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Coping with my mother’s cancer

Life can be unpredictable and really surprising. Suddenly in one moment to realize that the life of the person that is most closest to you is going to end in severe suffering and anguish and that there is not much time left. I think this is the hardest news a person can get.

I always knew how to appreciate the simple and smallest things in life. Even as a child, I was content with little even though I could ask for more. I had an appreciation for caution and did every step with a lot of thought in everything. I felt that life could be managed and controlled and that everything had a reason and a solution.

The pandemic crisis was surprising, at first a little unclear but slowly it was possible to understand and learn that the chances of preventing it increased by wearing a mask, keeping a distance and also by giving vaccines. According to the data, it seems that these actions did migrate the outbreak of the corona plague.

Those who maintained caution and followed the rules increased their chances of avoiding infection, serious illness and even death. But unfortunately nothing is guaranteed and the pandemic also took the lives of victims who acted according to all the rules and kept precautions. So still, not everything is under control in our life and not everything is in our hands, as I have come to discover.

The news that my mother have a cancer

After a period of time in which my mother suffered from severe pain without a any medical diagnose or explanation of it from the doctors, it was finally discovered that she have a cancer. The news was hard and unexpected. I didn’t know much about it but I knew it was a serious disease and only the word itself was already very scary. The first question that arises is how did this happen and what caused the disease and it seems that there is no clear answer to this question.

At this point I am trying to digest and understand how the life of my mother and mine are going to change and without asking or reading, I realized that this disease is indeed going to have a negative and burdensome impact on life but I was still trying to find hope and be optimistic, that people may able to overcome this horrible disease.

The oncologist at the hospital said that radiation and chemotherapy should be started and that there was no other choice or else it will cause her to die, simply in those words. These are not easy treatments and they can cause irreversible damage in the long run but when this is the only choice that medicine offers versus death, then one must choose it.

The beginning of the treatments and its results

The hospital near our house doesn’t have radiation treatments so she had to do the series of treatments at Rambam Hospital in Haifa so I had to drive and accompany my mother every day from Tiberias to Haifa. But I accepted the challenge despite all the difficulties and my hope was that we will be able to overcome it and it will be behind us after. There may be some side effects and damage as a result of the treatments but she will stay alive, as the treating doctors promised.

After the end of the long and difficult series of treatments, there was a brief pause in which it seemed that the treatments did help and the data seemed encouraging but the strong pain attacks started again and intensified day by day. After a PET CT scan it appears that the disease has returned and the treatments have not worked to eliminate it. Further examination confirmed that there was rapid progression in the cancerous growth.

Treatment failure

I was sure that if the series of treatments didn’t work then the oncologist would send her again for another series of treatments and there is a way to overcome the disease. And this is the hope and encouragement I gave my mother, I was always sure there would be other options to offer.

The doctor called and said to get to the hospital urgently and at the meeting it was said that the treatments were not successful and that the situation is quite serious and critical. I asked him if it was necessary to go back for another series of radiation treatments but he said that this was not possible. I still thought to myself that there must be another solution, that he could give an optimistic word of hope.

The doctor said he was examining the possibility of a radical and massive operation that had not been performed in the last ten years at all at the hospital. It’s a long and complicated surgery with very high chances of not getting out of it and at the best, being left without most of the organs in the abdomen, with quite a long recovery time and with severe and irreversible complications and damage. And yet even in this case it is not certain that it will prevent the cancer from returning.

The doctor presented us with a rather dramatic and difficult decision. If you choose surgery then there is a chance of immediate death already at the time of surgery and if you don’t do the surgery then the chances that other treatments will be successful are not high. This is a big shock for me, from a state of high chance of success in treatment to a state of a short time to live and the counting already started.

At that moment I felt for the first time a complete lack of control over my life. I never thought I could feel that way. It’s a terrible feeling, especially since I have a responsibility and my mother trusts me to help her with this difficult and terrible dilemma. And I myself am trying to find a way to figure out what the right decision is. If I ask the doctor, he will not be able to guarantee me anything and I will no longer be able to rely on statistics that are already low in this type of surgery.

I tried to look for women who underwent such surgery in Israel and maybe it could have helped me and my mother in making the decision but it is a rare and uncommon surgery so I already realized I couldn’t find or get real information about the chances of success and coping after such surgery. Once I understand exactly what it is, it’s just like cutting off someone’s hands and feet just to keep them alive but here also it’s not sure that the surgery will work and not sure it will give life but terrible and horrible suffering for the rest of life.

Statistics and Medicine

According to medicine, there is an high chance of overcoming a cancer when it is in its early stages and as it progresses then the chances of recovery decrease. Statistics are very important tool in medicine but it also has limitations. I realized that statistics can’t tell anything, whether it is a high or low percentage, it is impossible to take statistics into account in human life.

