Saturday, July 21, 2012

My posts are going to be a bit sporadic...

My Mom Beverley is my best friend, as you may have gathered by reading my blog.  On her 40th birthday in 1980 she suffered a stroke and although she recovered well her right side is weakend and she needs a brace and a cane to help her walk.  Eight years later my father passed away from a massive heart attack at age 52 and since Mom was handicapped she can't stay alone so her house was sold and she has lived with her kids ever since, so she truly is my best friend!  We are having a tough time in my family right now and so I wanted to explain why I will be in and out over the next while regarding my posts etc.

The back story...My maternal grandmother Melitta Green had breast cancer when she was 48-49 so my Mom has a mammogram every other year and I have one every year.  In early 2010 our GP doctor called and said that a spot had been found and she needed to come in for an ultrasound to investigate.  Our doctor called with the results, reporting that everything was fine, they couldn't even find on the ultrasound that which had been picked up on the mammogram.

In the early spring of 2011 my Mom came to me with strain on her face and with tears in her eyes as she told me that she could feel the lump in her left breast.  We immediately went running to the same doctor's office.  I was in the room with my Mom when he felt her breasts, he didn't do a proper breast exam, and swiftly told us this was not breast cancer that it didn't even involve breast tissue.  Still concerned I mentioned that my Mom's Mom had early breast cancer and he still insisted that this was nothing to be worried about.  I protested again and he finally agreed to request a non-emergency ultrasound, which meant that it would take up to 6 weeks to be called.  I thanked him and believing in him because he was the one that had been to medical school, I went about convincing my Mom not to worry.

By April we still had not been called for the ultrasound appointment and my Mom was growing more and more anxious and so I called the hospital to try and get an estimated time for her ultrasound.  We were shocked when the hospital explained that the doctor had never made the request and they instructed me to call his office immediately to find out what went wrong.  I called the doctor's office but our doctor was away so we were told to come right down to see the doctor who was seeing our GP's patients while our doctor was away.

When the fill-in doctor felt my Mom's breast his face completely changed and I knew it was for the worse.  He instructed us to get to the hospital immediately for a mammogram and an ultrasound.  As you can guess my Mom was, shortly thereafter, diagnosed with breast cancer.  During these appointments it was also brought to our attention that when the ultrasound was done in 2010, after the mammogram alerted to something, our doctor had been advised to send my Mom to the Kelowna Cancer Center where they would be able to perform a micro biopsy or at the very least, she was to come back within 6 months to have a follow up ultrasound...we were never told any of this, he simply told us there was nothing to worry about!  Imagine the survival rate when the cancer is so small it couldn't be found on an ultrasound, compared to allowing it to grow for over a year undetected and untreated.

Mom had a mastectomy within days, the cancer was completely removed but there was 1, only 1, node involved with the cancer.  This meant that the cancer could have escaped the breast or it could mean the cancer was caught in that node so 4 grueling rounds of chemo were ordered to begin immediately.  During this whirlwind of information it was brought to our attention that Mom had diabetes that we were never even advised about!!  It said in her file that it was medically managed but it wasn't and we were never told!!  The chemo finished up at the end of November 2011 and then it was discovered that she had a diabetic ulcer on her foot, which as of today is still not healed.  Mom has been in constant pain between mastectomy, recovering from surgery, suffering chemo and now a diabetic pressure ulcer.  We couldn't thank our family GP enough for all of these gifts!

After the chemo Mom got a chest infection and we had to go to our medical clinic to see a doctor for a prescription.  Mom/we hadn't seen or talked to our GP since they found the cancer and she didn't want to because we were all so upset, mad, frustrated etc., so we asked to see a duty doctor instead of our own GP, so we were told to come in immediately.  We were directed to our GP's office and when we refused the nurse protested that he was the only doctor we could see and since Mom needed medication we bit the bullet.

