Sunday, June 25, 2017

The family killer

Mom’s death this past week was the fifth death in the family in 21 months. And four of the five were because of cancer.

Dad died of cancer of the white blood cells. Time from first symptoms was about 8 months.

Brother Tim died of a blood clot that hit his heart.

Sister-in-law Karen died of brain cancer. Time from first symptoms was about 4½ months. Karen had an earlier bout of brain cancer, though that instance was as a tumor that could be removed. The killer round was more diffuse, defeating treatment.

Dad’s cousin Sara also died of brain cancer. Time from first symptoms was about a month.

Mom’s cancer wasn’t exactly diagnosed, though perhaps a variation of a skin cancer in her mouth. Time from first symptoms was about 3 months. Mom also had two earlier bouts of skin cancer, 38 and 32 years ago. She also had breast cancer, though I don’t know how long ago.

In Mom’s case I’ll ask, which is worse – cancer or Alzheimer’s?

Cancer may be cruel – it took Karen far too young – but it is quick. Mom had been dealing with Alzheimer’s for 14 years and, before cancer intervened, it looked like it could go for a few more. During the last couple years professional care was expensive. In addition, it was stealing Mom a bit at a time. It was heartbreaking to hear her say, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know these people, I don’t know where my husband is, please don’t lose me.

I admire brother Tom for putting up with that for a year and visiting her nearly every day.

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