First, my doctors and I both believe that telling your children that you have a terminal disease is important. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may be its nothing to how your children would feel when a loved one dies without telling them that they’re even sick.
I was diagnosed with liver cancer on 4/15 of this year. A procedure called T.A.B.E. was unsuccessful so I was scheduled to meet the Palliative Care team. Prior to cancer I had never heard the term “Palliative” nor had I ever used it in a conversation. I should have had a clue because of its locale in The Moore’s Cancer Center at the Thornton Campus in La Jolla.
In just a few minutes my life changed and reality came crashing down around me. The head physician told me that my cancer was going end my life in about a year or any period before a year or sometime after a year. Really, that was the time frame that he gave me. I don’t pay any attention to the time frame as it’s just an estimate based on historical data. The one factor missing in their equation is me, the patient & it doesn’t show how much I want to live.
Needless to say I was shocked which quickly turned to anger. I was now standing in the corner of the room trying to estimate how many steps it was to him and whether to hit him with a front kick, side kick or just smack the smile off his face.
After a lot of thinking I realized that he was doing his job & I’m sure that he doesn’t take any pleasure from it. He & I have become a working team & I actually like him & respect the work that he does for those in the same position as myself. All it took was two words from me; “I’m sorry.”
My first concern was how do I tell my sons. My ideas ran the gamut from absurd to grandiose. Fortunately the Palliative team includes a clinical social work who worked with me on everything from timing to delivery.
The day arrived and I looked at Marti and she gave me the signal that meant this was as good a time as any. I asked if I could talk to them. I kept it short and simple and after telling them that I had cancer I asked if they had any questions.
Trevor (age almost 13): Asked if we could produce a Cancer Television Commercial
Trent (just turned 11): Asked if was contagious
They had no more questions & they quickly went back to building Lego pieces. Per the social workers suggestion I had kept it simple & I kept my emotions in check.
I had a different version in my head, one that included uncontrollable sobbing, which goes to show I don’t have a clue about some things. So, the once dreaded responsibility wasn’t so difficult after all and is now behind me.
NOTE: Recently I had an MRI & biopsy & my cancer is stable which means it hasn’t gotten better but it hasn’t hasn’t gotten any worse. Some days thats all you’re going to get and you just have to be happy with that.
My thanks to the entire palliative team at UCSD.