When our doctor walked into the exam room and saw my Mom and I sitting there he said "Did you have your surgery yet?"  That was the lead comment!  Not 'Oh my I'm so sorry for what I have done', not 'please accept my appology', nothing like that, just "Did you have your surgery yet?".  I was so mad I could just spit but Mom needed the antibiotic so I bit my tongue and just got the prescription from him and that was it.

My Mom and I wrote to the College of Physician's and Surgeon's to lodge a complaint and I'm happy to say that in June his license was revoked and he is not longer a doctor as ours wasn't the only complain over the years.  Sadly, all he had to do was pay a fine of $13, 000 I believe and repay the costs of the investigation into his misconduct.  Big deal there but at least he can't do this to another patient again.

We had a final meeting by video with the oncology doctor in Kelowna and they said that Mom was considered cancer free and no further tests were required unless we noticed some sort of change with Mom.

We tried to get a lawyer to sue the doctor, I mean ex-doctor, but even though the lawyer would be willing to take the case on a contingency basis, we would still need to have about $20 to $30 thousand dollars to invest in the case first and since my Mom and I are both handicapped (I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia at 39 years old so my life is one of daily pain in varying degrees) my husband is the only bread winner in our home there is no money to put towards a case.  The lawyer also told us that even though her treatment was delayed because of the doctor's negligence, she survived and was cancer free.

From June 22nd to June 24th Mom when to stay at my brother's home to spend time with my nephew but while there she was having a bad headache.  I told her to make sure to take Tylenol and call if it didn't settle down.  On the 24th I had to leave for Kamloops for an appointment with my rheumatologist so I called my brother to make sure to check on Mom after she came home to our house.  When I got home Mom was still suffering headache and now nausea so I called my brother and he said that my nephew(10 years old) must have brought home the flu from school as both he and my brother had it.  Well that explained everything!  While on chemo they wouldn't let Mom have her flu shot so she is obviously suffering a bad case of the flu, and since the vomiting was just beginning we figured about a week and she would be over it.  After a few days she was still vomiting quite a bit so I took her to see her new, very competent, woman doctor and that day she seemed to be on the downhill side of this flu so the doctor said to try and keep her hydrated and wait it out.  After a few more days, Mom started falling down, which I can only remember her doing 3 times in my life, even though she had lived with restricted movement from the stroke, I just felt something was wrong and since it was now the evening I had to take her to the emergency room.

They just couldn't understand why she was having headache, vomiting, and 4 falls within 14 days but no diarrhea or fever so a CT scan was ordered right away....brain cancer....it still doesn't compute...brain cancer...no matter how many times I say or write it, it just doesn't seem true.  The breast cancer had metastasized to her brain and there were so many tumors they couldn't count them all.  One tumor, over 1" in diameter is pressing on the cerebellum causing the headache, nausea, vomiting and falling.  We were devastated, as you could imagine, and even more so when it was explained that if we hadn't have brought her in when we did, she had mere weeks to live.  Mom was started on high dose steroids and within hours the headache, nausea, vomiting were gone and her balance restored.  That one, lousy, positive lymph node was responsible for the brand new nightmare we are embarking on, that one lousy lymph node.

We quickly received an education on her brain cancer.  Mom is to be sent to Kelowna to receive radiation treatment right away.  I asked the prognosis and the wind was knocked out of me when we were told there was no cure for brain cancer, that treatment would merely give her some quality of life now.  I felt so stupid that at 47 years old I had no idea that brain cancer couldn't be cured.  A full body CT was ordered and we were told to go home to await instructions to leave for Kelowna BC, 7 hours by car, to begin the radiation treatment.

I called the lawyer and told them they may have a case now because the game has changed, that delay of over a year allowed the cancer to leave the breast and now it has written her a death sentence. The lawyer said that we still needed $20 to $30 thousand dollars to pay for the costs of expert witnesses and since it would take at least 9 months to get it into court, if Mom didn't make it to the end of the case the estate would only get her expenses covered! I hate this part of living in Canada, only the rich can sue so no one has to worry about malpractice suits if their patients are the working or disabled poor. The lawyer suggested that I perhaps contact the doctor myself to see if his conscience would lead him to offer an apology and perhaps some financial support to help us with the expenses.

