Focus On: Quiet Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” -Mary Anne Radmacher.

the voice of quiet courage
                    by pat coyle

it is an office with a cut glass chandelier in the lobby
brilliant pictures grace the walls
framing a much different world
than the one they inhabit –
those who must come here
those who fight the silent battle
with fortitude and  quiet courage

Called forth by a smiling nurse
one on each side, the three musketeers
questions are asked, answers given
blood pressure taken
he will be in soon
and we wait

I look over at her she sits quietly
lost in her own thoughts
lost in a world not of her choosing
searching for a beacon to show her the way
the way out, the way back, the way home

he  arrives

strange words float in the air
metastatic, PET scan, estrogen, radiation,
but then they fade and scatter
diminished by one word,
which fills the room with the taste of fear
chemotherapy

 he explains

she nods
not understanding some of it
bewildered by most of it
but knowing her musketeers are getting it
and will explain it to her

taken orally, not as harsh
less side effects
no hair loss

he leaves

to give orders
write prescriptions
arm her with the weapons needed
to win the day
we relax somewhat and breathe again

she gazes down
she does not recognize this body
crisscrossed with battle scars
this is not me, she thinks
but it is, and she knows
she will do what she must
she will take what she should
for as long as she can

she is a fighter
she is a survivor
she is our mother
and we, her musketeers

And so we enter the next phase in Mom’s battle against breast cancer with a visit to the oncologist.  My sister, Mary Lou, and I accompanied her, both for moral support and because, despite her hearing aid, she misses a lot of what is being said. And who wouldn’t, hearing impaired or not, when the doctor is throwing our words like metastatic, Pet scans, and chemotherapy at you.

The bottom line is that the first cancer she had (22 years ago) was estrogen driven. When it re-occurred  later, which was 5 years ago, it was treated with radiation, and then she was given tamoxifen , a drug that helps suppress these estrogen driven tumors. The doctor was curious as to why the tamoxifen failed in light of this third occurrence and then the pathology report arrived and showed that this was not an estrogen driven cancer, but a metastatic one, capable of moving to other parts of the body. It is  a completely different cancer. So she must have a PET scan to see if any of it has metastasized elsewhere. If not, then she will take six chemotherapy pills orally each day for two weeks, then be off for a week, and this rotation will last quite some time, perhaps for the rest of her life. If cancer is present elsewhere, then a new protocol will have to be addressed.

The good news is that side effects are milder than intravenous chemo, she won’t lose her hair or experience the vomiting associated with it either. Some nausea, maybe, and we have to watch her coumadin dosage, as the new medication will boost its blood thinning properties.

So again we wait, for the PET scan to be scheduled and the new meds to be acquired.
We will try to do so with the same fortitude and quiet courage she has exhibited through all the challenges of her life. No matter what the future holds, she knows the three musketeers will see it through together  — all for one and one for all!

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