Poor Prognosis

At least they did not give me a death sentence.

The tumour, in the shape of a carrot, extends from the fat end at the spinal chord between C8 and T1 to where the humerus (arm) joins the shoulder.  It is not cancerous but I am surprised to hear that they call it benign, since it will eventually take out the use of my right hand.  I suppose they use the word benign as in ‘benign dictator’.  An oxymoron, I would say.

They did say it would take a miracle to get a third cancer.  The treatment for breast cancer had caused the thyroid cancer which is now in my lungs.  Since my thyroid was removed I’d become diabetic and suffer from severe sleep apnea.  But statistically I am safe from a third cancer.

They do say that the treatment may be worse than the cure.  I can’t dispute it, mainly because I have no idea what ‘cure’ means.

I was perfectly healthy when I found a lump in my breast which was removed; I was 38.  That should be that but the surgeon removed the lymph nodes from the armpit unnecessarily as it turned out, and I ended up with a lympodema in my right arm which impaired its use.  They threaded long radioactive wires through what’s left of my breast and stabilised them with studs, their free ends rested on my neck at one end and my ribs at the other.  For 30 hours I was shut in a lead lined room and no one is allowed near.

That’s not all.  I had five weeks of daily radiotherapy during which my nipple was burnt which meant that the rays were misdirected.  After the treatment one rib spontaneously ruptured and I was told that it is normal under the circumstances – it happens.  The demineralisation of the bones will cease and everything will return to normal.  The rib never mended but nature has a way of bandaging itself, though an X ray still shows the fracture.

Years later, when I complained about something pressing on my throat my doctor kept looking into it and pronounced all’s well.  It went on until my thyroids had to be removed and the cancer went into my lungs.  This time radioactive pills were offered after which I was shut up for three days – twice, as it didn’t work the first time but it didn’t work the second time either.

After the two nuclear treatments I remained radioactive and was quarantined for two weeks each time.  One good thing did come of it:  left alone with nothing to do, I sent a submission (10 pages of poetry and two essays) to Hedgebrook, a writers retreat that I knew was too good for me.

I never got over the lethargy afterwards.  They diagnosed diabetes and put me on pills.  Did’t work.  They diagnosed sleep apnea and put me on a machine to sleep.  I still need plenty of rest during the day.  I guess sharing use of my lungs with cancerous thyroid cells must have some effect.

I have not been lying around feeling sorry for myself.  I do volunteer work, I grew an orchard (featured in ABCTV’s Gardening Australia), I write poetry (awarded six weeks residency at Hedgebrook, Washington) and until recently, I travelled.  I turned 65, older than my father and four of my brothers were when they died.

The loss of function in my right hand has been gradual and hopefully it will be some time before it is totally wasted.  At present it is weak and when I go out to eat with friends I ask for a fork instead of chopsticks.  When the waiters come back they never offer the fork to me because I am Chinese.  The Chinese who can’t use chopsticks.  Now I eat with the fork in my left hand.


About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
This entry was posted in ., Health and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Poor Prognosis

  1. Mary Tang says:

    Thank you Bonnie. Despite everything there is still much joy in life and I feel fortunate to be able to write about it, coming from a long line of illiterate women.


  2. HI Mary, I am new here to your blog after a re-blog by Ancient Skies. I am enjoying reading your translations and poetry. You are an amazing inspiring woman and I am sad for your suffering. Cancer is awful (my family story is full of it, sadly), humans make mistakes and miscalculations that can be devastating, yet the human spirit has the beautiful ability to continue on with meaning and purpose in life. My heart wishes you much comfort and peace. Namaste


  3. gaiainaction says:

    Thank you for sharing this Mary, and I am sorry that only now I am reading it, somehow missed it, I have been a little out of the loop recently. Your life story is very inspiring and your joie de vivre is lovely to always experience in your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. aruna3 says:

    Your life inspires othets to face any disturbance in life.you are a brave lady.i regard.you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry to hear of the suffering you have been through, and are going through. I’m hoping you will feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this, Mary. We had been wondering. May you remain miracle-free

    Liked by 2 people

  7. a difficult post to read – I can’t begin to comprehend all that you have gone through. my thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to move forward. peace be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lifecameos says:

    So sorry to hear cancer just keeps coming back at you. I enjoy your blog posts and can see that you are doing so much to make the most of what you can do. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. zdunno03 says:

    Oh Mary how simply courageous you are to endure so much and still be so active in spite of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. zdunno03 says:

    Oh Mary, how simply courageous you are to endure so much and yet still be so active in spite of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. zdunno03 says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of all of this but am simply amazed at your ability to continue to be productive in other ways in your life. There should be a separate circle in hell for those in the medical profession who cause so much suffering from misdiagnosis but a special place in heaven for those like you who continue to endure.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. zdunno03 says:

    I’m so sorry to hear all of this but am simply amazed at your perseverance throughout and your ability to keep on being productive in other ways. There should be a special circle in hell for those in the medical profession who cause so much suffering through misdiagnosis but a special place in heaven for those like you who continue to endure.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Like Robert, I am full of curses, and just as full of gratitude knowing that you will always continue with your characteristic shrewd tenacity. I have a certain amount of temptation with my own physical challenges to feel sorry for myself, but I catch myself in that weakness less and less these days, and I’m aware to what extent that’s been thanks to you. I feel like I have yet to build my equivalent of your urban orchard, but I rule out no possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. robert okaji says:

    Damn misdiagnoses and maltreatment! Damn cancer and tumors! Damn debilitation! You are a world away, Mary, but I see you and stand with you, wishing you comfort and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I come to your webpage Mary because it is so peaceful here. It is like physically going to someone’s garden and reading poetry there. I never knew you were so sick, because you live so well, and you give so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. arlingwoman says:

    Mary, I am so sorry to hear this. I knew part of your story, but not this latest mess.

    Liked by 1 person

Have your say here:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s