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Second scan results

Today I got the results of my mid-chemotherapy CT scan, but before I tell you them I’ll tell you about the test for whether or not it is possible to treat my tumour with Herceptin. It turns out that the tumour does not over-express the HER2 gene, so there is little point in treating it with Herceptin. I think the consultant was  more disappointed than I was, but we always knew that there was only a small chance — about 20% — that using Herceptin would be possible. So that avenue is now closed for good.

I don’t have the images from the scan yet, but I’ll put them up as soon as I get the CD. That may take a couple of weeks, if what happened last time is any guide. The results were all good. The first thing is that the lymph nodes are all much reduced in size. They are still enlarged, but much smaller than before, which is very good news.

The tumour in the oesophagus and stomach seems also to be considerably reduced. It is hard to tell because this time my stomach was quite full of food, which distends the stomach, and last time it was empty apart from the pint of water they made me drink just before the scan. But as far as the consultant could tell the tumour was quite a bit smaller.

We also think that we have an explanation for my back pain, namely that I have some sclerotic patches on my spine. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But in fact it’s rather good. Sclerosis is scarring at a healing site, so the chemotherapy has attacked and is reducing a secondary tumour on my spine, and the bone is healing in the place left behind by the tumour. That generally causes some discomfort, so the consultant was expecting to find something like this. We have a bone scan scheduled to try to get a bit more detail on this aspect of the condition.

The consultant said that none of this came as much of a surprise to him, because it is clear that I have been responding well to the treatment. His word for me is “performant”, which he said meant that if you passed me in the street you wouldn’t know that I had cancer, or any other illness. The tumour is responding well, not outstandingly but well, to the treatment, so he recommended that we continue. I readily agreed.

Most of the benefit of a course of chemotherapy is apparent in the first few cycles, so we don’t expect to see this rate of improvement continue. The big question, of course, is how long do I have left? That is always hard to answer because each case is individual, but in similar cases we would expect me to remain symptom-free for no more than a year after the end of the treatment, although symptoms would probably return before the 12 months were up. That means I probably have about 18 months to live. That is longer than I feared, but shorter than I hoped. Such is life. I’m looking forward to spending as many of those days doing as much as I can. This is going to be the best year of my life. Gillian and I are going to build as many happy memories as we can. It should be a lot of fun.

{ 17 } Comments

  1. sue hawkins | 18 March 2010 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Wow. I, for one (who doesn’t even know you – really) hope you last a good long while. First the GOOD, then the LONG. both would be nice…

  2. icyjumbo | 18 March 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Sue. I hope so too, but I need to be realistic, if only to know how to spend my remaining money. Fortunately, the strategy is the same in both cases: try to live each individual day the best way I can. I’m doing that now, and I’ll carry on doing it as long as I can.

  3. Ahmad Osman | 18 March 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Ach. I, too, don’t know you. I am from Beirut, Lebanon, and I ‘discovered’ you through LibriVox, and I am so very angry that you will not be there for long. I want to smash the ground before me. I know that I am supposed to be more composed than that, but I also know that sincerity is a must in life.

    I am angry that you are unwell. I ‘discovered’ you around New Year’s, right after you were diagnosed.

    But I tell you that so far, I have only read this and another recent entry. I should make it a point to read more entries for you before I comment, but I am at work and I should be working anyway. Let’s make a long story short. I want to tell you that you are a beautiful voice – not only in the RP accent (which you, I am sure, would tell me, ‘Oh, but it is not RP, it is bla and bla,’ but hey, I’ve never been to Britain), but also in the way you wear your voice. What I mean by the latter is, well, let’s say the life that one hears behind the voice. Or something.

    Oh, and on a side note, it is refreshing to hear a native English speaker who doesn’t butcher French words (far from butcher, you really treat them well).

    Best wishes.

  4. icyjumbo | 18 March 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much for your extremely kind words, Ahmad. I’m very pleased that you discovered me through LibriVox, which is one of my very great pleasures in life. I’m glad my recordings have brought you pleasure too.

    You say you are angry about my illness. Anger is supposed to be one of the stages of grief that everyone goes through, but I never did manage to be angry. Quite the reverse in fact. I was deeply depressed for a couple of weeks and then I managed to snap out of it. Now I can genuinely say that I am as happy as I have ever been in my life. It’s hard to explain, I know, but it is true. I hope you can be happy for me instead of angry. I have a wonderful set of people supporting me, and it’s great to know that there is another one, even if you are in Beirut. I feel your goodwill, even from so great a distance.

    If you enjoy native English readers who have an RP accent and who don’t butcher French, I think you would also enjoy Ruth Goldman’s (RuthieG) recordings, or those of russiandoll. I think they read beautifully, and I’m sure you will too.

