Perhaps it’s my inner hypochondriac, or maybe it’s the little voice that sometimes whispers “you should have been a doctor” – in either case, I find myself poking around the health pages of the Times website a lot. Not so long ago, there was a slide show with audio, called “Voices of Lung Cancer”. In the way that one needs to pick at a scab, I clicked through, only to find a woman, one Dr. Woody, with a diagnosis and visage that were eerily similar to my mother’s.
My mother was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV NSCLC in the winter of 2005 - she’d gone to the doctor complaining of back pain, and an x-ray showed lesions on her spine and in both lungs. She had radiation, endured several rounds of chemo, continued to live her life, until a mild seizure in January 2008 indicated brain metastases. She then had whole brain radiation, which debilitated her to such a degree that she could no longer live at home alone. At that point, she entered hospice, at home. She died at the beginning of April, after a YEAR in hospice care, a year of an inexorable decline.
By one measure, Moky did really well - median survival time following a diagnosis at stage IV is about 8 months, and she lived more than four years from that first x-ray. She was basically strong and healthy and tolerated most of the treatment very well.
But I wonder - could something different have been done?
Last week, after the announcement that Steve Jobs had had a liver transplant, there was a flurry of chatter: Should he talk about his treatment? What's the prognosis for pancreatic cancer? Why'd he have a liver transplant anyway?
In my poking-around-the-intertubes-at-lunch surfing, I ended up back at a Times blog post from over a year ago, talking about cancer research funding:
The big loser in the cancer funding race is lung cancer. It is the biggest cancer killer in the country, yet on a per-death basis receives the least N.C.I. funding among major cancers. In 2006, the N.C.I. spent $1,518 for each new case of lung cancer and $1,630 for each lung cancer death, according to data from the institute and the American Cancer Society.
The natural conclusion is that lung cancer suffers in the research dollar pool, because the lung cancer victims brought it upon themselves. They smoked cigarettes, period, end of story. Stigmatized.
But, but, but. Butt. Why'd they smoke cigarettes? Because they were addicted. Why? Because, because, because they couldn't quit.
You know what? The whole thing sucks.
A couple of weeks ago, and with the help of some of my blog pals, my sister participated in her town's Relay for Life - and raised about $3500 for the American Cancer Society. Thank you. I hope it helps kick cancer's ass.