Yesterday I left you with the news that I had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. The most pressing questions at that point are:
- how bad is it? and
- can it be treated or even cured?
Answering the first question is called staging. In my case the initial test was a CT scan to determine whether the cancer had spread, and if so, how far. I had the CT scan scheduled eight days later, and an appointment the following morning for an endoscopic ultrasound examination. The two tests combined were to give 95% confidence levels for the exact diagnosis. Laparoscopy and a PET scan later would complete the diagnosis. The entire book of diagnostic tools seemed to be at my disposal.
In the event the CT scan was enough to give 100% confidence. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, not only to the regional lymph nodes around my stomach, but also to more distant ones down next to my spine. That puts the cancer at stage M1. For oesophageal cancer that means that it isn’t worth attempting surgery, as the outcomes with surgery and chemo/radio therapy for patients at that stage are no better than for those who don’t have surgery. The bright spot is that the cancer hadn’t spread to my other internal organs, which all seemed healthy.
Nevertheless, treatment options were now more limited. The chemotherapy is intended to reduce the size of the cancer and improve my quality of life. It is not expected to remove it entirely, although that can happen in a very small number of cases. I was told that my life expectancy is about 24 months with the chemotherapy.
This happened on Wednesday, 23 December.
Two days before Christmas.
Gillian and I did not have a good Christmas. (Understatement!) Fortunately my mood has improved considerably since then, otherwise I don’t think I could have found the motivation to write this.
Tomorrow I’ll write about the treatment, as far as I can. After that I intend to start writing about my reactions and plans. Please come along for the ride.