Cancer had visited our family before. My father-in-law died in his 70's from lung cancer. My mother-in-law died in her late 80's from lukemia. While losing both of these wonderful people was extremely sad, both diagnoses came after long illness and both had lived long and exciting lives. My husbands' brother-in-law died a few years ago from renal cancer. My step-sister died from cervical cancer. While all of these losses were sad, they all occurred over many years and while sad, were able to be "handled" because everyone had lived a moderately long life. But this fall, things changed.
Just after Thanksgiving of this year, my oldest daughter's husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melenoma. Further testing how now revealed that he has isolated, small cancer spots in his liver, scapula and neck but five areas of growth in his brain. We are all still in a state of shock, because this young man is an athletic person who is in great health in all other aspects.
My entire family has kicked into high gear. Everyone - both daughters, both son-in-laws, my husband and I have searched the internet, called upon friends with cancer histories, and talked to any related medical person we know to seek advice and direction. We know we are just at the beginning of this journey and still have so much more to learn, but what I have discovered is that there apparently is an amazing community of people in this country who are out there to help us.
After all that has happened with Lance Armstrong, lately, I was skeptical about getting help from Livestrong. I have to say how wrong I was. My daughter called early after the initial diagnosis.The woman who answered took down all the information they had in that early stage of this situation and began connecting her up with resources. From that connection, my daughter was referred to a nurses advocacy group who paired her with a oncology nurse with 30 years of experience whose expertise is in the area of cancer.research. Apparently this nurse will basically be someone for my daughter to ask for help in interpreting medical information, insurance guidelines, how to advocate for themselves with physicans, hospitals and the insurance companies. She can call or email at any time. Both of these services are free!
My other son-in-law has a friend who is a cancer survivor himself. This young man started a non-profit organization that pairs up cancer survivors with a currently cancer patient who has the same diagnosis. This son-in-law made contact with his friend, information was shared and yet another support was provided.
The youngest daughter, who has a gift for finding out information using the internet, located doctors, cancer centers and personal blogs of cancer patients and their families. She looked into recommendations on how her sister might best keep records of contact, appointments, doctor information, lab reports, etc. There are several sites that advise on how to create a medical notebook for an ill family member. There are also lots of "products" one can order to make this notebook the most useful and something to be carried with the patient or the assisting family member.
Another friend referred me to a website, http://www.americanmedical-id.com/ , where one can purchase a USB ID device that has a software program into which a person can enter all medical information and take it with him/her to the many different doctor's appointments. We have not received the device yet, but it certainly looks promising.
Each day brings something different - good news, bad news, a different test, a different treatment. The roller coaster of emotions for everyone is overwhelming. I am not sure why I chose to write this, except that as friends and co-workers hear about our family's news, they are reaching out to comfort us. And in that attempt to comfort, I often learn about how they, or someone in their families, have been touched (maybe pounded would be a better word) by cancer. How naive I have been all these years about how widespread this villainous monster, Cancer, really is. How ashamed I am that I didn't participate in more Relays for Life, or give more to cancer research.
There is hope, I know. There are many, many more cancer survivors now than there were even five years ago. If you are reading this and you know someone with cancer or someone who has a family member with cancer, reach out and let them know you care or offer to do something for them - even something small. Mow their yard, take out their trash, babysit, wash their car, drive someone to a doctor's appointment, cook a meal, or just send a card or an email. Give $5.00 to research. Everything helps.