Back in 2009 my first ever Photohunt entry was on January 3rd. The theme that week was “hope” and I put up a photo of my battered old daybook turned to January 3rd 2010 with the words “STILL HERE!” written on it. Having just finished a second stint of chemo a few months previously this felt like a very bold – and hopeful – thing to do.
Since then I have continued the “tradition of hope” and have posted a similar photo on this date each year. So, as always, here’s hoping that I will still be here January 3rd 2020, and will see this page in my book… and smile just like I did this morning.
This has been a strange week for me. Exactly ten years ago I went to the Feria de Jerez and spent a fun day there with friends. And on the way back to get the train I saw this graffiti (Tengo Cancer – I Have Cancer) on the wall beside a bar next to the station, and something about it moved me to take a photo. There was something poignant yet hopeful yet… I dunno… about it. Whatever. I took the photo.
The very next day I doubled over in extreme pain and thus began two of the most profound years of my life. Not going to go over the whole ordeal again here – if you’re interested you can check out this link. Suffice it to say I somehow survived stage 4 colon cancer with metastasis to the liver and peritoneum, including 3 major abdominal surgeries and being on chemo twice (first 2 months, then 5 months). The chemo was diabolical, but apparently got rid of all the nasty cancer. At what cost to the rest of my body cells? Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I just don’t ever want to go back on chemo again. It was then that I (badly) photoshopped the graffiti photo thusly…
Fast forward to January 2018 and another routine PET scan. Except instead of being given the usual – everything looks fine, see you next year! – I was told there was concern about an area of inflammation that had grown significantly since the previous PET scan. This led to me having several tests done, including a colonoscopy, endoscopy and a CT scan. With a second CT coming up in June, so they can check the progress (or decline) of the “area of concern”. Worried? Well, hell yeah! Because that’s basically all I ever do. Not just about health issues. I worry about EVERYTHING. All. The. Time. It’s exhausting, but I can’t seem to help it.
Anyhoodle… getting back to my initial story. This week marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the whole cancer thing, which in my mind is always connected with the Feria de Jerez. And so today I had to go. Nothing morbid or weird, it was more like touching base. Because back then was when all that started, and ten years later I am still here and able to go back and enjoy my favourite feria in Spain. So I did. And it was lovely (nice feria pics coming soon – promise!).
Except this year I am not sure if I “have or have not”… tengo o no tengo. Still waiting to find out. And these days this is what is left of that poignant graffiti. Looks a bit ghostly. Like they tried to paint over it but couldn’t quite get rid of it. I’ve often wondered who this person was, and whether they got better. I sincerely hope so. Just like I hope I will continue to be okay too. So… bit of an emotional day.
Since Sunday I have been on the pre-colonoscopy low residue diet. It’s really not that hard to stick to, though I’ve noticed that the food list I was given at the hospital last week varies a bit from other lists I’ve found online. But in general they are similar.
Today I am on the day-before liquid diet, which is obviously more extreme (and way more boring). But that’s nothing compared to when I have to start taking the SOLUCIÓN EVACUANTE this evening. All I remember from last time was that I was gagging after the first glass of this stuff, and I’ll have to drink 10 of them – one every 15 minutes – until finished, and then 6 more the next morning. Wish me luck!
I’ve been having routine PET scans since I was first diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer (metastasis to liver) back in May 2008. At first they were every six months, but then once I became a member of the 5 Year Club they were reduced to once a year. And every time I’ve been scared witless, fearing I’d hear the worst after my scan. I am very fortunate that my friend Isabel is the head of Nuclear Medicine at my hospital, so she always has a look at my scan while I’m there and gives me the results on the spot. She’ll call me into the PET area and say “all normal, nothing to worry about” and then send me on my way, not quite believing my good fortune.
But today after my scan Isabel called me into a private office and asked me to sit down.
And well, it’s kind of good news / bad news. The good news is that my liver is clean, no signs of anything nasty going on there. The bad (or potentially bad) news is that the “area of inflammation” that has been showing up on my PET scans since 2008 has increased dramatically. Over the years this area has been constantly shrinking, with each PET scan showing it a bit smaller and, as long as it kept shrinking, it was always considered a result of scar tissue. Today Isabel told me that it is back to the size it originally was back in 2008. And so now I will have to undergo more tests – CAT scan, ultrasound, colonoscopy – to (hopefully!) rule out cancer. In theory it could be an inflammatory infection, complications due to the adhesions, or any other number of non-cancer-related issues. Or it could be cancer. And so, Isabel has taken steps to get me an appointment with Oncology asap so they can start the extra testing.
I’m annoyed that they didn’t take me seriously at Emergency when I went there complaining about the abdominal pain back in November (exactly two months ago today). My GP also blew me off when I went to ask him about it afterwards, saying I just had gas and should take a pain killer. And even when I saw an oncologist at the beginning of January, she was totally dismissive about my complaints (you need to lose weight, I’m sure it’s just gas), and reluctantly booked my next PET scan.
The good thing is that now Isabel is setting the wheels in motion for me to get the appropriate extra testing done and, more importantly, to have me taken seriously by these other doctors. Meanwhile I am fluctuating between absolute terror and total denial. How’s your day going?