I wrote to the malpracticing doctor and told him the news and asked if he was ever going to apologize to Mom and at the very least offer to cover the expenses of traveling, hotels, meals, medication etc. He showed up at our door with some flowers, told Mom when he had seen us for the last time in the clinic, he hadn't realized he had made a mistake, this was a lie because he asked her "have you had your surgery yet?", so he obviously knew she was having a mastectomy for breast cancer and would have seen in her file that he had told her she didn't have cancer 6 weeks before she had the mastectomy!! In my opinion, that negates the apology! He justified his mistake by saying that he was just trying so hard to serve so many people, to make sure that everyone was cared for (not like getting paid for all those people he was squeezing into a day had anything to do with it!?!?) that he was obviously missing things. Part of the reason he was in trouble with the College of Physician's and Surgeon's was that he was far surpassing the number of patients doctors are allowed to see in a day! After this justification of his mistake he said goodbye and away he went, no offer of help with the costs of trying to get her some quality of life for the time she has left.

We had our first meeting with the Oncology Doctor in Kelowna on July 17 and were told that they would give her 5 treatments of radiation and he echoed the Cranbrook doctor, that hopefully this would give her some quality of life now.  He also delivered the results of the full body CT, Mom has tumors in her lung, up the center of her chest and in her adrenal glands.  More devastation, how much does this woman have to endure because of that incompetent doctor who had been our GP since 1969!  This was the first time in my life that Mom lost complete control of her emotions, even when Dad died she remained strong for us, but not this time, she knew what that doctor had done to her and she was sad, mad, frustrated, angry, tearful, mournful and tormented.  When Dad died I felt that as the oldest child, 5 years older than my only brother, I was responsible for protecting and caring for Mom and I had failed her.  I was ashamed that I hadn't protected her from that doctor, that I didn't scream loud enough when he refused to look into Mom's health fears further, I had failed her when she most needed me.

So here we are today, sitting in the Cancer Treatment Center Lodge where we have lived since July 18th, 3 treatments of radiation behind her and two more to go.  On Monday we will meet with the radiation oncologist to see if more treatments are necessary, would help or if she is finished with radiation.  The oncologist who treated Mom for the breast cancer last year is going to meet with us on Tuesday July 24th to see if there would be any benefit to putting Mom through more rounds of chemo to try and attack the tumors in her chest and glands.

Mom is going to celebrate her 72nd birthday, here at the Cancer Treatment Center Lodge on Sunday, July 22nd.  My brother and his wife are driving the 7 hours from Cranbrook to come and see Mom for her birthday so she is really excited about that.  We will try to make it as nice as we can considering where we are and why.

Mom is a crocheter and knitter so she is making all these plans to make something for each of her grandchildren and one great grandchild so that is really the most important thing to her now.  One of the side effects of radiation is short term memory losss so I'm hoping that wont interfere with her goal.

Well that is the reason I have been and will continue to be a little sporadic with my posts.  The July posts were produced and scheduled to automatically post and there are a few more left to come.  Once we return home I will spend some time in the craft room when Mom is resting or sleeping and will post those projects when I can.  I hope you won't mind but I will also be posting the daily progresses of our family while we are on this journey.

I can't thank Just A Scrappin' for their understanding of my inability to contribute to the design team as I had promised to do and for keeping me on the design team anyway.  I also want to thank everyone for the thoughts, prayers, flowers, card & gifts, your support has been amazing and very appreciated.

If you would like to send a card of encouragement to Mom our home address is:

Beverley Archibald
122 16th St. S.
Cranbrook BC
V1C 7E8
Canada



Have a SCRAPtastic day!

Blessings,
Melitta

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