I don’t even know where to start this post. It has been literally ions since I last posted, and there are so many fun, exciting and developing life stories that I really need to start getting down on paper/blog. I know I say this every time. While I wish I was writing about the lighter things – this post is not one of those.
This story starts late last year in Nov/Dec time frame. My mother in law (MIL) (Dr. B’s Mom) had been complaining of pain in her abdomen, chest and back. Her primary care doctor decided she must have acid reflux (GERD) and prescribed her some medicine. Dr. B also thought the same. What else could a super healthy, 64 year old woman, who runs every day, really have wrong?
Fast-forward to right before Christmas – her symptoms seemingly were getting worse even on medicine, so her PCP ordered a CAT scan just as a precaution before he referred her to a GI specialist. On January 3, we received the worst possible news any family could ever hear – Pancreatic Cancer.
The C word is enough to send chills down your spine. A million thoughts were running through our minds when we found out. What would the next steps be for treatment, what is the prognosis (we had a feeling not good), how were we going to handle this, what about Dr. B’s work schedule, my work schedule, and how will we be able to be there for my MIL? The toughest part about this whole situation is that we live a little over an hour from my MIL, and Dr. B lost his father in high school. He is also an only child, so we were really fighting this thing alone and on a resident’s schedule. When determining how to tackle this fight, we decided that we definitely need to get an opinion at a large research hospital about an hour north of my MIL’s house, which is just about 2 hours drive from where we live. We decided that the treatments that they had to offer would be the most cutting edge and give her the greatest chance of survival.
After a flurry of appointments and discussions, the cancer team and Dr. B ultimately decided the best course of treatment for my MIL was to have neoadjuvant chemotherapy – which essentially means having chemo before surgery. I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult it was to watch a robust, healthy and happy woman just fade before your eyes. The first couple rounds of chemotherapy were nothing short of Hell for my MIL. I stood there watching the cancer war unfold, helplessly trying to do whatever I thought I could to help her turn a corner. I cooked and cooked, reading article after article on foods that would enhance her viability and strength. She was unable to keep much down so we pushed her, cheered her on, helped her just get stuff done because it literally could not get any worse in our mind. We had our eye on the prize. A few more weeks of this terrible path and hopefully surgery will get this cancer gone!
That leads us to a few weeks ago. Dr. B and I were scheduled for a little spring break trip in New Orleans that butted up against a conference Dr. B had to present research at. We felt immensely guilty going away but had been encouraged by some of the progress my MIL started to make before we left. Little did we know, our vacation was going to be cut very short. We got the worst call of a lifetime standing in the french quarter with some friends. Its one of those calls you just don’t erase from your mind because it literally just changes your entire life in an instant. My MIL had been having a super rough day so her friend decided to drive her to her cancer hospital to get checked out. While she was at the ER, she had some additional scans done to make sure everything was okay. Long-story short, the scans showed that the cancer had literally spread all over her abdomen. The cancer was everywhere, and we were helplessly standing in the French Quarter just flabbergasted, not knowing what to do next.
We quickly changed our plans and got flights back home. We were able to spend the next week dealing with my MIL inpatient, trying to determine next steps and get her the best possible care. It was a blessing that Dr. B was off of work for our trip so that he had some time to dedicate just to figuring out all the details of her treatment. Watching him be so brave and try to be his mom’s biggest support system, as well as her caregiver, power of attorney, doctor at times, coach, and her parent at the worst of times, made me appreciate his calm and caring spirit. However, it was just devastating to watch him break down, knowing that we were looking into death’s door, helplessly holding on for dear life. I couldn’t imagine this love of my life in so much pain. I had no idea how to comfort him. Here I am with both my parents, healthy and intact, and he was on the verge of having none. My heart was broken for him daily. I just tried to be there whenever he needed me. I went through a roller coaster of emotions myself – cursing God for bringing this on such a sweet woman and her son – Begging God to show us mercy and heal her terrible pain – crying out to whoever in the universe would listen, and help show us the way.
My MIL is currently at home and doing slightly better but is no longer a surgical candidate. Her prognosis is still undetermined but this serious turn of events has lead us down the path we least wanted to take.
Dr. B and I have been challenged time after time since the day we started our relationship. We have been challenged by distance, by circumstance, by timeline, and now this. Really our challenges are the whole reason I even started this blog about 6 years ago. I really don’t know where to go at this point and firmly feel we are experiencing our biggest and hardest challenge to date. I don’t know how you move past this, whatever the outcome, and that is a very scary possibility. All of this hardship has brought us closer together as a couple. However, I feel each one of us individuals is close to unraveling at any minute due to the stress and heartache each challenge has caused. Please pray for us on this Easter weekend. Help us get through this, our biggest challenge yet…