move closer to your friend? Is this a friendship where she can help support you at least emotionally, or is this one that will crack under strain?

4: If moving is not an option, talk to the local hospital and ask what services there are for helping with someone in bad health and a small support network (i.e., you). Ask what services there are for helping YOU deal with this. The local hospital's nurses should have this information. If they don't, I will think less of them.

4a: If they don't, though (or even if they do), you may want to get a psychologist of your own, specifically to establish a support network now. Someone who can help you establish ways of coping and who is professionally there to let you have all the emotions that you're having now, and all the emotions you are going to have no matter what happens. And who may be able to help you put together life routines to help carry you through the times when only autopilot will get anything done.

4b: Do you have any religious contacts? I don't, myself, but if you do have a church that you go to sometimes, they may have resources of people who can come and cook and whatnot. Heck, if you are at all religious, and go ask any local churches, there may be some resources if the people in the congregation live up to their ideals.

5: Crying is okay. Sometimes stopping the crying is okay. It is okay to also sometimes still have life going on and notice that something is funny or cute. You're hurting enough so please don't beat yourself up if you have moments where you successfully compartmentalize the terrible and instead smile at a kitten video or something. (My sire had a lot of terrible issues, and none of them were helped by his insistence that when Someone Had Died, that everyone must be 100% full of grief 24/7. It didn't help anyone else cope, and I don't think it helped him cope. Sometimes compartmentalizing and momentarily forgetting... is a human thing that helps us survive.)

You don't have to "move past grief" or anything like that. It doesn't work that way for a lot of people. (Probably most people.) And grieving ahead of time is also not something to let anyone fuss at you for. Or being scared. So...don't let anyone try to make it worse by telling you that you're doing your emotions wrong.

Talk to your mom a lot if you can? I don't know if she's the sort of person who'd want distraction, or who would want to compartmentalize by being relentlessly practical. You probably want to know how her will stands, if you don't already. (She's 74, so no matter what, it's a good idea to have one.) You may want to set up recordings of her telling all her best stories. Or just hang out with her, or whatever won't drive her to distraction if she's an introvert.

That's about all I can figure out, from personal experience and reading stuff. I hope there will be better ideas. *sends more e-hugs, which won't really help, I know, but not doing it would be worse*
alittleacademe 21st-Aug-2017 09:23 pm (UTC)
Hello, my dear. The most astonishing things turn out not to be cancer, for the record. And the most astonishing people survive surgery. My grandmother had a mahoosive tumour for breast cancer and it spread to two lymph nodes. She has come through a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation, including pneumonia, at 83. So it can be done. In re: the comment below, you can absolutely have palliative chemo - my father-in-law did, and lived 18 months after his terminal diagnosis (which was lung cancer + secondaries in bones and other places), mostly in good condition, and a good 5.5 years after his first diagnosis (of intestinal cancer). The end came a bit unexpectedly, but peacefully. I would not say that he suffered. He was 72 - I think the end is gentler the older you are. A friend's mum is now at the palliative chemo stage after 7 years of being terminal. 6 years ago she was on life support. Now she's quite frail but still travelling, eating, drinking, visiting, enjoying life.

Ovarian cancer is usually such a death sentence because it is spotted only when women become symptomatic - way way way down the line - not picked up on a scan for something else. That is very much in your mum's favour.

In terms of getting through it:
Online support via whatever social media you use, also elefriends (mental health), 7CupsOfTea, try them all. Call the Samaritans. Flag up ALL your issues to the GP treating you and find out about support groups and disability allowance. If you have any money spare, pay for the biopsy etc to happen sooner. Invest in your relationship with your girlfriend. Try and be kind to your body in terms of eating and sleeping. If you find prayer/religion useful, go for that. Something looser e.g. the Quakers might also help. I'm thinking of you and rooting for you. xxx

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