  5. Robert Hughes | 18 March 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    That is good news about the lymph nodes.

  6. icyjumbo | 18 March 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    @Robert, it certainly is. It’s good news all round, I think.

  7. Jeanne | 18 March 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Chris–I just wrote a post about you and your blog on MY blog.

    Here’s the link:

    I’m with you on living day to day and making this coming year the best year ever.


  8. Veronica | 18 March 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chris, I was reading your “Changes” post the other day, and it gave me much food for thought. Serious illness changes one’s perspective permenantly, I think. There is no question that it focuses the mind wonderfully on the important things in life,and brings the simple pleasures to the forefront.
    I don’t think that anyone reading your posts could be in any doubt that the “essence of Chris” is still very much in evidence.
    It is good to hear that the chemotherapy is producing the results that it is, and I await the scan pictures with interest (sorry if that sounds a little macabre, but I think you know what I mean).
    Keep enjoying your happiness.

  9. icyjumbo | 18 March 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to hear that you think I’m still me 🙂

    I too am really looking forward to being able to post some of the scan pictures, with comparisons back to the original images. And I didn’t think it was macabre at all. I posted the images because I thought people would be interested. Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to posting the proof that I have a brain 😀

  10. David Allsopp | 18 March 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chris,

    So glad to hear that the main treatment is working well, even though the Herceptin avenue is closed. I know you won’t waste your remaining time, however long it might be! Do have fun, indeed!

  11. Julie Mason | 19 March 2010 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Chris – Jeanne Sather of the Assertive Cancer Patient suggested I check out your blog. I live with metastatic ovarian cancer (this is year 4) and I too am on chemo, although it sounds like a very different cocktail than yours. Your info and your spirit are both helpful, and it was interesting to me to see that chemo might be the cause of my perpetually drippy nose. I wish you all best in making this year the best ever, and I’ve got no doubt that you’ll do it.
    Look forward to reading more.
    Ottawa, Canada

  12. icyjumbo | 19 March 2010 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Hello Julie, and welcome. It’s great to see new readers here. Four years is a good time to have fended off your cancer. I hope you haven’t had to endure chemotherapy for all that time. There is a really good website here in the UK where you can find out all about the chemo drugs and their known side effects. Take a look at — it might give you a different viewpoint from that you have in Canada.

    With all the support from my family, friends, and now the readers of my blog, I too am sure I’ll have a great final year. Thank you for dropping by. I hope I’ll be able to keep your interest for a long time.

  13. Karen Hatfield | 19 March 2010 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Hi. I just found your website. I’m glad your scan looked good – one good scan at a time, right? I do hope you have many more but understand the needing to know what will likely take place in the future.
    My son, Isaac, is 11 yrs old. He has a low grade brain tumor which has great survival rates. They are good even though his tumor doesn’t behave according to pathology (he is currently on his 2nd relapse and has failed the best treatment available and his “benign” tumor has also spread to his spine and other parts of the brain). We try to live life to the fullest – having fun, etc.

    Anyway, I agree with you in making the best of life. Wishing you the best.

  14. Karen Hatfield | 19 March 2010 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    sorry, what I meant to say is although his tumor has great survival rates, the doctors aren’t positive what my son’s will be because his tumor doesn’t behave like the pathology says it should. So, there, your science lesson for the day – like you don’t get enough of those!

  15. icyjumbo | 19 March 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Karen, hello and welcome here. It doesn’t seem fair that an eleven year old boy should be already on his second relapse from cancer, does it? It sounds as though both you and he are keeping a really positive attitude, which does wonders for making life better. I’m sure you’re really proud of Isaac, and it also sounds as though you have a lot of fun.

    I hope your medical team finds a way though the cancer’s pathology, so that you can finally get those good survival rates without fear of relapses.

    And don’t worry about the science lessons. I like science. That was why I became a research scientist. I still expect to see the evidence when I am offered a new or different treatment. I think my own medical team finds that somewhat refreshing, to be honest. It is fun to see the grin spread over my consultant’s face when I ask about the evidence, that’s for sure.

  16. Richard P | 19 March 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Dear Chris
    We’re both so glad that the scan results have confirmed what we all hoped about the efficacy of your treatment. (The news about the presence of a brain, at least while the scan was in progress, is also very welcome.) Your positivity and friendship continues to be an inspiration. We’ll look forward to seeing you both soon, and supporting you both however we can.
    All the best,
    Richard & Fabienne.

  17. icyjumbo | 19 March 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink


    We’d love to see you too. I bet you have photos…