Sixty five years ago my maternal grandmother, having experiencing months of fatigue, abdominal discomfort and weight loss, underwent exploratory abdominal surgery, the only truly diagnostic tool available at the time.
One brief look by the surgeon told him everything he needed to know: her liver and omentum were riddled with tumor, clearly advanced, with the primary source unknown and ultimately unimportant. He quickly closed her up and went to speak with her family–my grandfather, uncle and mother. He told them there was no hope and no treatment, to take her back home to their rural wheat farm in the Palouse country of Eastern Washington and allow her to resume what activities she could with the time she had left. He said she had only a few months to live, and he recommended that they simply tell her that no cause was found for her symptoms.
This article is written by Emily Gibson, director of WWU's Student Health Center.