When my mother was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in 2005, when she was 49, it came as a lightning shock. Her mother, at 76, had yet to go gray, and her mother's mother, at 95, was still playing bingo in her nursing home. My mother had always been, despite her diminutive frame, a titanic and irrepressible force of vitality and love. She had given birth to me and my nine younger siblings, and juggled kids, home and my father's medical practice with humor and grace for three decades. She swam three times a week in the early mornings, ate healthily and never smoked.
And now, cancer? Anyone who's been there knows that a cancer diagnosis is terrifying. A lot goes through your mind and heart: the deep pang of possible loss (what would my father and all of us do without her?), and the anguish and anger at what feels like injustice (after decades of mothering and managing dad's practice, she was just then going back to school).
We, as a family, were scared and angry, but from the beginning we knew we would do all we could to fight this disease. We became involved with fundraising for research, through the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation in Boston; we blogged; we did triathlons (my mother's idea) and cherished our time together as never before.
Carcinoid, a form of neuroendocrine cancer, is a terminal disease but generally responds well to treatment by Sandostatin, a drug that slows tumor growth. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303945704579390772732855560