Oncology consultation

This afternoon I got a call from my oncologists secretary, offering me an appointment at short notice to discuss my results and options.

The outcome of that meeting is that I should have chemotherapy treatments designed to reduce the chance of the cancer reoccurring elsewhere in my body. The treatment will last 6 months, and be composed of eight 3-week cycles. Each cycle will involve a meeting with the oncologist, a set of blood tests (doesn’t everything?!), and an IV infusion of Oxaliplatin. I will then take a course of Capecitabine tablets for 2 weeks, and then have a weeks break before starting the next cycle.

Apparently the bald statistics, based on tracking around 150,000 patients world-wide, are that if I were not to have any chemotherapy, the chance of the bowel cancer reoccuring elsewhere in my body would be approximately 40%. By taking the chemotherapy, the risk falls to approximately 20%. And those statistics are based on cases where the patients had between 4 and 10 infected lymph nodes, and were typically older and less healthy than me. So as I had only 4 infected lymph nodes, the expectation is that I should have better odds than those bare numbers imply.

But this is a pure game of numbers; and the only ones that matter are the end results for me – which will be either 0% or 100%. So the decision is made. I start the chemotherapy on the 28th of April. My last course of medication should be the 6th of October.

Sadly I won’t be able to have my ileostomy reversed before the end of the chemotherapy, and the closeness of the end of the chemotherapy to the LiveStrong Austin event that Mark Cathcart was suggesting I challenge myself with, may well put my participation in doubt. Which is… ahem … “frustrating”.

Finally, it’s not clear yet how this is going to affect my ability to get back to work. The best the oncologist could suggest was that these drugs affect everyone differently; some people are able to work almost normally, while others work part-time, and some are unable to work at all. His suggestion was that after the first couple of cycles I should have a reasonable idea of their affect on me, and hence what I’m going to be capable of doing while undergoing the treatment.

Which seems like code for “you need to suck it an see”. Which would be quite funny, except it makes planning how and when I can get back to work a whole lot more difficult. And I’m conscious that even the best of employers don’t have infinite patience, especially in the current economic climate… 😦

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4 thoughts on “Oncology consultation

  1. Hello Richard – You sound positive about the latest news, which is good. You probably don’t want to use the words “bald statistics” and “chemotherapy” in the same sentence, even taking into account your very handsome head of hair.

    I hope you will also feel positive about your employer’s attitude to sick leave. You should!

    • On one level the fact that the chemotherapy can half my chance of having this cancer come back is good news. But that chance is still 20%, which is a lot bigger number than I’d like. But the chances are what they are – I’m doing the best I can to improve my odds, but medical science can only do so much for me here.

      Interestingly, the chemotherapy I’m going to receive doesn’t cause hair loss, so in this case, I am safe to use “bald statistics” and “chemotherapy” together with impunity. Even more interestingly, some of the potential chemotherapy treatments actually stimulate hair growth – though again, not the one I’m going to receive. Just as well – I can’t imagine having a full head of hair after all this time!

      And I’m under no illusions about how good IBM’s attitude to sick leave is. The company has been spectacularly supportive of the problems we’ve had to deal with recently. But at 6 months of cumulative medical leave, things do start to change in ways that I’d hoped to be able to avoid, and this may (or may not) push me over that boundary. In the larger scheme of things, it’s not a huge issue, but at the same time I’d also personally like to have some clarity over when I can think about working again, purely so I can have some sense of there being an end to this, and a resumption of my normal life.

  2. Hi Richard, I’m not sure I could imagine you with a full head of hair either mate 🙂

    We’ve all got everything crossed for you anyway, thanks for keeping us updated via the blog.

  3. Well, I’ll be in Newcastle that day……celebrating the fact that I will be a year older and a year none the wiser……fingers crossed that this means you get to say the same for a lot of years to come. Take care you.

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