Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The oncologist: back to Toronto

--August 17, 2005

By August, Mom had to go to Toronto for another appointment. It was in regards to her new tumour, number five. She refused to let me go along. By now my course was finished and, being a teacher, I was available if needed. She was adamant. I should have been stronger and fought this. She could not hear properly and was under stress. At age seventy-nine, she had an unfailing trust in doctors, who tended to gloss over details and use acronyms that only they understood; they treated elderly patients as if they were younger and had perfect hearing and cognition. The truth was that radiation and chemo has a profound effect on seniors who are already frail, and Mom was not offered statistics that took her age and condition into consideration. I should have been there to ask the questions that burned in my brain. One cannot move forward without all of the information.

            The doctor told Mom that he was not sure that the chemo he suggested would work. She wanted to give it a try. I should had gone in with her and asked the questions we all had: treatment rates, survival rates with and without the invasive treatments, survival rates based on age and stage of life. Many people facing “the big C” cannot and do not process much of the information presented at the time it is delivered. They have information overload and need an advocate to keep information straight, take notes, and provide help in understanding the information. I ensured that I took notes when Mom phoned me with information. I kept diaries all the time, as did Brian. I kept on doing research on my own, but could not find anything on leukoplatia (I learned later, in 2008, that it was leukoplakia). “Cancer in the groin” was covered, but it did not seem to apply to her situation.

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