I sometimes observe that both my rounds of cancer were essentially caught by accident. The initial colon cancer presented at age 43. If I’d gone in asking for a colonoscopy to screen for it, they would have refused me. Far too young, not medically necessary. The only reason it was detected was because the tumor ulcerated, and I was admitted to the ER with rectal bleeding. Cancer was literally number six on their list of top five theories about what was wrong with me when I was wheeled in for the colonoscopy that found the tumor.
After that surgery, I asked for a full body scan. I was told it wasn’t medically necessary, that the doctor didn’t want to prescribe it and insurance wouldn’t cover it.
Fast forward to my one-year followup. The abdominal scan done to check my colon overscanned a bit upward and caught part of my lungs. To everyone’s surprised, there was a spot on my left lung that eventually turned out to be the metastatic tumor that was surgically removed last November. If the scan tech hadn’t been sloppy with the CT scan, we wouldn’t have found it. If we’d had the full body scan I’d requested the year before, we would have had a baseline for evaluating the spot on my lung, which in turn would have cut out a great deal of the medical screwing around that went on from May to October of last year.
Without the ulceration, my initial colon cancer would have grown to a point somewhere between catastrophic and fatal before detection. Without a scan tech’s overshooting the scan orders, my lung metastasis would have grown to a point somewhere between catastrophic and fatal before detection.
If I were feeling a bit paranoid, it might be understandable. Now, of course, we scan everything. I don’t expect a third ‘surprise’, though I may well have a third round of cancer. It will be detected on purpose, not by accident. And yes, one can spin this either way, as weirdly bad luck or weirdly good luck. In both cases, accidental detection led to early intervention and treatment.
But if I were a superstitious man, I’d be screaming about this.
On chemo these days, my life runs in two-week cycles. Infusion Friday leads to a weekend of quiescent stupor and general ill-being. Monday following I’m pretty worthless, coming back to myself mentally sometime on Tuesday. Then there’s Shedding Day(s), when my stomach lining gives up and heads for the exits, somewhere between Tuesday and Friday.
It’s not til the off weekend that I really can come back to myself. So I schedule anything that needs to be done beyond my basic, very constrained daily routines, to those weekends. Taxes, for example. Or needful things around the house. My family tries to schedule family events such as
Three off weekends ago, I was laid low with a viral cold that in normal health would have been a three-day annoyance, but on chemo was severely debilitating.
Two off weekends ago, Mother of the Child went into the hospital, where she remained for six days.
Also that weekend,
This off weekend,
Excuse me, but WTF? I’m supposed to be taking it easy, having a low stress life right now, and easing my way through chemo, but the people around me are dropping like flies. I’ve already warned
And yes, I know it’s not all about me. And yes, I know the universe is not out to get me. But in some ways I’d rest a lot easier if I had someone to blame. The sequence and timing of events has become so improbable that if I wrote it into a novel,
One is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. Except I don’t have any enemies.
Thank Ghu I’m such a bloody-minded empiricist, because otherwise I would be a raving paranoid by now. But really, if the universe is listening, enough already, ok?