All In The Family

Guess what, you guys? My mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. No, that’s not some kind of sick joke. I know I have a dark sense of humor, but not that dark. Although apparently the universe’s sense of humor IS that dark. Remember how I had genetic testing done and I was negative for ALL the gazillion genetic mutations linked to cancer that they tested me for? Uh huh. We’re actually just that unlucky in my family, and cancer is just that big of an asshole. You can’t even make this shit up.

So far, her cancer looks to be stage 2, no lymph involvement. Notice I didn’t say “only stage 2.” Because ALL CANCER FUCKING SUCKS. It’s not like chemo is less horrible when your tumor is smaller. I will say, though, that as someone whose mother died of metastatic melanoma, and whose daughter will die of metastatic breast cancer, and whose brother died of bladder cancer, I mean, you can imagine how freaked out my mom is, and my dad, and me, and my sister, and her sister. We all know what cancer looks like: it looks Not Good.

Still, one of the few silver linings to having a daughter who’s got terminal cancer…shit, I can’t even pretend like this is a silver lining, that’s absurd. One of the “well, at least this tiny part of it is marginally less awful” things about getting cancer when your daughter already has terminal cancer is that your daughter knows exactly what to do, and who to call. Which is why I’d like to take a moment now to write about my oncologist, and his staff. You guys, I’ve talked about him before and said how awesome he is, and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see me using the hashtag #bestdocever when I talk about him. All that praise is probably embarassing to him, but it will pale in comparison to the bragging about him that I’m about to do. Sorry/not sorry, #bestdocever.

When my mom told me she’d found a lump and they’d done a biopsy on it, I immediately texted my oncologist (yes, we text–what, you don’t text with your oncologist? You probably don’t hang out on the weekends with yours and his wife either, do you? Yeah, that’s a shame. Cough cough #bestdocever) and told him what was up and asked if he’d squeeze her in for an appointment if the biopsy came back positive. And of course he said he would. Then he texted to ask if she ended up needing a breast surgeon, who I’d want her to see, and I told him I’d want her to see the one who did my mastectomy, because I really liked her, and he said the scheduling would be tricky (it can be hard to get initial appointments quickly with her) but he’d use his influence to make it happen.

A few days later when the biopsy results came in, I called my oncologist’s office, told them the situation, and his awesome receptionist…hold on, because seriously, that word doesn’t even begin to explain what she does. She figures out billing questions, makes sure scans get scheduled, deals with scheduling snafus–she’s a goddamn genius. Anyway, when I talked to her at 3PM, she set up an appointment for my mom the very next day. No lie. And of course, while being amazingly efficient, she was also kind on the phone. It seems like a small thing, having an appointment scheduled quickly, having someone be kind on the phone. But when you’re in the midst of a shitshow like a new cancer diagnosis, it just means SO MUCH.

So, when we saw my…I mean OUR oncologist, he explained her cancer to her just as clearly as he’d explained mine to me, took the time to answer all her questions just like he does with me, and had already emailed the surgeon I’d seen to make sure my mom could get an appointment with her within a week. He’d also sent in a referral for a breast MRI. All of this less than 24 hours after we’d set up the appointment with him, and after having spent the previous night at the hospital with another patient until almost midnight.


How am I feeling about my mom getting cancer, you ask? I’m pissed–how much ridiculous trauma can one family go through?!?!–and scared. Although I know my mom is in good hands and that her prognosis is good, I mean, how can you NOT be scared when your mom gets cancer? I also know what’s in store for her, in a way that most people who haven’t been through cancer treatment don’t, and I wouldn’t wish cancer treatment on my worst enemy, let alone my mom. It’s going to suck for her, and I don’t want her to suffer. But she will, as everyone who goes through treatment does.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m so committed to getting more research done on metastatic breast cancer, knowing that I’m not likely to live long enough to benefit from it. Well that’s easy to answer now: because I don’t want my mom to die of breast cancer. I want her cancer to be gone and never come back, and if it does come back, I want there to be better treatments than just slash/burn/poison. I want her to be there when my kids get married, and maybe research will help make that happen. It’s always been personal for me, but it’s even more personal now.