The Scan That Wasn’t
(This Facebook update was posted last Friday, 5/27/16).
Last night, Ana went to the prom. Since her school is so small, grades 9 – 12 were invited to go. She went with her good friend Marissa (this is a picture of them). I’m glad she went, but the prom was hard for Ana for many reasons.
She was supposed to have another scan today, but as I drove her home last night, it became very clear to me that Ana needed a break from scans. She expressed a lot of frustration and sorrow in a way that was more candid than usual. I want to preserve her privacy, but I will say that Ana truly felt the reality of her disease yesterday – how much it’s taken from her, how unfair it is and how much she’ll miss.
As a parent, it’s my instinct to want to fix everything or say something to make her feel better. But there was nothing I could say. She’s dying. She knows this. It is hugely unfair that her life will be cut off right when it’s supposed to begin. I could only listen and try to say just enough that it didn’t seem like I was minimizing her anguish or trying to take control over the situation in a way that would shut her down. I also had to keep my emotions in check. Bursting into tears would’ve shut Ana down instantly.
This was very, very hard to do. It meant listening to Ana discuss some of her deepest fears about her illness – fears that have crossed my mind a lot lately, but that I’ve tried not to dwell on because then I stop functioning. She didn’t ask to reschedule the scan, but she made it clear that she hates the hospital and that she didn’t want to face it tomorrow. To her, the hospital means death.
I thought about some of the things people have told me recently – the therapist who heads up the palliative care team at the hospital, a mother who lost a son to cancer, and my own therapist – that sometimes people just need the space to be heard. I felt like the best thing I could do for Ana was give her that space in that moment, but when we got home I suggested we reschedule the scan. We had a frank discussion about the benefits versus the risks of not doing the scan. She doesn’t have symptoms, but she does think she can feel tumors in her pelvis now and her stomach is a bit distended. Even so, we couldn’t figure out a way that a scan would do anything except make us more worried.
I emailed Dr. Yamashiro at midnight and told him Ana needed a break from scans. He emailed me back one minute later and said that was fine.
We’ve moved her next scan to 7/1. Ana got to sleep late today instead of getting up at 5:30 a.m. to go to a place she hates and get more bad news. I’m glad for this, but I’m also heartsick. I want everything for her and she gets nothing. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could trade places with her. If you got this far, thank you for reading and, as always, thank you for holding us up.