You know it’s bad when your oncologist is depressed when you greet him. The liver lesions are throughout the liver, so no surgery or radiation for the bowel or liver at the moment. The prognosis is not lekker, he said average lifespan from this kind of diagnosis was 2 years. Of course, being an over-achiever I need to beat the average. He looked at me very sternly and said, “Liz, tell me honestly, what symptoms did you have before the bowel symptoms and the tiredness before that? Because with that liver you’ve had this thing for a while.” I felt like I was in the principal’s office. I really thought I was more in danger of cirrhosis or lung cancer, but I can’t remember symptoms. The sister who described the regimen to us, asked “Didn’t you see the Oprah show where they said, always be interested in your poo? How much? How fast? How heavy? Does it float or not? How does it smell?” Both Pat and I looked at her like she was mad!
Basically the treatment plan now is much stronger chemo. It’s a regimen called Folfox, a combination of the main drug called oxaliplatin (trade name Eloxatin) in combination with 5-FU/LV (whatever that is). Each cycle is 2 weeks long. On the first day of the cycle (call it Monday), I go in and they pump the oxaliplatin through (along with anti-nausea drugs) and send me home with the pump tied to my belt, then Tuesday they do another lot and fill the pump for overnight then Wednesday they take the needle, out of the port. Then I have a break for the rest of the week and the next, when they check the white blood cells are high enough and go into the next cycle. The whole regimen is supposed to go on for 12 weeks, but the oncologist says if he hasn’t seen action after the first 2 cycles he’ll change the drug combo.
The point being I suppose, that even when you think you know what you are going to hear, and are prepared for it. It still comes as a shock. Listen we didn’t exactly dance into the oncology centre, but we were walking sprightly and with our heads up – ready to take it on the chin. And we did. There was a family there waiting as their little lad (9 maybe) was having his treatment, and 2 or 3 others in the comfy lazyboy chairs reading and listening to music. It’s a serene and pleasant environment. The staff are incredibly pragmatic and gentle, with excellent senses of humour. They dished out a lollipop where the stick was the skeleton of a leg – the lad was delighted. It made me think that facing one’s own mortality is nowhere near as hard as watching someone you love potentially disappearing and leaving a ‘that person-sized hole’ in one’s existence.
So with the prognosis being not exactly long-term, Pat and I are working on the pragmatics of ‘getting our affairs in order’, ‘bucket list’, whilst also working on refusing the ‘Green Mile’ feeling – you know the one where the guards shout “Dead Man Walking”? We’re not really up to speaking to anyone at the moment. There’s quite a lot to process and think about and we’re both a bit choky. Easier to say it in print. Love to you all.