Thursday, November 26, 2015

Changing the Name of the Blog, the Road Map

It is three weeks since I was told I have cancer and the three weeks have been an emotional roller coaster and a real introduction into a world I was only vaguely aware of. The corner of the universe that is assigned to cancer patients, their families and the people who treat them is much larger than I had imagined, much more varied and complicated than I'd ever expected and oddly an almost secret club. The number of lives that have been touched by cancer, the percentage of the population that has coped with or is coping with cancer and its impact is layered, wide and at times scary. On one hand, I know this, I read news accounts, see statistics, read mortality and illness tables. On the other hand, looking around the pharmacy, the massive chemotherapy waiting area and the radiation labs and suites in Hamilton's Juravinski Cancer Centre where I being treated, I am struck repeatedly by how broad the swath, how hard the toll, how complete the damage of the diagnosis and the treatment really is. 

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. 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Sounds like you are in for a hibernation this winter. I only hope your exhaustion doesn't preclude all writing, reading, good TV series, etc...though if it does, all will be waiting for you in the Spring. Cancer is like the black sheep member of my family. There's no disowning it so we must make the best of its unannounced visits until it hits the road again. (Like Danny in Bloodline!) Warmest wishes.

  2. Wow, Peter. I wish you and Debi all the best. Please know that I am thinking of you, and thinking you will have a positive outcome.
    John McQuaker

  3. "Who know where the road will lead us? Only a fool would say" but I'm glad you're on the road and extra glad that Debi is accompanying you. Many good thoughts are with you, xo Maria