So, my summer has not been all rainbows and Swedish adventures. The day before my trip, I found out that Bam, my precious grandmother, definitely has lung cancer. It was agonizing to decide on whether to cancel the trip entirely or go ahead and wait for more information about her condition. We really didn’t know how progressed the tumor was, or what kind of treatment would be recommended.
In case you don’t know, I have a very close relationship with Bam. She has always inspired and supported my artistic endeavors, got me my first sewing machine when I was ready to learn, and taught me how to quilt. I’m super close to both her and Papa. They have been married for 65 years! Papa always says that he thought it was joke because they got married on April Fools Day. Anyway, she and I have a special bond that has gotten much deeper in the past ten years or so. I feel so blessed to know her and Papa well and to get to spend so much time with them. Not very many people share this kind of relationship with their grandparents. Our elders are a treasure trove of experience, love and wisdom.
Traveling far from home, with the knowledge of Bam’s diagnosis, was agonizing. Mom calmed me down, explaining that Bam still had some diagnostic testing before we would have more definitive answers. A few days into the trip, Bam had a bronchoscopy. The doctors went down into her lungs, obtained a biopsy of the tumor (3 cm wide) and several biopsies of her lymph nodes. And then we got some results…phenomenal results. The cancer is Stage 1A. It hasn’t spread anywhere. It isn’t in her lymph nodes. It isn’t anywhere else. Just that one small spot in her lungs. MIRACULOUS. Absolutely nothing short of miraculous. There’s more. Her treatment does NOT require chemotherapy or surgery, which is mind-blowing. Bam couldn’t survive surgery or chemotherapy, really nothing invasive. She’s too fragile. And she didn’t want any heroic measures. Her amazing oncologist recommended radiation treatment. The most incredible thing…it will only take three treatments! (Each treatment takes about an hour and is specially directed to only target the tumor) She’s undergoing the second one as I write this.
We found out after the first treatment that it takes a toll, mostly causing extreme pain in her back and leg because she has to sit perfectly still in a beanbag cradle at an awkward position for the entire hour. Her general practitioner now has her on a drug cocktail of steroids and pain meds to manage this side effect. The radiation also leaves her out of breath and very fatigued. Through this all though, Bam keeps the most positive attitude. She is beyond stoic…she’s a super hero! (The photo is from the week before after the first treatment…I forgot to get one today.)
(Side note: I’m proud that I stay fit, strong and healthy. It’s for good reason aside from my own benefit. Bam’s left leg gave out a few nights ago (due to the massive amount of pain meds) while she was trying to get back in bed. Papa managed to ease her gently to the floor, so she didn’t have any more injuries other than a skinned knee and some bruises on her arms. They called me for help Mom had stayed up with them the entire night before–I wanted to be “on call” so she could rest. Between me and Papa, we managed to help her to her knees. I got her in a reverse bear hug with my arms under her arms and hooked in front of her chest. As she pushed up with her legs, I lifted with all my might. Papa held her steady as she rose. We got her back to standing (woohoo!) and let her rest before she got back in bed.)