Category Archives: Cancer Treatment

Only Child Coping with Daddy’s Cancer

Children can be more resilient and creative than adults think or maybe even the child herself. When my dad had cancer it was devastating. I was almost 10 years old when the first cancer episode happened – Daddy was diagnosed with cancer in one of his lungs. An operation to remove half the lung was supposed to stop the cancer.

It did in the lung. Two years later it had spread to his brain. He had horrible continuous headaches and was constantly vomiting. In those days (early 1960s) the only other cancer “treatment” was burn, i.e., radiation. And so my Dad back in the hospital had radiation on his brain. He wasn’t expected to live. Mom and I grew closer and one of her older sisters came to stay to “help” us out. She meant well, but wasn’t the best help to be around. However, after  some weeks the radiation seemed to work and Daddy returned home. My aunt also returned to her home. Now Mom and I had to get used to Daddy being back home and back to work and get back into the routine.

It was then that I got the idea to teach Mom to play the piano. But I never connected it to dealing with Dad and his cancer until a few years ago. So I wrote a story about this called “Don’t Look Down”. After rewriting and rewriting and after a few rejections from submitting it and more rewriting and rewriting, I submitted it again last year to The Smart Set, an online only magazine published by Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was published January 17, 2019 (and for writers reading this post, yes I did get paid. The copyright also now reverts to me at this time, as long as I state where it was first published and when, which I just did).

The story begins like this:

“Don’t Look Down

Coping and communicating through music

By

There we sat, Mom and I, side by side on the piano bench. A mirror on the panel above the keyboard reflected our fingers, perched to perform. Deadly piano-playing duo? Not quite. You see, I had decided to teach Mom to play the piano. She was in her mid-50s; I was 13.

Perhaps a grade eight history-teaching project had infected me with the teaching bug. More likely it was connected to Dad’s second bout with cancer. At the hospital, the radiation had zapped his tumor. Now he was back home and had returned to work, but Mom and I were left with the aftermath of his life/death ordeal. We needed a diversion to keep us sane in this sudden change to supposedly safe routine. Besides, my music credentials were impeccable — five years of learning Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin on our pink Roxatone-coated piano.”

You can go to The Smart Set for the full Don’t Look Down story

When you were a child did you use your creativity to cope with a horrific experience?

 

Still have the piano today. It really is pink.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Cancer Treatment, Dad, Health, Mom and Dad, Only child, Piano

Only Child’s close friend dies of cancer

Tanya's view of Only Child's backyard garden

Tanya’s view of Only Child’s backyard garden

My friend, Tanya, from next door died of cancer last week. And I am heartbroken. But not as much as her husband and 12-year-old son.

Tanya was only 51. I have talked about her in previous posts including mentioning the cancer. It was a very aggressive cancer and the medical profession didn’t catch it soon enough. Not that doing so would have stopped it. (More on that aspect below). It got so bad she couldn’t swallow or talk and the chemo had to be stopped because it was too harsh and not doing anything. I last talked to her on the phone New Year’s Day when I wished her a good 2016. If only wishes were truth and what would actually happen. That was the first day she had chemo. I told her to call me if she wanted to, but the cancer got worse.

No, I didn’t visit her in Princess Margaret Hospital, but I did call the hospital about her – they weren’t really very forthcoming. But I did keep checking in with her husband and son. Also, from the info on the hospital’s website, I gathered they might not even have let me see her because. I have recurring sinusitis and cancer patients are so susceptible to infections.

The last time I saw Tanya was Christmas Eve Day when I brought over my Christmas presents for her, her husband and her son. She phoned me Christmas Day to thank me (and I thanked her for her gifts). My son, who was here with his girlfriend for Christmas, also talked to Tanya on the phone.

During December I was one of the friends who shopped at The Big Carrot Health food store for Tanya’s food for her stringent diet – all organic. At that time she was still up, able to prepare her food, talk, watch TV and read. But she moved around connected to a portable oxygen tent for her breathing. She had a longtime history of asthma. And there is where the medical profession probably messed up, mistaking the lung problems as “just asthma.” I gathered she wasn’t diagnosed until late fall last year.

I had known  Tanya for just over 16 years when she and her husband moved in next door. We would help each other – yes, the usual borrowing the sugar (although in her case it was ketchup and other foods, even onions.) Often she would pick up a few groceries at the store for me and not even want the money for it. She also drove me the few blocks to Home Depot in May so I could pick up and get home, the bags of topsoil, manure and cedar bark for my garden. I gave her fresh black raspberries, tomatoes and rhubarb from my garden for the three of them.

