This was the final sentence of the radiologist’s report on my CT scan from Tuesday. I went straight to wikipedia. Neoplasm wasn’t a word I’d been using. And my guess was right. There was no evidence of a tumour. Seriously? I don’t think I ever expected to read that. No evidence of cancer? I was stunned.
It’s exactly eighteen months this weekend since I was admitted to hospital, had my first CT scan, and discovered the tumour on my lung. It was about 24mm at the time. I’ve had two surgeries, twenty six courses of chemotherapy, and a number of CTs in this period. We’ve seen the tumour increase slightly to 26mm, then reduced to 18mm, to 12mm, and to 7mm in February this year. It went from a golf ball, to a pinball, to a marble, to a pea. A friend was praying it would shrink to a mustard seed next! Seems like it has. Whatever may or may not be there is too small to be seen by a CT scan.
We’ve discussed this with a couple of oncologists now. They were both amazed by how things have gone. My regular oncologist, who is very careful and conservative, kept saying this doesn’t normally happen with my type of cancer. I told him I was quite happy to be abnormal! Both oncologists have stated the importance of continuing with the chemo for now. The tumour is not evident on the CT scan, and this is a great outcome, but it doesn’t guarantee that I am cancer free. Cancer cells are microscopic. They could be anywhere and everywhere without having developed an observable tumour. The fact that my cancer was discovered at Stage 4 once it had already spread, and that cancer cells were discovered in other places, is a reminder not to make assumptions.
This scan result is the best result I could have received. To be described as N.E.D. – No Evidence of Disease – is a wonderful result. But it carries with it a huge amount of uncertainty. It’s like the results of a satellite image of a national park revealing no evidence of an escaped criminal. Higher resolution would be needed to gain more certainty. But even then he could be hiding behind a rock or under a tree and not observable. They cannot be sure with me. Even surgery, biopsies, and other types of scans have their limitations. They can identify cancer, but they can’t rule out it’s existence.
Our plan is for me to continue with chemo for a while and ask more questions. We’ll seek advice about other options for assessing how I’m going. We’ll seek to monitor the toxic and damaging impact of chemo. It’s clearly been the recipe for attacking my adenocarcenoma, but it’s leaving its mark on my body as well. I’m experiencing some neuropathic symptoms again, energy levels are low, fitness is harder to maintain, and I’m on medication to counteract significant side effects.
In short, the journey with cancer continues. In some ways I expect it will be harder. Until now I’ve had certainty. I’ve been sure of having cancer because I’ve seen the evidence. Now the evidence isn’t there. I assume there is still cancer present, and will act accordingly, but I can’t be sure.
My scan results are great news and I’m filled with gratitude to God for bringing me to this point. I thank you for your love, support and prayers. God has been listening and answering our prayers. He’s been kindly giving me time and opportunity to serve him. I’ve been praying since early last year that I would get to see Matt married and that I would get to be a grandfather. [I didn’t tell them this!] There’s now four weeks until Matt and Elizabeth get married and Luke and Sharon are halfway through their pregnancy. God willing, Fiona and I will also celebrate thirty years of marriage this year. Awesome. Thank you God for the days that you give me!
God has done a lot of work in me over this past eighteen months. In particular, he’s been strengthening my hope. Not hope in a cure necessarily, but a hope beyond cure. Hope that gives me reason to live, however many days I might have. Hope in life now and in eternity. Hope that is real even if cancer should one day overrun my body. Hope that sustains me through the ups and the downs. Hope grounded in God keeping his promises in Jesus Christ. My desire is for each one of you to know this hope. God is good.
Thank you again for your friendship, support, help, and generosity. As we continue this journey please rejoice with us and please keep on praying that God will remove all traces of cancer from my body. Please pray for wisdom for the medical specialists and for us as we decide what paths to take.
(first published in macarisms.com on 31/5/13)