Just like the patient is told that he has a high chance of recovering and then he falls among the 20% that the treatment failed for them and not helped. Beyond that, another thing I realized, that the statistics could not be accurate. If for example it is said that the chances of cancer survival are a certain percentage then we did not state that they also included patients from different ethnic groups, at different ages and it is not possible to know if they actually died of cancer as a primary cause, due to old age (patients over 80) or from an heart attack.

According to medicine, the survival index is based on 5 years from the date of discovery of the disease. Thus a certain percentage is given and estimated according to the stage of the disease and according to the treatments performed. There is no recovery percentage, there is a survival rate and it is limited to 5 years. The maximum survival rate is usually about 80 percent at best and if the cancer has progressed then the survival rate drops significantly.

Medicine doesn’t include a recovery index but a survival index, because cancer is usually a destructive disease that kills and a patient who has managed to survive 5 years since the discovery of the disease, in terms of medicine is a success. It’s very difficult for me to write this especially that it is human life but it is the harsh and cruel reality in practice.

There are cases where people have had grade 4 cancer and have completely recovered or at least continued to live for many years from the moment of diagnosis and there are some who have passed away after only a few months. So in their case they were on the winning side of the statistics, despite very low survival rates, they managed to beat the cancer. I am sure that even in these cases it was a long and destructive struggle that left physical and mental damage to the continuation of life even if the disease no longer exists.

The remaining options

Public medicine has a limited budget for the tests and treatments it offers. There is a test that tests the suitability for immunotherapeutic drugs such as Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) or Libtayo, this test is also done in a public hospital but we have not yet received the results for it.

All we have left now is the hope that chemotherapy treatments and immunotherapy and biological drugs will suit her and be able to prevent the disease from progressing. These drugs are not in the health basket and I hope I can get them for my mother.

Here I also learned about an entire industry and it’s the pharmaceutical industry that sets a particularly high price threshold for life-saving drugs. This is hundreds of thousands of shekels for each drug per patient, amounts that almost no patient can afford to purchase the drugs independently unless he has health insurance that covers it or by raising donations.

I also learned about innovative radiation treatments in Assuta with the help of an integrated MRI accelerator. In a recent article in Yedioth Ahronoth, there was a case of an 80-year-old woman who had already undergone long-term radiation treatments and spared herself difficult surgery. I’m not sure yet if the treatment is relevant for my mother but I have high hopes that she will fit the treatment.

Another medical opinion could have helped a lot now but our hands are not reaching. Even when there is a senior oncologist with extensive knowledge and experience, each doctor has a different approach to treating the disease and therefore it is significant and important to hear another opinion.

Update 13/06/2022:

My mother is in a terminal condition and her time is limited. The oncologist gave permission to Keytruda. This is a private medicine that is not included in the health basket for my mother. Please help me get this medicine for her.

How I cope with this difficult situation

If you ask me if I learned anything from all this and if it changed me so the answer is no and here is the great pain. Because even before my mother got cancer, I was full of appreciation for life and really knew how to appreciate them beyond the average person. I define myself as a minimalist, a simple person who appreciates the simple things in life, human hearts, nature, justice and faith in God.

Coping for me from the moment my mother became ill is accompanied by many difficulties. This situation prevents me from continuing my occupation, I have stopped working and performing my events as a musician and I dedicate all my time and all of me for the caring of my mother and fighting her cancer. Unfortunately, my family not supported us in anything and doesn’t support now, which makes it my responsibility to take care of my mother.

I have to deal with a difficult reality where I have the responsibility to do everything I can to prolong my mother’s life and time here plays a valuable role. Every day and every hour. Meanwhile my mother cries out for immense pains and even the strongest painkillers are not helpful for her anymore. I am heartbroken to hear her cry, day and night and this thing itself causes a terrible feeling.

I can say that from her I received the good values and thanks to her I am who I am today. My big pain that it came at the wrong time, not that there is a right time for it but she still has not had time to see me married with family and children, that is what tears my heart and I would like to do anything to increase her chances of living and prolonging life.

There are many expenses including medications and painkillers that are not in the health basket. My mother doesn’t have a pension or any private insurances and I have to deal with all the financial expenses for her. An additional medical opinion is now needed and there is a likelihood of effective treatments that not being in the health basket and I have no way to fund it for her.

I would really appreciate if you can support me that I can focus on my mother with the fight against her cancer. Any amount you donate will be able to help and I would greatly appreciate any possible donation. You can donate directly through PayPal and also make a donation using a credit card directly through them.

Click the “Donate” button and then enter the amount of donation you want to donate.

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Yossi Aharon

Full Stack WordPress Developer; Musician, music arranger, singer, keyboardist and virtuoso Greek bouzouki player.

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