I am writing this post around July 10, 2012 - five years after I experienced something that would lead to a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. In hindsight, diagnosis is easy: Inflammatory bowel disease since childhood, rectal bleeding, narrow stool, and finally, unexplained anxiety that was triggered by pressure around the anorectal area. At first, I thought it was a heart attack of some kind. I called 911 and went to the Emergency Dept. Nothing was found. The ER junior did a very poor rectal exam. So did my primary care doc (but he said I should see a cardiac and an GI specialist). I chose GI first. The gastro lady had a great finger - she found the tumor instantly. And she contacted a nearby surgeon to do a biopsy. (Reminder: Send flowers to GI lady on fifth anniversary). The biopsy and pathology analysis revealed that the tumor was malignant (Stage 3). Time to switch to a real cancer center. I chose Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). I was assigned a team of three doctors - a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist and an oncologic GI surgeon. By pure luck, I got the creme de la creme of the profession. Well, I'll give myself some credit - MGH is always a good choice for anything serious.
September 2007 was a time of lots of imaging and prep for radiation. First, the big, scary question - had the cancer metastasized. Metastasis (spread) to the liver, or other organs, changes the whole story of cancer. Survival statistics are generally worse (20% vs 70%, five year). And chasing mets is not my idea of fun. The stats are very real to me. Several fellow patients, who were diagnosed around the same time as I was, are not here to tell their tale. Some held on for three or four years but brain mets got them eventually. Brain is a bad place to have anything but normal brain tissue.
My first real blog post was in the middle of chemo - April 2008. I won't bore you with the entire story of radiation. In short, I can say it's very crude but it works. Regarding surgery, this is one area where the skill and experience of the surgeon (and his team) is paramount. I am positive there is no finer surgeon for my procedure the one I was assigned. Thanks MGH.