August 19th, 2010

Zach Update: Important Scans Thursday and Friday, Livestrong Challenge Ride Saturday

My brother-in-law has been getting mixed news lately: not even the bigwigs at NIH can make any guesses at his odds of recovery or his remaining time if he doesn't recover, because he's outlived his initial prognosis by so many months (he's made it well over a year, when the guys at Johns Hopkins thought he'd have five months at most), and he's in so much better shape than most people who've had his type of cancer for as long as he has (cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and especially ruthless type). Also, people who get cholangiocarcinoma are usually a lot older when they get it than he is, so from the start he's been a statistical anomaly. On the other hand, if he's going to recover, he absolutely must have surgery to remove the big tumor on his liver and the big lymph node metastases. All the scans done up until how have indicated that the chemo hadn't shrunk the tumors enough to make the surgery risks bearable.

So the scans scheduled for Thursday and Friday--today and tomorrow, by the time I finish posting this--are pretty high-stakes scans. Any progress from the chemo would be welcome news. We're all especially hoping that the metastases will have retreated, and that the progress against the main tumor on the liver has at least held steady.

The prayer request has gone out: accurate scans, well interpreted by the doctors, with results giving reason to hope and a clear basis for action. If the scans indicate that Zach's body can handle whatever surgery would be needed to get those tumors out, so much the better. If praying for the sick is something you do, please remember Zach in your prayers.

In solidarity with Zach's struggle, Dan's found a way to participate again in the LiveStrong Challenge ride to fight cancer. It took some figuring out, since our baby's due date is Real Soon Now, and my prodromal labor is getting pretty similar to active labor on some days. (On the other hand, my sister had 18 days of prodromal labor before her second kid switched into active labor mode, and that's not as unusual as you might think, so we've decided not to put our entire lives on hold over this.) Philadelphia is too far from the hospital I'm planning to deliver at, so instead of riding with the crowd in Philly, Dan's worked out a 50-mile route that loops around between our house and our chosen hospital. The magnificent jeneralist will be joining us for a combination of ride-support and pregnant-lady-support (Thanks, Jen!). Please consider donating. You can see Dan's fundraising page at the LiveStrong Foundation site here.

If My Pregnancy Were A Subplot On 24

When my prodromal labor picked up its pace for a day and we all wondered if it might turn into active labor, the cousin who's been helping us out with Gareth this summer got all wide-eyed and worried. He's 17, and most of his mental narratives about birth come from television and movies, where a birth is an occasion for characters to panic, or show their heroism, or at the very least to yell at each other a lot and drive really fast. Birth on a tv show is always over within 30 to 60 minutes. A high school health class's reduction of birth to tedious quizzable medical terms and you'll-mess-your-life-up scare tactics doesn't really help dispel the tv problem.

Last time around, I was in labor 34 hours with Gareth, and I didn't even make it to the main event before my labor petered out and even the midwives thought a cesarean for failure to progress was justified. I sat down long enough to slow my contractions so I could explain the tv problem to Ian, and this is what I came up with:

The only kind of tv drama that could really convey how long most births take would have to be something like 24, with at least some attempt to tell stories in real time. If I'd been a character on 24 the day Gareth was born, I'd have gone into labor during the season premiere. I'd have phoned Jack Bauer's house to ask if his wife or daughter or whatever could bring me a casserole, and Jack Bauer would say, "Sorry, Sarah, she's been taken hostage again, and I have to go blow up some terrorists now. Good luck with the baby." And I'd say something like, "Good luck with that, and try not to torture so many people this time."

I'd spend the next ten episodes at home drinking Gatorade, eating pasta like an athlete the night before the Boston Marathon, and timing my contractions while Dan and my doula massaged my back. The camera would not linger on me long before jump-cutting to car chases involving other characters.

About halfway through the season, I'd finally go to the hospital. Dan and I would spend all our screen time for an entire episode stuck in rush hour traffic on Route 1, limping along at ten miles an hour. We wouldn't get much screen time. Jack Bauer or his terrorists would have to blow something up to maintain viewer interest.

Three episodes later, when all our paperwork was finally signed, I'd declare that I was ready for pain drugs, dammit. And then I'd spend a third of the season on an IV opiate drip, snoring.

I'd wake up in time for the season finale and declare that the IV opiates were not getting me any closer the endgame and it was time to change strategies.

Jack Bauer would phone me in the denouement and say, "I defeated the terrorists and rescued my wife or daughter or whoever. How are you doing? Can I help out in any way?" And I'd say, "Glad to hear it. Could you swing by Starbucks and bring me a venti mocha frappuccino? You're just the person to sneak it past the nurses. I've read ahead in the scripts, and I'll still be in first stage labor until the middle of next season."

Ian says he wants to make a YouTube parody series of very short pseudo-24-episodes based on this premise. If he and his friends actually follow through on that, you can bet I'll be linking to it here. And I'll count myself lucky if the impending birth of the new baby can be narrated in as little as half a season of 24 episodes.