Inspired Momx1

Friday, July 3, 2009

1st Visit to UMMC's Oncology Clinic

We went for mom's 1st appointment at the Oncology Unit last Friday. We reached there around 8.30am, got a waiting number and filled up a form and mom's name was called not long after for taking of body weight. It was finally our turn after 2 hours waiting. Dr Ros, the MO under Dr Ho's team (the oncologist incharge of mom) attended to mom. Mom was asked to lie on the bed and had her wound checked. Dr Ros commented that mom's wound was healing well and I gave her the CT Scan for review. We were then asked to wait for mom's name to be called again while she discussed with Dr Ho and Prof. Dr Chin (the surgeon operated on mom). While waiting, I observed the patients around us. Most of them were seen wearing head scarves and hats to hide their balded head. I later found out they were mostly breast cancer patients and had undergone few chemotherapy cycles and the balding was due to its side effects and not all cancer patients undergoing chemo treatment would get the same side effects due to different types of drugs used.

There were three breast cancer patients seated a row behind us and they were discussing about life after getting this deadly disease and the dieting regimen they followed while on chemotherapy. I took life for granted and lightly and never bothered to get myself checked by the doctors before mom was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with colon cancer even though I was previously in pharmaceutical sales for 5 years where I got to see doctors every day. During mom's twice admission to UMMC for a total of 10 days, I realised one could not take one's life lightly or ignorantly. In mom's case, should she had seek treatment when the symptoms like, dark coloured stool, abdominal pain, no appetite, fatigue arose three years ago, things would have been easier to manage today. But let bygone be bygone. The whole family had actually agreed not to ponder on this again as they would only make mom feel more guilty, the guilt of being a burden to the family.

Mom's name was called after another 1 hour waiting time. Dr Ros then told us that they had called Prof Dr Chin and he said that “almost” 100% of the tumour and infected colon were removed. Dr Ros briefed that due to the perforation (a tear or hole) of the tumour, they planned to put mom on a more powerful chemo drug called oxaliplatin combined with FU5 and Folinic Acid (a type of vitamin) also called FOLFOX regimen for 8 to 12 cycles every 2 weeks. The whole duration of chemotherapy would take at least 6 months depending on how well mom responded to the drugs. The cost of full cycle of FOLFOX regiment would be in the range of RM21,000 for the drugs alone and not included other expenses. She suggested a chemoport be implanted to reduce the pain mom had to endure everytime looking for veins for IV drips of the chemo drugs.

Dr Ho, the oncologist incharge of mom, came in and greeted us. I asked him about the side effects of this FOLFOX regimen and the possibility of moving mom back to Sandakan to continue with the treatment as mom has always wished to be to be in her hometown at this difficult part of her life journey. Dr Ho said some of the side effects would be neuropathy (tingling of the fingers and toes, nausea or feel like nauseating, touching or taking cold drinks would get an even worse effects to the nerves) though it would not cause hair loss due to the drugs used. He continued that he could refer mom to an Indian oncologist in KK but wasn't sure about any oncologist available in Sandakan.

He then observed mom and told me that mom looked very worried. I then asked Dr Ho if he could converse to mom in Cantonese and repeat what he had told me so that she could be more at ease than just staring at both of us not knowing what we said. He did that and mom looked very calm though a bit shocked and that gave me slight mental relief. All this while, I had been thinking chemotherapy would not be necessary on mom as one of the surgeons, Dr Tee reassured us that chemo might not necessarily come into the scene. I did not ask many questions as I was still recovering from the shock and wasn't prepared to this. I have had no idea what the hell this FOLFOX was and what damage it would bring to my already fragile mom with only 48kg left from the previous 60kg!

An appointment was fixed for blood test and day after, starting of chemotherapy on 20 & 21 July. I was then asked to get an appointment from Surgery Unit to have the Chemoport installed but due to the fact that I could not get a date as Prof Dr Chin's team would only be at the surgery clinic on Thursday, the oncology side postponed the dates to 27 & 28 July to allow sufficient time for chemoport implantation.

I told my sister about the oncologist's plan to put mom on chemotherapy and she was so upset over the fact that at this age mom would have to suffer yet again after the major surgery 3 weeks ago. Apparently, my sister has always been our messenger in the family to avoid having to repeat so many times on the same issues. My two elder brothers would always call should they want to know more about mom's case. I started my search on the FOLFOX regimen and my focus would definitely on its side effects.

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