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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chose your poison... alcohol or cancer

I sat down yesterday to write a post about colorectal cancer. I’ve done a bit of research and found a few things that I wanted to share, but not really as much as I would have liked. I have been very distracted by Riley’s behavior and the opportunity to concentrate on writing or videoing has been elusive.

So far I’ve discovered that colon and/or rectal cancer seems to be the cancer of choice for the alcoholic’s body. The chance for survival is dependent on how quickly the cancer is caught. Since it’s hard to know exactly “when” the cancer started, the scale for survival rates is determined by using the stage of the cancer.

Over the past six weeks, Riley has been poked, prodded, scanned, vampire-ized, measured, and violated in very unpleasant manners. We still have not been told that the butt tumor (which we have named Tommy) is, in fact, malignant. We know its cancer and that Tommy is growing. We know there is a suspicious something in his groin lymph node – but not one doctor wants to say that lymph node issue is a part of Tommy’s mischievousness. We are told that we must wait for the biopsy on September 8th.

Anyone who knows me knows that is not good enough for me. While in the oncologist office, I said “This is my theory that I’ve surmised from Drs. Google and Wikipedia. Riley most likely has Stage IIIA colorectal cancer classified as such because it has spread to at least one of his lymph nodes. With treatment he has about a 53% chance of surviving.” The doctor’s response was that, in her opinion, I was correct but could not be 100% confident until we get the results of the biopsy.

This is where things get interesting – or – absurd depending on your point of view. Riley states that he does not want surgery if it means he will have to wear a poop bag. He would rather have chemo/radiation therapy. That’s understandable logic. Then Riley continues by saying “I want to have chemo and radiation so that the cancer will be gone in a couple of weeks and I can go back to drinking.” The doc and I look at each other. She is without words. My hands touch my forehead and then slide down my face as though I’m trying to wipe away the confusion.

(I need to explain that I was contemplating giving Riley metered glasses of wine over long spans of time. However, after the first couple of glasses (2 glasses at dinner every three weeks) his behavior became hostile and I stopped allowing any alcohol at all. So he is booze free knowing that no more is on the way. I believe letting him have monitored wine was a mistake on my part – which I have corrected.)

Back to the doctor who is trying to think of a response to Riley. It was a long pregnant pause. She comes back with something about it takes a lot longer than a few weeks for the treatment to work. She also reminds him that the drinking will kill him just as quickly as the cancer. At the present time, it has not been determined if he is healthy enough for treatment at all.

I chimed in and tried to explain that chemo/radiation will not, cannot, fix all the damage that was done to his body by excessive alcohol abuse. That he is still on the brink of another heart attack, stroke and that it appears his brain is still atrophying. I also point out to him that as long as he lives with me, he will not be drinking. Uh… ohh, I’ve left the door open on that one.

Riley: I’m going to have the treatment, get well, move out and drink myself to death. I’d rather die of drunkenness than die of cancer.

Doc: Well, Mr. Riley, with that attitude I’m worried that treatment will be wasted on you and that you will not be a good candidate. It is possible we will not treat your cancer. Turning to me – Is this the way things are at your house all the time? Do you have any help?

Linda: Yes. This is the way things are all the time. No. I don’t have any help.

Riley: She hired a housekeeper to come in one day a week, but now the housekeeper only helps Linda because she turned her into a friend.

Linda: What? No… let’s move on. The bottom line is no decision has been made because not all the tests are completed. Correct?

Doc (relieved that she didn’t have to respond to Riley): Correct.

So, while I wanted to post about everything I can find about Colorectal Cancer, the frustration and confusion has taken hold and I’m fighting the urge to run for my life. I cannot image this situation getting any easier as Tommy grows and Riley’s anger rises to a crescendo.

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PS -- Don't forget to get your tickets for the Twelve Stages of Alcoholism Seminar in Raleigh, NC on September 27th. Go to www.lindasfrontporch.com or http://immortalalcoholic.blogspot.com/2014/07/fun-with-alcoholism.html.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm amazed that you sit through Riley at all, not because he's dying, because the company of a lovely person who hasn't long to live is even more valuable due to scarcity, but because of his personality. I think that this will probably be how release from him comes about, since those chemicals are pretty hard on the body, including all the bits that he's ruined beyond repair. What will you do afterwards?

Linda -- The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- I believe I will do just what I'm doing now. Reaching out and trying to help people who are surrounded by alcoholic chaos. The only difference is that I'll have a lot more time to devote to my followers, families and friends when I'm not having to spend so much time on taking care of Riley.

I'm writing a sequel to Immortal Alcoholic's Wife; re-vamping the Workbook for Caretakers to make it more user-friendly for other types of illnesses -- such as dementia; finish the current television production and possibly start others; tour the US and eventually the UK, Canada, Austrialia, etc, holding seminars and doing public speaking.

I think I'm going to be busy for a very long time.