This week I had my first visit to the oncologist in a few months. I used to describe this man as my pessimist specialist, but in recent times he’s been brighter, given me encouragement, and offered the occasional smile. Yet he remains my helpful reality check.
I’m not sure what I expected him to say during this last visit. Perhaps, I wanted to hear that ‘my cancer journey is now over; I can get on with life again; no more treatment; chemo is a thing of the past’. If so, then I must have been in a dream. He can’t tell me this, for the simple reason that he can’t know this to be true. I lack that special CMS—Cancer Monitoring System—that would tell me exactly what is going on inside me, what needs to be done, and how long it will take!
The last scan declared me to be NED—No Evidence of Disease. This means that the imaging is unable to detect any tumour. My oncologist will not be drawn into overstating what this means. Put simply, he reminded me on Wednesday, that this doesn’t mean I have no active cancer in my body. He spoke of me again as a chronic patient, who will continue to require long term treatment, and potentially multiple strategies of treatment.
So what now? I stay on the chemo regime that I’ve been on now for eighteen months. I will have 3 weekly infusions of Alimta and Avastin, until such time as I cannot sensibly tolerate the toxicity or that it proves no longer effective in dealing with any cancer. Throughout this time, I will need to monitor the effect of the drugs on my heart, blood pressure, liver, kidneys and other vital organs. I will continue to have roughly quarterly scans to track any developments with cancer.
In my case, while it is true from an imaging perspective that I am NED, it seems wiser to take the attitude that I am AAC—Assumed Active Cancer (not Adam Ashley Cooper, though I’d love to be able to represent Australia in rugby!).
This is an important reminder to me not to put my faith in medicine. I need to continue to trust God and seek to make each day that he gives me, count for eternity.
(first published in macarisms.com on 16/8/13)