a few days ago i got, orally, my post-chemo Pet-scan results.
They were sent to my surgeon, and i didn't see them (yet), but he immediately informed me by SMS that they were "excellent, all the results are perfect".
Which means that i am certified cancer-free.
Of course, i am aware that in a non-trivial proportion of cases, it can come back, often during the second year, and that the overall statistics of phase III colon cancer, in terms of survival beyond 5 years is 65/35.
That is two-thirds of the patients make it to that point, after which they are considered really cured, and can start worrying about dying from other causes.
But one-third don't make it, which is still a sizeable part.
Do you practise betting, and how good are two-to-one odds?
Well, i'll find out, eventually.
This journal will go down in frequency, as i will update it mostly during the regular check-ups i am now faced with, that is in three months, then a couple of times with a periodicity of six months, then once a year.
except if something interesting comes to mind, or some weird or funny consequence of the whole process i went through.
But before that, we are going to go through fireworks, with a lot of posts, as i try to put down my conclusions about this process, leading to a cure.
Well, first of all, it feels really good to know that i am not faced with the prospects of a second round of chemo, or some other second-level treatment.
While i overall managed to go through it relatively well, i was not mentally ready to go through that again, and i am unsure that, at work, they would have been very happy to hear that i will extend my medical leave for another six months!
While i collect my thoughts in order to write down those conclusions, i need to raise some caveats, and a disclosure.
The main caveat is that there are no two identical stories, even with the same type of cancer at the same stage.
This is both the beauty, and the complexity of medicine in general, and cancer treatment in particular.
The doctors have a good idea of the average rate of response to a given treatment, but there is no guarantee you personally will respond close to the median. you may respond much better, much worse, or not at all!
So, your mileage will vary, but hopefully this story of fully recovering will give those of you who are ill, or those who have a close one ill, hope for the best.
Second thing i need to disclose here, as i tried to dance around it up to now, is the issue of pain.
Pain is very regularly associated to cancer treatment, and you can read a lot about pain management, and its pitfalls, as the most commonly used pain-killers are opioids (morphine was proposed in my case).
I have absolutely nothing to tell any of you on this topic.
I am not trying to boast, but the truth is i never felt any pain.
Not before the diagnostic, which is good because in the case of bowel cancer, if you start feeling it it is probably already too late.
Not during the surgery, because i was sleeping.
Not after, which is amazing.
I was linked to a number of tubes and catheters, and there was a morphine dispenser added to the system.
It's in the box i'm pointing towards.
Every day, a few times a day, nurses would ask me if i was in pain, and notice that i didn't seem to use the morphine dispenser much (a constant worry as it's highly addictive), and they always looked surprised when i said i didn't at all, because i didn't feel any pain.
After a few days, the anaesthesiologist came and enquired about my well-being; he did inform me that he had put a bit of pain killers inside the cut, in order to help for the first few hours, but after the initial effects dissipate, i was supposed to start feeling the cuts, and some level of pain.
But i didn't.
And during the twelve sessions of chemotherapy, once every two weeks, which started sharp 4 weeks after surgery, i felt no pain either.
So you'll need to find other sources about coping with pain during cancer treatment, or take other examples, like my friend Etienne who got radio-therapy for his throat cancer, and who's regularly in pain. He was in slight pain before treatment, in heavy pain during, and in regular but slightly lower pain now, three months after his treatment was completed. He had a lot of morphine, and smokes weed when he is too much in pain.
Useful resources you an find with the various cancer societies, such as http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/cancer-and-pain-control/causes-and-types, or https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/pain.html.
So, to sum it up, as the American Cancer Society says, and i concur: "Having cancer does not always mean having pain".
I'll try to write more tomorrow.