I am truly coming to fully understand the expression, "The Kindness of Strangers." Getting a cancer diagnosis can give you real insight into who you are and who the people around you are. I am overwhelmed by how much love and encouragement people have offered and communicated, I am occasionally moved to tears by the completely unexpected offers of assistance, some times forms of assistance I never knew I might need. I am overwhelmed by the sheer genuine concern, patience and interest that all the people on the team trying to care for me show every time I walk in the door. I am, to use a cliche, blessed.
And this week, I am 'blessed' with a road map.
This is what we know:
My CAT Scan and PET Scan indicate that I have cancer of the esophagus and that it has spread to some nearby lymph nodes but no other organs, making it Stage Three cancer. The treatment that we have decided on is five weeks of chemotherapy (once a week ) and simultaneously five weeks of radiation ( five times a week ). At the end of the five weeks my body will be allowed a month to recover and then I will have surgery. The other option was five months of more intense chemo and radiation but no surgery. The team was concerned that my medical history is such that my immune system might not cope well with the five months but they were convinced that I would have no problem with the surgery. According to the team, the outcomes of either plan are roughly the same.
Treatment begins on Monday; surgery is expected to take place in February. I was told by the radiation specialist that the main side effect I could expect was sheer exhaustion. I was told by the Chemo specialist that the main side effect I could expect was exhaustion. I asked if that meant I might be doubly exhausted and the answer was...well, yes.
For me, and for Debi, whose slog through this all may well be as hard as mine, the main positive moment was when one of the oncologists warned that for the next five years I would have to keep a close watch on my increased chances of getting pneumonia. He warned that if I felt I was getting a cold or flu, I was to come to them and not a pharmacy. Debi and I agreed that being advised on what you needed to watch for during the next five years is a positive discussion in an oncology briefing.
I don't have any illusions that this whole thing will be easy. It won't. But there is a plan. It is a way forward.