358. Management of Fear, Not Cancer

Tried to work in the usual choppy time-blocks, but the library close by was haunted by another bunch of workers who made noise and with the pace I am bleeding credit, there is no way I can afford my own office yet.

No need to repeat that.

Nor that I went home to help with our ludicrous amounts of laundry, mid-afternoon. (A baby will get you that – ludicrous amounts of laundry and mid-afternoon days off.)

We have the washing machines in the basement of our apartment block and Char can’t really take Jay with her down there, so that’s why. And we don’t really want to leave him alone in the apartment, so that’s why.

My mother had emailed me yesterday and said she was relieved and had decided to forego chemo, because the doctors had indeed declared her cancer free and this was just a precaution. Then she emailed me today saying she had had a talk with my brother, who is a rescue worker, and he felt that this was a no go-choice. Or so my mother felt that he had felt it.

I didn’t call up my brother to discuss it. My mother needs peace to make a decision, not conflicts in the family. But she is in doubt again and so would schedule another talk with a doctor. Good enough – do it and get it over with.

I called her up and talked to her about how I would still support her no matter the choice and how it was important to look at all the different angles. There is really no guarantee chemo works for her, or that it has a need to work (only the 10 percent better survival rate on a 10 year basis, according to some statistics). Alternatively: There is no guarantee chemo will be very bad for her, experience-wise. Mum mentioned that she had talked to women her age who were not all that hampered by it and could still live a sort of fine life. While it lasted.

My mum cried and said she felt this was “the worst” – this choice – and that made my heart sink. I felt so sorry for her. And I tried to console her the best I could.

But when I had hung up, I also felt a certain distance to it all. Like an inner knowledge or whatever that this is not that important in the greater scheme of things. My mother is afraid of what to choose and I understand that.

But fact remains: She survived cancer once more. The scans showed nothing. The biopsies showed nothing. Her remaining breast was removed and the tumor, although relatively big (2.5 centimeter) was not of an aggressive form of cancer.

She survived and there is no reason to think she will not survive more for some years to come.

This chemo treatment is not about saving her from another bout of cancer, for we don’t know that and can never know that – unless she outlives the statistics and then gets cancer on her 81st birthday.

The chemo choice is not about managing cancer, it is about managing fear. And that I know for sure.

And that is something I will use all my resources to help her with, because as long as there is life and no reason to believe it ends soon then that should be a life fully lived, not half lived. And a life half lived is a life in fear.

Or conflict. So no calls to my brother trying to persuade him to be less harsh with my mother. I’m not even sure he was “harsh” – maybe just blunt. And, of course, afraid on her behalf – of her making the wrong choice. But my mother made it sound, well, different … “I think he thought I was crazy” she said on the phone.

Well, that I hardly think my brother thought, much less said. But it just goes to show how vulnerable my mother is right now.

But fortunately, that is, as far as we know anything else, an emotional vulnerability. There is nothing more physical for the moment.

And that is what we must face. And deal with.

Management of fear, not cancer.

Although the two tend to be closely related.

But it is good to keep that in mind, what it is really about – when you try to help.

It is about that – and so it is about my mother’s peace of mind.

So no calls to my brother.