It’s always risky to say you understand what the majority of people think, but I think that for the majority of people the scary thing about Cancer is that you don’t know if or when it may return.

When there’s something in your body that shouldn’t be there and poses a massive threat to your well-being, it’s natural to want to cut it out, remove it, destroy it in any way, etc. You might be scared of flying, or think twice about free-climbing a mountain, but the minute you hear “You’ve Got Cancer” you want the sharpest knife a surgeon can wield, or their biggest dose of radiation, and you want that mutha out of your body like, NOW!

It goes with the territory that this “shock and awe” could leave you worse off. As in dead. But that’s the gamble you’re going to take. “Kill or cure me, Doc”.

But it’s not that cancer really “returns” to you. It’s more like it never left in the first place. A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place. Good health is when flaws in your body cause you no problems.  Cancer was there all the time.

It gets explained brilliantly in this xkcd comic: By way of background – his partner was diagnosed recently with breast cancer.

I do hate the statistics, but when I started all this my colorectal cancer (aka “My Little Cancer”) was a highly advanced /  stage 4 thing. There is no stage 5. It has a 93.4% mortality rate, so only 6.6% get to survive. Overall, there’s a 50/50 chance but to get those odds you need to include all the people with an early diagnosis.

My zero day problems were a great big tumour where my arse used to be, a sizable lump on my liver, and a few ‘specks’ around the lungs. Radiotherapy and surgery were the weapons of choice against the first two, with chemotherapy as a follow-on against anything they missed or didn’t tackle.

After that, they keep a close watch on this body of mine. Every 3 months or so I’ve had a CT scan. ‘Round about the February 2011 one they started to say the lung nodules looked bigger than the last time. After the May one they wanted me to see a lung specialist (a Thoracic consultant).

The team who looked after my bowel and liver are great, but they weren’t saying much to me on the thoracic thing. It didn’t sound like it was getting *that* big. And how do I know if it’s even cancer? “Talk to the lung guy” was the answer.

I headed off to the new hospital (to be now known as “Thoracic Park”) in July and met with the afore-mentioned lung guy. “Q. What’s the chance it’s cancer, Doc?  A. With your history? about 90% that it is”.  He can’t tell for sure without a biopsy but there’s one on each lung and even if you sampled the left one, who’s to say that the right one isn’t the bad ‘un? And sticking a needle in your lungs is not a trivial pursuit. The best way to find out is do a full PET scan. The CT scans are kind of like bad photocopies of your insides. Is that a cancer growth or a speck on the screen? A PET scan lights up any cancer cells. If I was the colour consultant, I would have them as bright yellow against a purple background. That’s what I need next. To see if I’m “All Yellow” like that bastard from Coldplay sings.

Assuming that the only yellow spots are the spots in my lungs, the most likely next step would be surgery. This one involves opening up the chest to get to the lungs. There’s no point in keyhole surgery because both lungs are implicated. They know what they are after, but while they’re there they do what’s called a lung palpitation which means rubbing your lungs between their fingers looking for little hard bits. Any they find get cut out.

When will this happen? I don’t know. Frankly it isn’t even guaranteed that it will happen (where the alternative is even worse – surgery is the *good* outcome). I have a feeling it will be Spring 2012, but that’s completely invented by me. And I know that this will sound like a stupid hair-split to most, but it *isn’t* lung cancer. It’s bowel cancer that got as far as the lung. Huge difference.

Anyway. Looks like the next battle is beginning to take shape for me now.

Balam Acab – Oh, Why?