Those are not the words you want to hear from a specialist cancer consultant. I knew that in the range of possible outcomes this was one of them, down at the dark end of the list, but it’s a little different hearing the words in real life.
‘Okay, so that’s what I’m dealing with,’ was what went through my head.
Somehow I seem to have skipped four of the five Kübler-Ross main stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) and settled directly into acceptance, in the sense that I know my medical staff are world-class experts (so denial would be daft), I understand how blind chance and averages work (‘why me?’ is no more valid than ‘why not me?’), the egotistic pointlessness of pleading to an empty sky, and that lying around in black depression just wastes my own suddenly limited time.
While I wasn’t going to take the conclusions as gospel truth – in my world ‘two or three years to live’ is a challenge rather than a sentence – I knew that I was dealing with expert professionals in a center of medical excellence. The facts were clear: malignant tumors had been found in my bladder and nearby lymph glands, and spots had been seen on my liver and in a lung. The spread meant that this wasn’t something that could be contained and cut out; the only (mainstream) treatment left at this time was chemotherapy. So we talked about how this treatment works, side effects, schedules and likely outcomes.
Will I be caught out sometime later as this comes to get me from behind? Perhaps. But I think, I hope, that I’ve internalized and practiced my pragmatic optimist approach to life, as epitomized by Mark Rylance’s character in Bridge of Spies when he asks “would it help?”. To put it another way, while it’s not at all what I’d like, I think I’ve got this.
Technical data: my chemo runs over six three-week cycles, attending as an out patient and having the drugs dripped into my arm through an IV line:
- Day 1: all day, Cisplatin and Gemcitabine.
- Day 8: half a day, Gemcitabine only
- Day 15: recovery time; no treatment
But no, I didn’t leave it at this. I’ll document my own supplementary treatment with cannabis and how it seems to work in further posts…