Monday, May 20, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 17

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. Today is Day 154  living with cancer.


I have diminished taste, chiefly as a result of my chemo treatments no doubt. The best way to describe it is that my tongue feels as if it has a thin mesh on its surface, acting as a barrier between it and any food that rests on it. So, my taste buds are not as active as they were before I started chemotherapy. 

And I find this disheartening, since I enjoy eating and one of the great pleasures of eating is taste—to taste what you are eating and thus enjoy it. This is one of the new side effects, and it wasn't on the list of reported discomforts that the oncologist handed me during my pre-chemo interview. Which shows that chemo’s effects on individuals can be, well, particular to an individual, often unknown.

Even so, as my taste buds have diminished, my ability to smell has increased to a new level. I now can smell things previously unknown to me, including the more noxious kind, but also flowers and the more pleasant smells of outdoor nature. My smell is now at heightened levels.

This shows that science and medicine can predict many things, often based on a collection of evidence, or some would say, data. And,  yet, they cannot predict all outcomes notably when it comes to the human body, with all its complexities, intricacies and particularities. Such is not so much a weakness but an understanding that we humans are not a mass of data to be collated, analysed and interpreted. We are all individuals, and this needs to be said loud and clear.

I raise this point with a purpose in mind. There is a tendency today to see us humans otherwise as belonging to one group or another, one tribe or another, etc. You get the point. And while group or tribal affiliation carries some importance—more for some than others—it’s not as important as the individual.

Truly, it’s easier to consider the individual as part of a group, or cohort, even as a cancer patient. For example, I am identified as Stage III (T4a N1) colorectal cancer. Such is my diagnosis, a definite scientific certainty, and my treatment is aligned with that knowledge. This is both necessary and accepted, as far as deciding on the statistically best treatment options for me. And, yet, I don’t desire being defined only in such manner and placed in such a restrictive “box.” I am more than that, more than the sum of the parts of how others view and consider me.

Good news to report: my platelets are up to well within the normal range: 166 x 10 E9/L. Given such results, I am thinking of asking my oncologist, Dr. Chan, during our next meeting on May 30th, if I could now have chemo treatments every three weeks, instead of the current schedule of every two weeks. I'll keep you posted.

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