Saturday, December 11, 2010

Leiomyosarcoma - For Dummies

First caveat: this post is not comprehensive by any means, but it provides a layman language to understand Leiomyosarcoma. If you want to go more technical on this topic, this website provides great valuable information (on which I derived lots of mine too), but for more aerial view of this disease, I hope you can find this post useful.

First fact: Leiomyosarcoma is a rare cancer, affecting four people in every million, of which my mom is one of them.

It is a smooth muscle cancer, infecting sites like uterus, lungs, intestine, blood vessels, liver, etc - basically every organs with muscle that operate without you controlling it.

Again, a very rare and aggressive cancer. Soft tissue cancer (sarcoma) is a cancer caused by error from soft tissue cells - in itself already a rarity. And out of all sarcoma, only 5-10% are Leiomyosarcoma (smooth muscle cancer).

As of today, there is no known cure. This type of cancer is lethal because it is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. The only treatment is to remove the infected site surgically with wide margin, meaning to cut the area around the infected site wide enough (2 inches or 5cm).

Initially identified, the cancer usually starts from one primary site (primary tumor), and it progresses from stage one to four. However, the cancer could transport through blood vessels and infected different sites (secondary tumor). This is called metastasis, and just one metastasis makes a stage IV, even though the primary tumor is still at stage I or II or III. In such case, there is no cure.

Not only that, even if a surgery with wide margin is administered to less than stage IV tumor, the cancer can come back locally. This is called local occurrence and it possesses the same aggressiveness which make it as lethal and life-threatening as the previous tumor.

It is not my wish to terrorize you with all these heart-breaking facts, as shocking  as they are, they are true nevertheless. I will not water down the the diabolic traits of this cancer, it is hurtful, yes, but I think the faster you grasp and understand what you are facing, the less likely you will be paralyzed by it later on.

So, if I could give some advices. Cry it out loud, it is indeed debilitating and I found it useful to put your fortress down and just weep. Easy for them to say "be strong", when they don't walk a mile in your shoes. For once, I would say, don't be strong and spill it. But afterwards, linger not and face it.

On a personal note, this is what kept me going. I know my God understands my sorrow because he had also experienced pain and suffering on the cross. I know he knows what it's like to shout for God with no one answering. His calling, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me", was replied with total silence - a cosmic alienation. I know Jesus can relate to me and understand my pain and sorrow. And that gives me the ultimate comfort, hope, and peace to deal with this ordeal.

This is inexorably painful already even with God by my side, and I can't imagine people going through this without God. I just hope you can find God in this suffering, and to know that he is with us to share our fear and tear, that you are never alone in this ordeal, and that you are greatly loved.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

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