By Tami Schutter
"Mom has cancer." These are the three words I least expected to hear during a phone call with my dad.
As I heard him say that, I went into shock. I took off the rest of that day of work and rushed over to be with my mom. She was inconsolable, which I completely understood, and my dad wasn't talking to anyone.
We found out that she had a rare type of stomach cancer. Right away, my dad and I started researching the causes and cures.
My mom's primary care physician said that he would find out which oncology doctor her health insurance would allow her to go to. When it wasn't MD Anderson, we had our reservations.
Nobody close to me had ever had cancer like this before, but all of my friends and colleagues said that MD Anderson is the best. After a small amount of persuasion, her insurance company agreed to let my mom be treated at MD Anderson.
First sign of hope
During her first appointment with the oncologist I was relieved to hear him say that they were going to do everything they could for her. That was the first time during this whole ordeal that she was given a glimmer of hope.
My mom went through a rigorous series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which left her tired and feeling sick. She looked forward to the day that she would have her last chemo treatment and she could go ring the bell to celebrate.
Toward the end of her radiation, my mom started feeling pretty nauseous all of the time. Even though she felt bad, she still wanted to get out and do things. We normally participate in the Relay for Life, so this is something my mom really wanted to do.
The best part of the relay was when we were told we could collect donations by having a male member of our team dress up as a woman and ask other participants.
My younger brother, who just graduated from college, said he would "do anything that would help out the team." He walked around for a couple of hours in a grass skirt, coconut bra and blonde wig. I must say, he is one of the ugliest girls I've ever seen.
Second chance at life
The day of her surgery, my mom was in good spirits and ready to be cancer free again. This would mark the beginning of a second chance at life. Her hopes were high and so were mine.
They called my mom back to get prepped for her surgery and my dad let me go back instead of him. I tried to keep her laughing, but it was really an unsuspecting male nurse who provided our comic relief.
"We're going to be putting in a catheter, so we'll have to shave your entire genital area," he said to another patient, a couple of curtains down from us. Then we heard the sound of electric hair trimmers and me and my mom laughed and laughed.
"How would you like that job," I asked my mom between quiet chuckles.
Before we knew it, they were taking her back into surgery and my dad, my brother and I seated ourselves in the bluebonnet section of the waiting room.
My mom's surgery went great, as they removed her entire stomach. When she was in recovery, she was in a lot of pain.
Everyone there was great and you could tell that they were truly concerned. She stayed in recovery for a couple of hours and was then taken to her room.
She had to stay in the hospital for 10 days, most of which she considered happy-nap time. My dad, brother and I took turns staying the night in her room.
The staff was very nice, but the chair/bed that they have in the room wasn't my favorite. You could either lie down completely or sit straight up, but all I really wanted to do was recline.
At least one staff member would come into my mom's room every couple of hours. Of course they were caring, but I thought it was profound when I heard one of the nurses tell my mom, "Ya know, I always treat patients like they are a member of my own family. I do this because that's how I would want someone to treat my family members in the hospital."
These are the words that this particular nurse lives by, but I must honestly say that it is the credo at MD Anderson. All of the staff there take special care of their patients and extra special care for the patients' loved ones.
All of my friends and colleagues were right in recommending MD Anderson.