Eighty percent. It’s all I can think about.
Eighty percent has never been good enough for me. I was one of those kids in high school who really cared about her grades – maybe a little too much at times. I was never the smartest, but I graduated in the top ten of my class because I was so competitive. I can’t tell you how many times my friend Michael and I would razz each other about getting one or two percent lower than the other. I was lucky to be surrounded by high achieving friends who pushed me to do better. I’ll never forget the A- in Geography that dropped me down by 3 whole spots in class rank as a senior. If you know me, you know I was lucky to pull out an A- in Geography of all classes.
When I see an 80%, I see 1% higher than a C. And, everyone knows C’s suck. Cancer sucks too. It’s been another hard week with pockets of goodness that have kept us going.
Because when I try to sleep (like right now at 1 am) my mind doesn’t ever stop spinning, I composed an email earlier this week to Mason’s oncologist. I asked all of the questions that I would like to ask him in person, but can’t, because Mason is always with me. I can’t help but feel bad for this man. I can’t imagine a profession where you have to deal with the toughest questions from sad, terrified moms on a daily basis. The day after that email, I got a phone call from one of his nurse practitioners whom I really have grown to like a lot. She didn’t answer one single question from my email, but she assured me Dr. Smith would be calling me soon and then she sat and listened as I cried big, ugly tears. She reminded me that I have to take care of me and be surrounded by people who can listen and understand all of the feelings of a mom with a child who has cancer. Then she reminded me that no one around me will really get it and that’s ok too because thank God they’ve never been there, right? I remembered again that I don’t necessarily need to be surrounded by people who get it, I just need people who are willing to listen and try to understand. People who expect real answers to, “How are you?” and don’t accept words like “fine” or “hanging in there.” Sometimes it actually feels nice to have someone cry along with me as silly as that sounds. But, just for the record, it does NOT help anyone in my shoes to be told about your grandpa or husband’s uncle who died of cancer. And it does NOT help to have to console someone else while they cry because they miss said husband’s uncle who died in 1992. If you’re going to cry around a cancer mom, you better be crying with her, not needing her to be your support.
Dr. Smith called me later that same day. He started by asking how Mason was doing and I explained to him that in the 4 days since he’d been home from the hospital, he had yet to keep one single bite of food down even though he was extremely hungry. I explained to him that Cisplatin had once again ripped every ounce of energy and out of my child. And that basically the only way he was keeping any fluids down was through our daily saline flushes in his lines. And then I promised to do every single thing he asked in order to stay away from the cancer center because Mason wanted nothing more than to be home and go to school like a normal kid.
Then he said he received my email. He took a deep breath and we had to talk about things like survival rates and chances of amputation and the fact that all of this is just a big fat guess because again, NO ONE has ever seen osteosarcoma presented this way. Because I needed answers. I needed concrete numbers to process and I needed exact dates of when we were going to see if all of this pain and misery that Mason is going through is even worth it. No, amputation is not in our current plans at all right now, but there is always a chance when you’re dealing with tumors in a limb. No, amputation would not leave Mason in the clear as it would likely show up somewhere else without chemo. And, NO, Mason doesn’t know this is even an option and he will NOT unless necessary. And, YES, I never thought I’d ever have the need to say this, but I’d much rather that than to lose him.
Before we found out that the cancer had metastasized, we were told there was a 90% chance of cure with proper treatment. Then I just happened across an article on the American Cancer Society’s website. (Everyone reads cancer articles in their spare time, right?) And this is what I found. “If the osteosarcoma has already spread when it is first found, the 5-year survival rate is about 15% to 30%.” So we just went from a B to an F and I can’t even process that. I still can’t. But, according to Dr. Smith, it’s really 80%. I don’t really know who to believe or what to think. I do know that only God knows and the story has already been written. And, I know that when I see 80%, I now really see 20% or 1 in 5 and I lose my mind a little more each time I think about it. 80% has never been good enough and now I feel like I’m in high school again where every single percent matters so much because I have to win the competition. But, now almost 20 years later, I REALLY have to win this.
Mason will have every scan imaginable (full body bone scan, chest CT, MRI, x-rays, and PET scan over a two-day period May 3-4 if all goes as planned. This will be huge in determining how we proceed. Please pray that the tumors are shrinking in a big way. Also pray for my sweet girl. People seem to ha e forgotten that her world has been turned upside down. That will be a blog for the future. For now, pray that she will be supported in ways we can’t even imagine. Pray that she will have grace upon grace extended to her. Pray that she knows how much she is loved.