Lung Cancer SUCKS! (Part I)

UGH! I can't believe that the last time I blogged was back in September 2012. A lot has gone on since then with Mom's lung cancer. I'm going to try and do my best to recap the last 6 months... It all started when Mom was complaining that she was having trouble breathing in August 2012. My sister Jenni took her to the emergency room where they did a chest x-ray and found that she had plurel effusion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleural_effusion) which is a large collection of fluid in between the two plurel layers around her lungs. They immediate performed a thoracentesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoracentesis) in order to drain the fluid so that she could breathe. This process is done by poking her back witn a hollow needle and letting the fluid drain out.

They collected over a liter of fluid which they sent out to the labs for testing. She did feel much better after the procedure. However, when the x-ray came back, they noticed two nodes in her lungs. A few days later, the results of the fluid test came back - stage IV advanced lung cancer. I remember my sister calling me after their follow-up appointment and I met them for lunch. My drive there was surreal. I serioulsy couldn't believe that this was happening again to our family. Thousands of thoughts went through my head - all of which were plans of attack and numerous back up plans of how we were going to beat this thing. I knew NOTHING about lung cancer. All I could do was pull from my own experience with breast cancer and what I went through with chemo, radiation, etc. This was my game plan for Mom...chemo, radiation...the standard. Little did I know that I really did NOT know a single thing about this type of cancer.Tears filled my eyes and I could barely see the open freeway ahead of me almost missing the exit. As I pulled up to the restaurant I told myself "pull it together Meesh! don't cry in front of Mom...you've been through this so you have to be the strong one!" I walked into the restaurant where my Mom, Jenni, and mom's friend Eric were all sitting eating the chinese food chatting as if it was a regualar day. Mom was all smiles...I guess I'm not a good actress because the first words out of her mouth were "Don't worry Chelle, I'm going to be alright...don't be upset." It was at that very moment that I got up from my chair and skurried to the bathroom so she couldn't see me start to cry. I pulled it together once again and walked back out to the table. Jenni gave me the diagnosis paperwork and I quickly skimmed through the medical jargon.

"OK, what's our game plan?" I asked. Since Mom was in the Kaiser system, we made an appointment to see an Oncologist there. The first doctor we saw was a little abrasive, so of course we got a second opinion and found one we "liked". It was at that moment that Mom officially "retired" from working.Mom's cancer is non-small cell with the EGFR mutation which made her a prime candidate for a drug called Tarceva (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erlotinib). This is a cancer cell inhibitor which basically attaches itself to the cancer cells prohibiting them from growing and producing the liquid around her lungs. Major side affects are bad rash...which of course my Mom freaked out a bit, "Oh no, my face will break out?" Yes, my Mom can be vain at times...totally a Nguyen ;)The doctor said that breaking out is a good sign. Apparently the more rash or side affects that occur means that the drug is working. Mom felt lucky...she barely broke out.Actually...Mom was feeling GREAT! The fluid stopped production and her energy was back. She even was gaining weight! She's always been a small and skinny little thang...5'2" and full of energy - sometimes more than even what I have (if you can believe that). Every day she drove to Torrey Pines beach to take a walk...to enjoy life. She moved here at 19 from Vietnam and has worked every damn day of her life. She had always owned her own salon, working 7 days a week - all so that she could provide for us three girls. For the most part, she was a single Mom...working to support her children...working to give us everything we ever wanted. We were definitely spoiled.

(Mom and Maddox)

(Mom doing beach aerobics...LOL!)

(Newton and Mom being a ham for the camera)

In December 2012, my sister Jenni and her long time boyfriend Newton decided to get married - the first of us to tie the knot. She didn't want to waste any more time and wanted my Mom to have the chance to walk her (or at least one of us) down the aisle. It was last minute, but Jenni being the super organizer of us all, put together the most beautiful Vietnamese-American wedding ever! On 12.15.13 they tied the knot: Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen - a couple of over 15 years, were now officially married!

In the following months Mom went about her days taking the tiny Tarceva pill at her daily scheduled time. In late January, my sister and Mom went to Hawaii. I think this was the first vacation she'd been on in over 20 years!!! Before leaving, she was mentioned that her breathing wasn't as good as it was before. "Mom, it's because you are running around Torrey Pines and not taking it easy" I said as I winked at her. My sister Jenni and her went because Quyen and I could not take the time off work - but it would have been nice for all of to go...just glad Mom got to go and had a great time!

Upon their return, Mom expressed her discomfort in breathing again. So we called Kaiser and made another appointment for an x-ray. Sure enough, the results: liquid filled back up around her lungs...the Tarceva was no longer working. In February 2013, she went in for another thoracentesis and they drained over a liter of fluid.

SH*T! WTF??? This sucks a*shole.

(my new sayin')

Back to the oncologist's office to figure out a new game plan...looks like chemo...

(...to be continued...my fingers are hurting and I need a breather...)

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