Sunday, 30 March 2014

Bowel Cancer - diagnosis, age 35

Comrades I find myself very self focused rather than worldly minded at the moment due to being diagnosed with cancer.

Because of my relatively young age, doctors considered bowel cancer the least likely reason for the change in my bowel habbits thinking instead to be:

IBS - after six months of trying IBS medicine, Ulcerative colitus considered, and a camera probe ordered: then after a camera, probably cancer, then definiately cancer with the biopsi.

I've been told that I have stage III bowel cancer which is bad, but the good news is that according to CT scans, it has not spread to organs. Unfortunately they decided that due to location and size, it is too risky to operate on, and so they adopt a strategy of Chemo for 3 months to shrink the tumour to managable size. Hopefully, this will work.

I was so aneamic that it was necessary for me to receive 4 units of blood, which is significant amount since AFAIK, a human being has between 10 and 14 units in them. I felt great afterwards, but even just three weeks later, the dizzyness is coming back which is probably related to aneamia.

I believe being an atheist as prepared me well for this. I remember when I mentally cast religion aside at the age of 15. Considering the idea too absurd to consider. But in doing so, it was scary as I had to contend with the idea that there was no such thing as an afterlife, and that death was final. I think religious people are encouraged by religion to not face the truth, the total finality of death. And when they too find themselves faced with what will be the cause of their demise, I'm not sure they will be as prepared as atheists might already be.
   Of course, its impossible to know the other hand, I just remember from the perspective of when I was a believer that death is frightening, but softened by the existance of an afterlife and time to worry about it later. Maybe other religious people cope better? but some studies suggest that people with greater religiosity demand more aggressive treatments. is this fear of death not being dealt with, or just hope that in the end their faith will help them survive?

I have been granted an allotment, which will hopefully keep me occupied if the chemo is not too grueling.

Not terribly scared of dying but I find the idea of people missing me greatly upsetting at times. I am to marry my girlfriend, she might be a widow if my treatment fails. And all the other people, sister, mum and dad, etc. I know if I die soon, I will leave a large hole in many peoples lives. And there is nothing I can do about it.

And that is a most frustrating thing about Cancer, if the doctor had told me, that all my problems are because I was fat, or ate too much salt, i could consume less food, or eat less salt. Do more exercise and with my own will, self heal. But cancer is beyond us. We cannot really self heal, the only thing we have in our control, is our mental health.

At least thus far, I have not fallen into some of the traps in negative thinking the leaflets they give us suggest some people do - like, "why me?" "this isn't fair." - I've long accepted luck in the universe is cappricious. I did have one wobble though, after my diagnosis, perhaps influenced by new trip inducing pain killers, I had vivid dreams with repeating theme of lonliness, and one morning when my girlfriend was far away because i wanted to visit family before chemo started - i went to the toilet in mum and dads house, closed the door and suddenly felt very clostrophobic and found myself breathing really fast in some sort of panic. Since that moment I've not had another and have remained calm since.

I'm chided for being too negative, but I can't help but be aware of the general statistics of bowel cancer, which at my stage has a high morbidty rate at 5 years of 60%. It is not good. And when friends and family say, "you'll beat it." i fear that since I have no real influence over the progress and treatment of this disease, if I beat it or not - it will not be down to my will or actions maybe.. i find myself googling and googling at times with curriosity. I'm currently sipping some beetroot juice because i read somewhere that some studies suggest it slows down tumour growth and that experiments on some unfortunate rodents showed that their cancers did not spread when their water was laced with the beetroot pigment.

This is slightly steve jobs style, but unlike mr Jobs I'll not be spurning real medical treatment. Also, read about studies that post treatment, exercise aids survival by a very significant 50% - in this, my relatively young age for bowel cancer, and my allotment should aid my fitness and maybe my survival chances.

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