I have not finished this piece. It is a short scene from February 2014. I am hoping to turn this into something more, but if not, at least it’s here, a record of a moment.
This is what it looks like: My mother is lying on a gurney for the second time in two months, the first time to remove an enormous tumor that was pushing through her breast, stage 4 breast cancer.
This time we are at the hospital for a needle biopsy of her lung. There is a chance her lung could collapse during the procedure. She says she’s more worried about peeing in the bed.
I said, “That’s a good thing to be worried about, I mean, it’s better than worrying about the spot on your lung, whether it’s lung cancer or breast cancer.” (Did I really say all that? I must have thought it.)
I had to ask four questions to get the oncologist to explain to me why the lung biopsy would be beneficial, given his stage 4 “incurable” diagnosis.
“We need to know whether the spot is breast cancer or lung cancer,” he said.
Imagine a six-foot three tall, skinny man with dark hair and a wan complexion. He looks like he should be a funeral director. I guess as an oncologist, he nearly is one.
“Why,” I ask, “do you need to know which cancer it is, since you’ve already diagnosed her as incurable?”
“Because it could be lung cancer.”
This guy could have played Lurch in The Addam’s Family show.
“And if it’s lung cancer?”
“We would want to remove it.”
And once again, given that he has diagnosed her with incurable stage 4 breast cancer, I ask, “Why?”
“Because lung cancer could spread faster than breast cancer.” Couldn’t he have just said that first?
It was the only sentence that answered my question. Will it make a significant difference, – say add a year to her life as opposed to two months? I don’t ask because I don’t know how many questions it will take to get to that answer, or even if there is an answer, or if I want to know it. I cannot process any more information coming from this ghoulish man.