Monday, January 08, 2018

The final curtain?

I don’t think so. But I never expected to be writing this either.

TL;DR - I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer.

Being a bit middle-aged, and a bit overweight, I took it upon myself to go to a clinic and, in September, received a very clean bill of health.

And I was, with slightly elevated hubris, pleased not to be dying of something out of the Tropical Diseases House of Horrors.

That was September. By October I was getting persistent aches in my right shoulder and my lower back that weren’t getting any better. They got inconveniently worse in November, and a few days of not sitting down over the Formula 1 weekend didn’t help.By the time of my trip to Munich in early December the backache especially was becoming no fun at all. Indeed, when my transfer at Istanbul included an unscheduled trip over a flight of stairs, I was in extreme pain.

So back to the clinic in December.

“A few years ago I had an issue with my left shoulder that was treated and basically cured with microsurgery by a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Can you check the other shoulder please? And by the way, my lower back is a bit ouchie as well.”

Two x-rays later confirmed no obvious cause, so I was scheduled for a MRI scan of my shoulder. After ten days, my medical insurance decided to approve the MRI and on 12th December I was back in the orthopaedic clinic with almost no shoulder pain but crippling back pain.

“I can see bone marrow infiltration on your MRI, and you need a lower spine MRI. I also need loads of blood tests to eliminate multiple myeloma.”

My back pain got so bad after that. Following a tortured night of no sleep I went back to the clinic, another doctor told me to go to the Emergency Room and to get admitted to the oncology department.

So I did, and suddenly had a week in hospital. This was to put me in the same building as the CT and MRI machines and a load of pain-relief chemicals not normally available even with a prescription.

Every test was the same story: “We are awaiting approval from your medical insurance.” From getting admitted to all drugs, tests, procedures, consultations. A tearful Beloved Wife must have spent hours on the phone to the insurance company.

And after a week and the last (I thought) test, I was discharged with a big bag of pills and a bill for the last night in hospital “Because you should have left yesterday and our tardy approval of your last MRI had nothing to do with staying an additional night.”

Mr Mystery Illness now called for the endoscopy and colonoscopy. Can I have the endoscopy first, please? Especially if you’re going to use the same tube.” A stomach ulcer was discovered and biopsy taken.

Dear reader, you can see where this is going. And on Christmas Eve that is where it went.

I did not have the extremely nasty multiple myeloma, a horrible cancer with a typical prognosis of a five-year survival probability around 50%.

My stomach ulcer is no such thing. It’s Stage IV stomach cancer. This has quietly jumped to my skeleton and has been attacking and weakening my bones for an unknown time.

Making ‘Caucasian Male, 54’ the star of some future dusty medical paper, metastasis from stomach to bone without touching the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc., is apparently unusual and therefore very interesting to the medical profession.

Bone and bone-marrow cancer as extensively as I have it is incurable. My oncologist will not be drawn to a prognosis. The ever-helpful Dr Google says that the likelihood of five-year survival is less than ten per cent. This is a number that I intend to beat.

And so the therapy started in early 2018. As at today, I’ve had a port fitted in my shoulder to facilitate administration of chemotherapy. One session down and it made me very tired for several days. I’ve had two radiation therapy sessions so far of a course of ten. I have managed to get access to some really very powerful pain relief so that I can nearly function normally.

Life is nearly normal, and with the anti-pain drugs I appear healthy and fully functional. Apart from the life-threatening cancer, of course.

More anon. I am very far from giving up.



Anonymous said...

Wishing you all the very best. Try to stay positive ... my wife was diagnosed with stage IV non hodgkins nearly five years ago and she's still with me today. Her consultant says that it was probably her 'sheer bloody mindedness' which helped!

tmil said...

Will and optimism seem to be very powerful factors, Paul. Jeannie is testament to that, as her numbers (whatever that means) are consistently going in the right direction. I am so sorry that you have had this visit you. I know you are young to have this type of cancer and to have it go elsewhere based on such a little tumor that did not move to organs. Perhaps since you are unusual, everyone will take great interest in you. Anything I can do, let me know. tmil.

Gnomad said...

If its any comfort my aunt was diagnosed with liver cancer forty years ago and given eighteen months. She is still with us even now.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.