I received the call from my oncologist this morning to go over the CT scan I had yesterday. Before I go on and explain what we discussed and what he sees, I want to revisit where we’re at with my treatment and what my fight against cancer is and means.
I have inoperable cancer. That means that I cannot have surgery to remove the cancer. The only way you can “beat” cancer is to remove it. Is there a slim mathematical possibility that I can “beat” this cancer? Sure. My cancer can reduce by the 80% needed to begin a conversation about surgery. We can then begin to discuss the multiple surgeries, their complications and the recovery involved. Again, not mathematically out of the question – trust me, living a long life filled with my wonderful friends, family and the good times we share is what I’m fighting for – but unfortunately it’s also not very likely to happen.
So this is the bad reality. That my cancer is very advanced and the location of the largest tumor in my liver complicates the idea of a potential surgery. My cancer is most likely terminal and my chance of being in the 14% of people who are alive 5 years from a stage IV colon cancer diagnosis is extremely low, even factoring in my good overall health and age.
Now for the good news amidst a bad reality. After my first four chemo sessions, my cancer has reduced by about 50% of its original size. For the first time, my oncologist said that he’s confident I’ll be alive 1 year from diagnosis, instead of just looking at my fight in 6 month increments. He told me that today is a good day, a day to celebrate and break out some bubbly. My cancer has responded to initial chemotherapy in a major way. I’m not cured and I may not ever be cancer free but today is a victory to be celebrated. I’ll admit, it feels really good to know that the awfulness I’ve experienced from the chemo side effects has bought me more time.
The next steps are to finish up the last 4 of my initial 8 chemo sessions of FOLFOXIRI. At that point, we’ll do another scan for a benchmark and then get me on some sort of maintenance chemo – most likely an oral med that I’ll have to take twice daily and will have much less side effects than the IV treatments – the toxicity of my current chemo regiment is too much to continue forever. This should improve my quality of life and allow me to do some more bucket list/make-a-wish type shit before I’m gone. This is good. This is better than getting a stage IV cancer diagnosis and being dead within a few months, without a chance to enjoy yourself and say goodbye.
I’m looking forward to this time. I’m hoping I get to see a new administration in the White House and a legitimate, non-politicized, proven Covid vaccine created and released. I want to travel and see places I love as well as maybe a few I haven’t gotten to yet. I want to see loved ones and enjoy my time with them. I want to spend my days enjoying being with my wife, who is just the absolute best and most amazing partner I could ever have asked for in this journey.
Please don’t misconstrue my frank and realistic view on this battle and the odds against me as me giving up or being content with the current gains – I am still ultimately fighting to beat this cancer down enough that we can cut it all out and try to get me many, many more years instead of just a few. But I’m also happy to step back and acknowledge that so far, in a battle with outcome unknown, we’ve bought me at least a few more months and hopefully years of being able to enjoy this life and keep fighting.