When the cancer first presented in April of 2008, we came to believe early on that it would be a one-time thing, a single acute illness followed by surgery and recovery. That wasn’t just wishful thinking, the prevailing medical opinion at the time was that I’d be on long term followup for colon polyps, but there was a good chance I could clear even that and go back to the general population, healthwise. Acute, emotional, difficult, but a close-ended event. In May of 2008 I underwent a partial colectomy, in which 22 cm of my sigmoid colon was removed, along with thirteen lymph nodes. The cancer was staged T1N0M0, which is the least complex and frightening staging.
A year later, in May of 2009, the annual followup found several colon polyps which were indicative of potential tumor formation. Not precancerous in the immediate sense, but of the class which can lead to recurrence.
At the same time, spots were found on the body scans. The initial suspects were liver and lymph, with a spot on my lung which was first classed as a scar. (I had developed tuberculosis while living in Nigeria as a teen-ager, as well as having a history of several different major respiratory infections, so this was not unreasonable.) This introduced a lot of fear and misunderstanding.
We spent May through October chasing spots in the liver and lymph through the scanning trifecta of CT, MRI and PET. This involved second opinions at an out-of-state medical facility, and lots more angst, as well as a number of false start theories and tentative diagnoses. During this process, the lymph spots disappeared, the liver spot remained steady through several scans before also disappearing, but the lung spot doubled in size. As my oncologist said during our October consultation, “Well, this is interesting.”
Important safety tip: You never, ever want to be interesting to your oncologist.
She diagnosed me with metastatic colon cancer of the lung, and prescribed a partial thoracectomy followed by a six month course of non-adjuvant chemotherapy consisting of the FOLFOX-Avastin cocktail, along with a myriad of collateral medications. I had the lung surgery in November, 2009, minor surgery in December, 2009 to install the chemo port, and am enjoying bi-weekly chemotherapy through June, 2010. I do not expect to be recovered from this round of treatments before the fall of 2010. A full cure is still possible, and I do not have a current mortality forecast. The statistics on my situation are grim, but my individual progress is excellent.
I still expect to resume a normal life with my full health and energy, hopefully as early as this coming fall.