Monday, January 28, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 1

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested in research; I am no exception. 

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On Tuesday December 18th around midnight I was admitted to hospital after a a CT scan earlier that day at an emergency clinic confirmed an obstruction of my colon. The next day, on Wednesday the 19th, after a colonoscopy at the hospital and a biopsy, I found out that I had cancer; on Thursday December 20th, late in the evening and toward the early hours of Friday, I underwent a four-hour surgery, where the surgeons removed an orange-sized tumour from my colon.

The surgery itself was non-eventful; I remember being wheeled in to a large operating theatre and being placed on a cold narrow stainless-steel table with bright lights overhead. The table was surrounded by a number of masked individuals. After the anaesthesiologist placed a mask over my mouth  I went into what is best described as a deep sleep, but without any dreams or memory. I awoke hours later (in recovery) shivering; the nurse placed a couple of heated blankets on top of me, which had the desired effect, although not immediately.

I was then wheeled up to my fifth floor room; I had tubes coming out of almost every orifice of my body and a number of IV lines, including a patient-controlled pump to deliver morphine. I remember squeezing the button repeatedly that evening but less so the next day and the day after. Although the morphine alleviated my pain, it also left me drowsy, an undesirable effect.

A few more days of recovery and, after six days in the hospital, on December 24th I went home. On January 9th, a return to my surgeon's clinic and the official news: the pathology report confirmed that I had stage 3 colon cancer.  I was not surprised; the news was expected.

Such are the broad brush-strokes what took place last month. So, I now number among those who have cancer and are looking to find out more information about treatments, in particular chemotherapy and both its efficacy and side-effects.

One of my concerns is undergoing chemo and the noted side-effects of nausea and vomiting nothing pleasant about that. After my release from the hospital, I experienced both side-effects for three days. A friend of my wife recommended Emend, which is made by Merck. This drug is supposed to alleviate the symptoms of what is called Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting, or CINV. One of the possible side effects of taking this drug is nausea. [see here]. Such leaves me with less confidence in its efficacy; if anyone has had experience with this drug I would like to hear about it.

Another problem, which is a needless distraction, is the number of well-meaning and good-hearted persons, including friends and family, who offer articles on alternative, non-conventional and unproven therapies, including fad diets. I like my balanced diet, which includes meat, fruits, vegetables and fibre. It also includes chocolate and other sweets. I need to gain both weight and strength, and my balanced diet will allow that to take place. Alternative therapies hold no interest for me, since I would rather go with the confirmed scientifically verified therapies like chemotherapy.

Faith-based healing is just that, and I sense that I lack the faith for such therapies to work. I don't mind, however, if people pray for me. I do agree that a positive attitude does seem to have some efficacy in bettering one's chances of recovery; such takes confidence in the abilities of the doctors, nurses and medical team in general. It also takes confidence in modern science and medicine, which I have. They want success.

On Friday I went for my initial consultation with my oncologist to discuss chemotherapy treatments. It seems that I will be visiting this hospital, making friends with it or at least the cancer centre, many times in the next couple of weeks for tests and medical procedures in preparation for my chemo treatments—a process that will last six months (a chemo session of half-day duration every two weeks, 12 sessions in total). I will write more about this next week.