The thing that depresses me most about this cancer at the moment is not the forthcoming rigours of the treatment I will have to undergo but the monotony of my diet. Since I cannot swallow solids of any kind I am on a liquid diet consisting of fortified drinks. It's the same bloody thing day after day. Meanwhile, I'm surrounded by adverts for pizza, burgers and and other forms of food. Hopefully, once the treatments start and the tumours start shrinking things should improve.
Well deep veins. One of the things that came up during my recent hospital stay is that I have very deep veins. This makes administering intravenous drugs and taking blood samples rather fraught.
So today, I went back into St Vincent's for a few hours to have a mediport fitted. This basically is an interface implanted under the skin and connected to a suitable vein. The IV drugs for my chemotherapy can simply be connected to this without any faffing around. Likewise blood can be taken easily.
I was supposed to be sedated for the procedure but I was awake for most of it. I felt absolutely no pain, however. I feel some stiffness now, but then as the surgeon said: "You've just been stabbed."
The weekend was a bit of a nightmare. I tried to keep busy but I couldn't get my mind off the implications of the result. If the PET scan showed that the cancer had spread to my liver it was effectively game over. All they could offer would be palliative care.
On Monday I was scheduled for another scan, an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), in the Mater Hospital. I was told that if the PET scan was negative, there would be no point in having the EUS because the information from it would only be of use if they were operating. I assumed the EUS would be in the afternoon because the doctors would need to have a case conference first. But, no, I was told I would be collected at 8.30am by taxi and driven to the Mater in the company of a nurse. Was this a sign that the scan was clear or a scheduling cock up?
I spent the drive across town convinced that any second the nurse's phone would ring with instructions to turn back. We made it to the Mater however.
As it happened, the test did not go ahead because the tumour had grown to such an extent, the doctor did not want to risk rupturing it.
And so I returned to St Vincent's slightly groggy from the sedative to await the news. Which came a short while later.
"Well David," said the doctor, "we've studied the results and we feel that your cancer is resectible. The PET scan showed your liver is clear."
You have no idea how relieved I felt. I'm certainly not out of the woods yet. This is the beginning of a long, hard slog. I'm to receive five weeks of radio therapy with chemotherapy during the first and fifth weeks. This will be followed by a few weeks of recuperation and then surgery followed by at least three weeks of recovery.
Again, thanks for all the messages of support. They are very much appreciated.
They've let me out for the day so I'm at my parents' house using my laptop. I'll head home later this afternoon to pick up my mail and try and fix my iMac.
The last week has effectively been spent twiddling my thumbs waiting for test results. The CT scan I had last Friday revealed a spot on the liver. I've been told that it's not uncommon for people to have spots on their liver but they wanted to be sure it wasn't cancerous so I went for a PET scan at the Blackrock Clinic yesterday. I should have the results on Monday. Those results will determine the course of my treatment.
They've been letting me out on day release yesterday and today (Sunday). Yesterday I was able to surf the web, send e-mails, reply to people who'd sent their best wishes and so on. Today, i get back home and turn on the iMac and the bloody thing won't boot. Not only that but the disk utilities that came with OS X Tiger are unable to resolve the problem and my version of DiskWarrior is not compatible with the model of iMac. And of course the stupid thing is, despite what I've written in my Medicine Weekly column, I've been rather lax in making backups.
I swear, the first thing I'm going to do after I get out of hospital is play some poker because after all the bad luck I've had so far, I due some good luck.
The biopsy results have confirmed that the tumours on my esophagus are indeed cancerous. I had a CT scan yesterday to determine the extent of the cancer and based on the results of that the medical team will make a decision about future treatment. The most likely scenario is that I will be put on a treatment of chemotherapy and radiotheraphy to shrink the tumours and then they will operate.
The good news is that apart from the inability to swallow properly, I feel fine. And the messages of support I've received through comments on this 'blog, e-mail, phone and text have given me a boost. Thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot to me.
I'm at home for the moment, but I have to go back in this evening. I don't know when I'll be able to update again but I'll find a way to letting you know what's going on.
For the last few weeks I've been living with a problem: I can't swallow properly. It started in late October and has been getting progressively worse. It manifested itself by food sticking in my gullet, or as my mother would say 'going down the wrong way.' At first, it didn't happen all the time so I wasn't too worried. I told myself I was imagining it. In the run up to Christmas, however, it got worse. I effectively could not eat solid food. My GP referred me to the Endoscopy Unit at St Vincent's Hospital and I had the exam this afternoon.