I dropped out of sight for a couple of days.

22 July 2020

Observant readers may have been wondering why I seemed to drop off the grid for a couple of days.  Timed posts kept going up as expected, and undoubtedly other socnets seemed like they were being operated by my exocortex (which they were, for the most part).  You've probably been wondering what happened.

You know what?  Fuck it.  I don't have the compute cycles right now to do a proper intro.  I count it as fortune that I have the compute cycles just to type this right now.  There's no easy or polite way to talk about it.  My concentration is shot, my attention span rapidly approaches epsilon, and to be honest I'm a little fed up with Dora (Mom's cat) attacking me repeatedly because she's scared, confused, and doesn't understand what's going on or where her catmom is.

I will say, however, that I sought out permission before writing this.

About three weeks back while I was in my usual morning meeting for work my mobile rang; it was a call from my mom's cell number.  I sent the call over to Switchboard and went back to my meeting.  Another call.  Then another call from a number I didn't recognize in the 412 NPA.  Click, hand it off to Switchboard to take care of it.  Then another call from the same number.  This never happens, ergo, something must be terribly wrong for someone to try to get hold of me so badly.

As it happened, the second number was the physician that had just admitted my mother to the hospital.  We had an interesting three way call over the speakerphone:  She was in a lot of pain, and was having trouble breathing.  None of these things are good signs, as if it need be said.  The doctors at the hospital drained roughly 5 liters of fluid from her abdomen, which seemed to improve the pain and definitely improved her breathing because it had been pressing against her diaphragm.  This is never a normal thing so the first liter went directly to the oncology department and the rest was presumably disposed of.  She was admitted to the hospital and then sent directly for imaging, do not pass go, do not collect $200us.

You know where this is going.

Initial analysis of the imaging data showed abnormalities on her ovaries and in other parts of her abdomen.  Exact types unknown, but you can do the math.  Cancer.  The hospital staff kicked into overdrive as they are wont to do when neoplasm appears to be involved because you can't really tell if it's (relatively) benign or malignant from x-rays, CT scans, or really anything other than direct examination.

Mom lives alone these days, ever since my grandfather died.  So, I immediately started getting things ready to fly back to Pittsburgh at a moment's notice to help.  This wasn't an immediate thing, there were plans to be made on the other side of the country, questions to ask, services to line up, and suchlike.  This also gave me a chance to clear things with my day job and hand off some duties to other folks because I hate bailing on people without forewarning.  This also gave me a chance to pack, repack, multiply guess myself, figure out what I needed to bring, and figure out what to bring to give myself a chance to decompress because this is not an easy thing on anyone's mental health.  All in all, it took just under a week to get everything ready.  Lyssa wasn't able to go with me because she's in multiple covid-19 risk categories and can't take that risk.

They scheduled the surgery for when they knew I would be in town, so last Thursday I hopped a ride down to SFO and caught a redeye to Pittsburgh, by way of Denver International.  Yes, this meant flying during a pandemic, which is something that I'd very much hoped to avoid.  So, just in case, I packed a bunch of pairs of nitrile gloves and a couple of masks in my field kit along with the usual tools of my trade.  For what it's worth, Southwestern these days is doing a lot to mitigate covid-19 risk on their flights.  I can't speak to their sterilization and cleaning methods because I didn't witness them, but they did their best to not fill the middle seats of each row (unless family members were traveling together).

Incidentally, this meant that I also got to sit in the emergency exit rows, which means that I got to have legroom for the first time in a very long while.  Off-topic but that's about the only thing that's made the trip doable.

By 1800 hours local time I had my luggage in hand, Vlad had picked me up at PIT, and I was at the old homestead.  My mother had been at the hospital again earlier that day for the same symptoms.  Another 6L of fluid had to be removed, this time through a trocar inserted into the other side of her stomach.  It is my understanding that this was significantly more painful than the previous time.

I spent the next day or so recovering from jet lag; I probably got about 20 hours of sleep.  I don't remember too much of that, just vague memories of someone waking me up to go to bed properly instead of sleeping on Windbringer's keyboard and contracting qwertyitis.

Mom went in for surgery on Monday, 20 July.  The surgeon says that they didn't encounter anything unexpected, which in the context of cancer is probably the best you can hope for.  They found what they saw on the diagnostic images and no real surprises outside of that.  They found a mass on her ovaries (resulting in a hysterectomy) and what sounds like a large-ish lipoma higher in her abdomen that they debulked, which basically means that they surgically removed everything they could without doing more harm than good.  This also means that whatever's left will be easier to treat with chemotherapy.  In addition they found what they called hotspots, which if I'm reading that paper correctly seems to state that tumors tend to come from specific locations and grow outward from them more or less consistently.  In other words, tiny tumors-in-process that, if left alone, would continue growing out of control.  They also removed her appendix, which suggests (obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a medical doctor, this is only a first order analysis) either abdominal cancer specifically or metastasis.  I don't know.  For all I know, a couple of thousand loosely clustered cells inside her stomach decided to start swinging the fuck-you stick all at once.

They're saying that she'll spend about a week in the hospital recovering (as I write this, somewhat less now) and then a month healing at home until they can implant the mediport, at which time chemotherapy will start.  So far they're saying that it'll probably be a monthly regimen of chemotherapy instead of daily or weekly.  We'll see what happens as time goes on.

Fuck cancer.