I'm convinced. These will work, and at $36 for 900 it's quite a big difference from the $6.99/100 they cost at Woolies and the $15/100 I was quoted from the importers/wholesalers.
The visit to the oncologist was very straightforward. I was amazed by the cancer centre at the hospital. Most of the hospital is run down and kind of skoady looking, with linoleum floors and neon strip lighting. When you walk into the cancer centre, it's like the reception area for a business - carpet, plants, large impressive desk - and a lot of seating, with magazines from this year! There's also a mini benchtop where you can make yourself a tea or coffee, and a tank full of curious fish - yes, they interact and everything. I particularly liked the wee catfish sucking algae off the weed with his juju lips.
And nobody meets each others' eyes.
So, the waiting room also has lots of art, and shelves of pamphlets - support groups, managing pain, what happens next, why me - you name it, there's a pamphlet for it.
Something I learned that I bet you didn't know about cancer - one of the symptoms common to all cancers is that the person suddenly develops a liking for cheesy art. Every single one of the pamphlets had carefully selected affirming, pretty and very neutral pictures of things like uncurling fern fronds, butterflies, waterfalls and flowers on them. Clearly this is what's required if you have cancer. More butterflies dammit!
So anyway, we went from the reception area to a consulting room that was trying its best not to look like a hospital room and failing (fair enough, how do you hide the gigantic metal bed in the corner and make it look like normal furniture anyway?), and in a short time Brendan the oncologist turned up. He didn't really tell us anything we didn't know. Yes, it's a bad form of cancer to have. Yes, it's incurable and inoperable. Yes, it will eventually kill her, if she doesn't get run over by a bus in the meantime. (speaking of which, does anyone actually have statistics on how many people get run over by buses?)
The good news is this: normally people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed and die within 6 months. Mum, 10 months after first getting symptoms, isn't really even sick. She gets occasional indigestion brought on by the blocked duct not allowing the enzyme that digests fat through to her duodenum (which, incidentally, she still has). She takes pills to replace the enzyme and that's it. Her liver function is fine, in fact better than when she first went in.
What this indicates is that the tumour is very slow growing, or not growing at all.
The next step is to do another CAT scan, and compare it with the one they did in May, to see how much the tumour has grown, if at all. Then there will be information on which to base a decision about chemotherapy - whether to try it now while she's still healthy, or whether to wait until something actually happens, and try and prolong her quality of life then.
Incidentally, Mum's quality of life and health at the moment are such that in the last four days she's shifted around 3 cubic metres of clay soil in her garden, in preparation for planting the next bed. So yeah, she's pretty on top of things at the moment.
The chemical they use for chemotherapy for this type of cancer doesn't make people nauseous or make their hair fall out. It does tend to lower immunity and make people more prone to infection. So, any decision on quality of life would be quite relative. Anyway, no decision can really be made right now. All just food for thought.
The last thing we talked about was, well.. suffering. Apparently with this kind of cancer, the two most common causes of death are failed liver due to invasion into there, or blood clots (again from the liver). Failing liver can be treated with chemicals to minimise symptoms, and causes weakness rather than pain. Blood clots are sudden.
So that's the prognosis. Not much to digest, and overall quite reassuring, if such a thing can be reassuring. Mostly, I think, knowledge is power - the more we know, the more we can prepare ourselves for outcomes, and make decisions. Mum took it all well, and I take my hat off to the people in the cancer centre for their attitudes - they really are positive minded people and it shows. The surgeon who originally gave the news was obviously struggling, and the effect of the two different attitudes on Mum was noticeable.
But someone, please give them some better art!
Tonight we're going out for steak. It's a victory dinner. Why? Because Mum got to do the marching demonstration she was afraid she'd miss due to her operation, and because 2 months after being cut nearly in half (I'm not kidding, the scar is about 50cm long), she's gardening, putting on weight, not suffering and going about her life. She's recovered faster than lots of people half her age. And that's worthy of celebration.
In other news, spot the unintentional subliminal message here:
These were handed out to high school kids in Iowa before they realised their mistake. ;-)