New Year, New News
Aside from my witterings about Decembeard, it's been a while since I last updated you on our cancerous journey and, in that time, quite a lot and yet surprisingly little has happened...
There's been Christmas...
I've gained a new godson (s'up Oscar)
We've had a new bathroom fitted
...which is now actually finished (Thanks Roddles!)
We're now so grown up that we own a real life dishwasher...
and, most astonishing of all, Donald Trump is still President of the United States...
However, you're not here for that nonsense. You're here for a cancer update. So, here goes. I'll try to keep it brief.
In a nutshell, we've stopped the chemotherapy as the variety I was on, FOLFIRI, didn't agree with me although we can (and quite likely will) come back to it or a variation of it later, so in the meantime I've had some RFA at the PGH and now there's nothing planned while we wait to see what happens next, after which there may be more RFA, more chemo, something else, or nothing.
Got it? OK then, here's the less nutshelly version.
When I last "blogged", you may remember I was bemoaning the ravages of chemotherapy. It was, after all, profoundly ravaging. The good news is that, for now at least, chemo is over once more. While I have grown to love the nurses of the Judy Beard Day Unit where my chemo has been administered, not going there will be significantly nicer than my previous fortnightly visits. Could there be a hint of...dare I say it...normality lurking round The Next Corner...?!
The decision to shelve the chemo was taken in early December and was mostly driven by Bekky and me. It was for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I simply couldn't take the unrelenting, torturous and utterly excruciating pain any longer and Bekky was struggling with seeing me suffer so much.
My oncologist arranged a CT scan and a few days later, on 22nd December, Bekky and I had a meeting with her. She told us that the radiologist who reported the scan had compared it to previous scans and concluded that only one of the three nodules seen in my lung was definitely cancerous. The other two were not only very small - both less than 5mm - but had also not changed much at all since they were first spotted in October 2016. In fact, she told us, they had only changed by 0.2mm in all that time so may be...just may be...they are benign. The only way they will know for sure will be to continue to watch them and see if they change in the future.
She went on to say there was nothing new anywhere else, not in the liver, not in the bowel, not in the lung. This was all pretty good pre-Christmas news. We agreed to pursue Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) as the next treatment option under a nice Chinese fellow called Professor Edward Leen.
Bekky and I left the meeting happy yet slightly disbelieving, staggered by how quickly things can change. Three months previously, one 24-hour period had dealt us a series of heavy blows that rattled us to our very cores and provided us with a very gloomy outlook. Now, here we were only a few weeks later having had some undeniably chirpy news. Suddenly we were looking at a period of little or potentially no treatment.
However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I recently read an article by Ranjana Srivastava, an Australian oncologist, in which she used the phrase "Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient", and this rather stuck with me. No matter how rosy the short term outlook may seem, Bekky and I must always be mindful of the longer term, if for no reason other than to manage our own expectations. After all, there's no denying that it is cancer that will most likely get me in the end, whether that is in 2 years or 32 years, so while little moments like these are undoubtedly morale-boosting, and wonderful, and a blessed relief, at the back of the mind there is always the slow-flashing, dim, orange warning light reminding us not to get too excited, nor over-optimistic. That's our new reality.
So, where were we? Once Christmas was out of the way, I went back to work. Yes, work. In the office. With pens and cups of tea and telephones and people and innuendo and houses. I achieved two full weeks of this "work" then on Tuesday last week, Bekky and I packed our overnight cases once again and set off to London, this time to a new hospital - the Princess Grace in Marylebone. It was time for a man I had never met before to plunge a red hot needle through my chest and into my lung.
In rudimentary terms, RFA is all about "ablation" which, I learnt recently, means surgical removal. A needle-type thingummy is inserted into the tumour which then heats it up to about 90°C using radio waves, thereby destroying the cancer cells which, I also learnt, cannot survive at more than about 40°C. It's clever, but it's not especially new - it's been used for nearly thirty years. RFA is particularly effective because not only does it destroy the cancer cells within a tumour, it does so with minimal collateral damage which is good in organs like the lungs.
We arrived at hospital on Tuesday morning, they knocked me out (for the fourth time in 14 months) at 5pm and by 7.30pm, I was back in my room, groggy, sleepy but in almost no pain at all. In fact the only pain control required in the time following the operation was two paracetamol on Tuesday night. They offered me more on Wednesday morning but I didn't need them. We caught the 11.15am train home and that was that. Pretty amazing, all things considered.
When The Professor came to see me at 6.45am on Wednesday morning (what is wrong with these people?!), he told me I had suffered a partially collapsed lung but that it would mend itself pretty quickly, which it did, and aside from that, I shouldn't expect any side effects except for a bit of shortness of breath and a general sense of spaced-out-ness as a result of the anaesthesia. He was right. But compared to previous operations, this was a breeze. So much so, in fact, that I was back in the office on Friday - admittedly only for a couple of hours - and I plan to return to work full time on Monday, five days after surgery.
And that, boyz and girlz, is more or less that for the time being. There will now follow a (potentially short) cancer interlude. During the interlude, there will be monthly blood tests which will enable us to keep an eye on my tumour markers (which are currently around 1.8 and which should be between about 1 and 3 but when I was first diagnosed were up at about 25...); and there will be scans which will take place towards the end of February so when we come to meet my oncologist again in March, she will be armed with all the info she needs to decide whether to send us on our merry way again for another three months, or that we are to return immediately to further cancer treatment of one sort of another.
Let's hope it's the former, but let's be prepared for the latter.