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Bodily failures

I wanted to get up and go rowing this morning, but I just could not. Instead, after seeing scrottie off to the train station, I slept for another three hours. That's the carryover cost of staying up until 2 am on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

This morning, I learned that they've found yet another tumor on my father's liver via a careful MRI scan. This means that the tumor ablation procedures they've tried previously probably won't really work, and so continued chemotherapy is the current best course of action.

When my friend with the recurrent tongue and throat cancer received her most recent diagnosis (she is on cancer number four at this point), I spent a brief amount of time reading about the immunotherapy methods that are sometimes used to treat cancers such as hers. There were multiple good arguments in favor of pursuing the immunotherapy route for her case, but ultimately her insurance company wouldn't cover any of them anyway and so she's also going through chemotherapy in advance of inevitable and extensive surgery.

For me, the liver is an amazing, but dark and obscure, organ. It doesn't remind us of its existence, most of the time, unlike the beating of our heart, the sighs and wheezes of our lungs, the growling of our stomachs and bowels, the fullness of our bladders, the tightness of a headache. The liver is crucial to our well-being, however, because it is our metabolic centerpoint. It detoxifies toxins and interconverts nutrients, and thus it is an organ that experiences high levels of chemical stress. Vigilant people pay close attention to things that adversely affect the liver, like alcohol, but in general it's easy to ignore or forget about. For instance, my father hasn't experienced any noticeable symptoms from any of the growths on his liver.

Given its central role, there's room for a whole lot to go wrong with the liver. Multiple tumors are likely to reflect multiple different kinds of deleterious mutations, and the only way to really know what's going on would be to biopsy all of the different problematic spots, which sounds tremendously invasive. And then, if different tumors have different things going on, it would be difficult to pick the right combination of immunotherapy drugs to effectively cover all the bases. And at some point, we all die anyway, it's just a matter of the form of bodily failure we experience, and what we do in the meantime.

Meanwhile, here we are.

Comments

( 6 remarks — Remark )
randomdreams
Jul. 15th, 2016 01:39 am (UTC)
That sucks. We are so fragile.
I hope both your dad and your friend do as well as possible. Man, that's rough, though.
One minor plus of the liver is you can cut out tremendous parts of it and still be fine.
rebeccmeister
Jul. 18th, 2016 08:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you, randomdreams. It's definitely rough. My dad's being somewhat Zen about things at the moment, figuring that it's just his lot in life and something he needs to come to accept. I think one of the big challenges is that he deeply enjoys being outside and experiencing the great wonderful world, but the ability to be out and about gets so seriously curtailed when in the midst of treatment. So I don't know what the best forms of comfort will be this time around.
randomdreams
Jul. 19th, 2016 01:53 am (UTC)
Tadpole trike?
thewronghands
Jul. 27th, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
Are gentle hikes possible? Horseback rides at a walk, where the horse is doing most of the work and what you do is stay on? I have spent a lot of time recently being one of the assistants for a friend who is struggling with cancer (it is probably terminal, so the focus here is on quality of remaining life) and have gotten reasonable at finding things that my friend would like that are still within his capacity. If I can offer any Seattle-based knowledge from my own recent experience that would help you and your dad, just let me know.

Needless to say, you all have all my sympathy.
gfrancie
Jul. 15th, 2016 05:23 pm (UTC)
I am sorry to hear about your father's liver not holding up its end of the bargain. How is your Father holding up otherwise?
rebeccmeister
Jul. 18th, 2016 08:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you, gfrancie.

Overall, I think he's holding up fairly well these days. He and my mom went on a road trip out to visit the bristlecone pine forest in the eastern Sierras recently, and that trip was a big highlight for him, what with getting to walk among the oldest living things on the planet.

That said, I know he's bummed about having to go through more chemotherapy because it's such a huge ordeal plus it makes things hard for my mom. So for the time being he's grateful for all of the things he's able to do and the degree to which he's been able to recover functionality from the prior rounds of treatment.

It all seems to throw me back into one of those states of "WTF am I doing with my life?" though.
( 6 remarks — Remark )

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