Tanya loved to sit out in her backyard and look at my garden. She said it was beautiful and peaceful. As I don’t have a photo of her, I am posting a photo of part of my backyard garden in her memory.

Alex, her husband was very helpful with house problems. Eleven years ago when I had the big flood in the basement, he came over with a huge shop-n-vac from his work and removed the four or five inches of water from the basement. Last summer, he removed the big old chesterfield from my living room and placed it at the end of my driveway for city pickup. He did this himself.

When I went on holidays, Tanya and Alex looked after my property, bringing in the mail, watering the garden if necessary and watering my too many plants inside, checking on the house to make sure all was okay. When they went away, I did the same, including looking after their cat, Marmalade.

Marmalade died late last August. A harbinger of things to come?

Tanya is gone and I miss her.

And I am becoming a big believer that bad luck plays a big role in who gets cancer – but also in who survives it. I just look around and see what is happening, not just personally, but from news stories, statistics and research. In a previous post I said that four of my friends had been diagnosed with cancer. Well, one of them went for further testing and no cancer.

Then, there are people like Tanya.

Last year John Hopkins medical centre did a study on the luck factor – and the rating for that factor was as high as 65%. They concluded that the main causes of cancer are three – environment, genetic and luck. I have discussed this with friends and some of them pooh-pooh the luck factor.

I say – look around you. Look at who gets cancer, when it is diagnosed, the treatment and if it helps or not. The results are all over the map.

Which brings me to my my conclusion – for now. Too many people of all ages are getting cancer and too many of them are dying from it.

And yes, I know. I have an even more personal reason for being concerned. My late father died of brain cancer (which started out as lung cancer). That was back in 1965. He was 66 when he died.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under cancer, Cancer Cures and Research, Cancer Treatment, Dad, Friends, Health

Only Child dissects uncertainty

 

 

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Lately I have been living with too much uncertainty. I’ve had lots of practice to live this way since I was 12 and my dad had cancer of the brain. This was his first bout in his head and Mom and I didn’t know if he would make it. He kept vomiting and had a constant sharp headache. The doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital didn’t think surgery would help so they tried the other prong of the then (early 1960s) two-prong cancer treatment – burn. They blasted him with radiation regularly while back at home, Mom and I, joined by her eccentric older sister, “Gretchen,” waited and tried to cope with the uncertainty.

I have never learned to cope with all the uncertainties in life. Don’t know if it goes back to dealing with Dad’s cancer or is a sign of getting old(er) but the number of uncertainties seems to be larger now than 30 or so years ago. Back then I suffered from depression. The depression has long gone way past over the rainbow. Now I get angry and worry a lot as I have blogged previously. And I seem to live in constant anxiety.

I wonder if uncertainty about the outcome of all the worries and problems has a lot to do with it. I wonder if I knew for sure exactly what the outcome would be if the worry, would be a little less… or at least more focused on a definite result and how I will deal with it. Instead of various scenarios galloping throughout my head with a nebulous ending in sight – or more likely also chasing around in my mind.

So I have tried various ways to deal with uncertainty. The journalist in me immediately goes into research mode to collect all the info I can about the problem. That includes Internet research, talking to experts, or in the case of utility billing or service problems, talking to the utility company. As some of you may know I am not the most polite and patient person if I believe the “other guy” (utility company for one) has messed up and I’m the one getting the result of what is often their stupidity. But I am persistent and I push until I get what I want, i.e. the mess-up corrected to my satisfaction.

I also like comparing situations with my friends. Misery loves company, but I might learn something from their experience.

And I have even tried praying – but results from that also are in the uncertain field. Like with the weather and whether heavy rainfall will cause water to get into my basement.

Back to Dad and his brain cancer. In my memoir I write:

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.  

St. Michael’s Hospital radiates a friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.

  (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – deconstructing the demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

Apparently prayer worked then…for a time. Three and a half years later the cancer returned to another part of Dad’s brain and it killed him.

Maybe that ending has a lot to do with why I have so much difficulty living with uncertainty. I can hear some people asking “Don’t you want to be surprised?” Well, of course, but pleasant surprises, even surprises that challenge me to do better or to go through another learning curve.

