scan results are in, and some thoughts about writing about cancer

and from what my oncologist says, everything is going as well as possible for my treatment.  tumour markers dropping, liver function improving rapidly, and evidence that the tumours are breaking down in my liver.  no mention of the bowel – no one really cares because it’s such a puny tumour, and the spots in my lungs didn’t show up on the CT scan.  my side effects from the chemo are minimal, and my body isn’t being hammered too badly now they’ve taken me off one of the more intense drugs (oncologist doesn’t think it’s particularly important for treatment, and all it did was destroy my white blood cells). one other dose is going up, but the main side effect of that is the trots which i’ve gleefully escaped.

but he said at this point, the liver tumours are not yet small enough to be operable.  this is where everything becomes confusing – the difference between surgeon and oncologist. both surgeons i’ve seen – my rectal and liver surgeon, are sure that the liver is operable.  my oncologist does not think it is safely operable due to the amount of liver that would be left, but that we’ve not reached the time where the ‘maximum shrinkage’ will occur.  it is hard to know who to listen to. it is hard to know if i should be optimistic or not. i got great news today – the best possible news in my situation. the treatment is working. it is working exactly as it should, and my body is getting better. and yet i feel a lot of mixed and complicated feelings. i don’t know why i’m not overjoyed right now. maybe because my treatment responding cancer is still unavoidably cancer. because despite the treatment responding cancer, it still might not be enough to save my life from this. but i get time. i bide time.

i read a beautiful article written by a woman who has just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.  it is hard to describe, seeing that mirror, put into words so clearly.  what is it to write a cancer diary? i think about that a lot.  what is it to put this on show, and to let people see it as rawly as this – to be this honest with everyone i know. to stand before the people i love, and friends i know, and strangers on the internet, and coworkers, and people i’ve not seen in years but care about deeply, and say that i very well might die soon.  i might die next year, or the year after if nothing works, or if they can’t operate. and if i get five years, i’m doing awesome. and if i get ten, it’s fantastic. and 20 is my fantasy that i probably won’t achieve.  or somehow, by some marvel, i could be cured.  and i do it anyway, and i don’t know if it is easier or harder than keeping it all to myself. this is easier than telling people individually, as hard as it is sometimes to know that people are reading the rawness of what i am feeling.  there is something deeply self-involved and tedious and yet fascinating about cancer diaries. i used to read them, pre-cancer; mesmerised and yet terrified. i don’t know how i would feel about reading one of someone i was close to. i would, i imagine, remain somewhat captivated, and yet would need to squint to remember to attach the words to the person who i would then see in person. i don’t know this, because this is happening to me.  somehow, it’s me.

i did have a really interesting conversation with my oncologist though, about medicinal cannabis and the cancer healing properties of THC.  he seems to be doing some work on it, or at least following the research very closely.  he did mention the benefits of cannabinoids in managing symptoms, but that there’s just not enough evidence yet for the tumour shrinking properties of THC yet but that the research is interesting.  we also discussed how most chemotherapy drugs are actually plant derivatives.  it’s important to note this: oncologists are passionate about saving people’s lives, or at least prolonging them as safely as possible, and are not holding information about cures back from cancer patients – they are watching them far more closely than we are.

i feel frail and unsure of the world, and a bit overwhelmed at the fact that all this is working, and yet i don’t feel overjoyed.  i guess a part of me just wanted to hear that it was gone. that it was all a mistake. or that i responded amazingly well, and the cancer evaporated out of my body, despite how unlikely that will be. i can’t hope too hard for a miracle that’s not coming. i just need to hope for what i got – the best outcome for this point in treatment, which is clear indications that it is working.

i am listening to a lot of Jason Molina at the moment; his solo stuff, Magnolia Electric Co., and Songs: Ohia. if you don’t know his music, i strongly recommend it.  he was masterful, and his death was heartbreaking.



About elizabeth

various things.
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5 Responses to scan results are in, and some thoughts about writing about cancer

  1. Evelyn K says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly. Your writing is beautiful. Thinking of you.

  2. lachlan says:

    More Jason, you should really download this recording. Just him and a guitar, as gorgeous as any of his albums. Best version of Here Comes the Night.

  3. Nikhilā says:

    that’s awesome news lizzie!

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