Cancer: “I’m back again, and this time I’m coming after your family…”
Me: “Oh, helllz no.”
My dear mother, the rock of our family, the woman who was by my side during every single doctor appointment, chemo, surgery…the woman who does everything right–who takes great care of herself, eats all the right things, exercises regularly, remembers to take her vitamins, doesn’t drink or smoke, who has dedicated her life to helping other people–has cancer.
I know. I can’t believe it either…
The news has been a pretty big shock to all of us. Honestly, I’m still not sure it’s completely sunk in. We’re not even sure what kind of cancer it is, or where the primary source is…and the doctors say we may never know, which is frustrating AS SHIT. But, what we do know, is that my mom is one strong ass woman and that she’s up to the challenge.
My Mom is taking on cancer, and I’m blogging about it…
Meet my mother, Juliana. She’s a special lady–a patient and loving wife, mother, sister and aunt, a fantastic and trusting friend, a caring and compassionate nurse of 37+ years and overall positive presence to everyone that is lucky enough to know her. She’s a great cook, has superb musical taste and a knack for enjoying life that is contagious.
3 weeks ago today, my mom was admitted to the hospital. She hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of months…she wasn’t able to eat regularly and was having a lot of pain. When she finally couldn’t take it anymore and went to the emergency room with severe abdominal and back pain, we never, in our wildest dreams, thought that cancer was the culprit. Fast forward 3 weeks, and this woman has been through the ringer–3 hospitals, 2 surgeries, too many doctors, residents, nurses, IV’s, bowel preps, scans and tests and diagnoses to count–and still no firm diagnosis.
After about a week in the hospital, the word cancer starting getting thrown around. First, they were convinced that it was ovarian cancer. Then they thought colon. All of her symptoms were related to her digestive system but the previous diagnosis of IBS and/or colitis proved to be wrong. When they couldn’t figure it out exactly what was still making her so sick, they decided the best option was to open her up and take a look around.
The surgeons told us that a full hysterectomy and a colon resection to remove the cancer were both options. Well, neither of those things happened. When they opened her up, they found the tumor off of her pancreas–it is fused to a bunch of other organs, and at this point, it isn’t operable. She woke up from surgery with an ileostomy bag, a feeding tube and news that a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was their best guess. They also took a bunch of biopsies of the tumor and sent those off to be analyzed.
At that moment, devastation and shock pretty much took over. Pancreatic or some form of unclassified cancer was not the news we wanted or expected. The fear and frustration of not having an exact diagnosis or treatment plan is really hard. But luckily (or unluckily), we’ve been through this before. When it comes to cancer, we Piazzas have experience. Some days have been really tough, especially on my mom, but also on everyone who is supporting her through this. We’ve managed to stay pretty positive and optimistic and as preliminary pathology reports from the biopsies come back a plan for fighting this cancer is slowly coming together.
What we do know at this point, is that she has a pretty large malignant tumor off of her pancreas and that the cancer cells have begun to spread to other organs in her abdomen. The biopsies show poorly differentiated cells, so ovarian, pancreatic, breast and other types of cancer all have to be considered as possible sources or origins when developing a treatment plan. We’ve got her at Allegheny General Hospital (these are the folks who saved my life, TWICE) and her oncology team is going to develop a chemo regimen that can fight all of those cancers.