But I want them to be positive experiences. Otherwise it might be nice to know what the actual outcome will be for the nasty things that pop up in life. If I or someone close to me gets ill, will we pull through? All this uncertainty tends to detract from dealing with the outcome because we are dealing with the issue – and the issue can have many more prongs than the old slice or burn cancer treatment.

How do you deal with uncertainty? Does it work?

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Anger, Anxiety, cancer, Cancer Treatment, Health, Mom and Dad, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncertainty

Only Child’s thoughts on cancer

Only Child  thinking about cancer and its causes and consequence.

Only Child thinking about cancer and its causes and consequence.

Cancer was the big concern yesterday. I was back in Aurora, Ontario to visit an old friend and read from my book Beyond the Tripping Point at the local library. The old friend and one of the other authors reading both have cancer. Which got me thinking.
It’s been almost 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer and we’re still trying to get the cure? Except for the long long time and some of the concoctions for treatment that come up, I do have respect for the researchers for at least keeping on digging for the cure.
My worry here is the treatments that are being used. In Dad’s time it was either slice or burn or both. (He had the latter only; it helped the first time, but the cancer just spread to another area of the brain, they couldn’t do anything, so he had what we now call palliative care).
One of the two people I saw yesterday had outlined her treatment plan for breast cancer in an email. It made me feel ill just to read it – that she would have to go through all that to maybe get better.
The other one has terminal cancer from what I can gather. She is on chemo – and has been for the past couple of years. Originally the high-dosed chemo made her so sick she was considering just dropping it and spending the rest of her days as is with her family. But the dosage was changed and the side effects aren’t so bad. Eventually the chemo will not help.
It seems like the “cure” is worse than the disease. And it is not always a cure. Who gets through the cancer into remission and who doesn’t seems to be a crap game. Sure, some of the chemo, surgery and radiation works. Some people who choose no medical intervention of the “regular kind” get through it. Same for some who choose modified treatment despite being told they should be more radical. Some try alternative treatment (either on its own or with regular medical). Some who are hopeful about getting better, do; some don’t.  Some who aren’t hopeful don’t make it and some do. Ditto those who are spiritual and those who aren’t. Attitude doesn’t seem to matter.
Then there is the question – with all those odds should they go through the treatment that will drag them through hell physically and emotionally, for a bit more time with their family and friends? Or should they just let it be and spend their time with their families and friends?
One exception here – some surgeries can cure some cancers (but not all). If the prognosis for surgery as a cure is very high, then maybe go with it.
It’s the chemo and/or radiation afterwards that I question.
Like my book’s title, we seem to be beyond the tripping point with cancer. I don’t know what the answer is but I have a few suggestions (besides the obvious – find a cure NOW).

  • Focus more on treatment that isn’t so drastic, so painful, and so debilitating. Did you know if you get radiation treatment you can’t go out in the hot summer sun without covering up? I know, I know – we should be more careful here because of the UV rays and skin cancer potential. But those who get “burned” don’t get radiation just for skin cancer.
  • Focus on more natural treatment.
  • Try to work more at the prevention end (research, getting the word out, and the rest of us – individuals, corporations and government – doing more about the environmental “polluters”).
  • The so-called average person can also do more about improving their lives using information already available. We’ve come some way with banning pesticides, the cfc elimination from refrigerators, etc., and the publicity on smoking causing cancer.
  • Something has to be done about too many cars spewing out toxins – they don’t just cause asthma attacks, but they cause cancer. See the Studies section in this Wikipedia article on Motor Vehicle Emissions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_emissions#Health_Studies From there link to the studies. And Google for more studies.These are just the tip of the smogberg.
  • More responsibility in automobile ads. Instead of just focusing on the car’s features and “low” price, how about some caveats? This is done with alcohol in relation to drunk driving.
  • Smokers need to quit and the younger generation shouldn’t start smoking. However, I don’t think they are getting the message and that might be because it isn’t coming at them as relevant.
  • Pay more attention to our diet. There is a lot of media attention to obesity and diet and diabetes and diet. All very well. How about some big publicity about cancer and diet? And the food manufacturers have to get in the act here, too, to help.

Maybe I’m being naive but when the treatment is worse than the cure; when cure as a result is a crap shoot, and when even the cancer instigators aren’t consistent (i.e., some who eat or inhale something cancerous don’t get cancer; and some who live healthy lives do get cancer, well…
Something is sure screwed up here.
It’s nearly 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer. Have we really come a long way since then?
Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

And I have no clue why my spacing disappeared when I save the draft of this post.

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Filed under cancer, Cancer Treatment