Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Prologue To Blog - Cancer!

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.

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