My 2018 in numbers
Short summary for my English speaking friends.
Many people summarise the year in numbers when it ends, I - deliberately - do this now. Here are my numbers:
- -11 cm colon
- -23 piece of lymph node
- 22 cm cut on my belly, fastened by 27 metal clips
- 4 CTs, 1 MRI scans
- 2 colonoscopies
- 1 bone scan with isotope injection
- 20+ blood tests (about 50 tubes)
- 700 hours receiving intravenous infusion
- ~ 100 hours of queueing, waiting for the doctor
- losing 8 kgs weight only in a week
- 4 burned out veins
- 200 injections into my belly (by my own hand)
- ~ 1g oxaliplatin, 10g leucovorin, 60g fluorouracil
TL;DR: get as many screenings as possible, colonoscopy is really fun compared to bowel surgery or to chemotherapy.
... and in letters
Despite doing sports regularly, eating fibre rich food and having an almost stress-free life, you still can have colorectal cancer, it might lurk in your genes.
I was lucky. Due to slight pain in my right hip, I started to visit the doctor and had medical examinations including x-ray, ultrasound imaging and even MRI. None of them showed any kind of disorder. After about a year and lots of negative results, the pain was still there (and I still feel it sometimes, it seems to be completely unrelated to the main topic) and I was sent to colonoscopy even though I had no other symptoms. This does not solve the hip issue but probably saved my life.
Btw. colonoscopy is far from as dreadful as you might imagine, you can get some sedatives that work like a party drug, and you don't remember anything at the end. So it does not hurt or even if it does, I don't remember.
After I regained my consciousness almost entirely, I talked to the doctor, who said, that she could not complete the process, since there's a tumour which is 3-4 cm about 18-20 cm from the entry point and she could not get past it. It is good to be slightly sedated when you receive such news.
The surgery was on the 22nd of May, Tuesday. Before that, I was allowed to eat only pulped stuff for a few days and nothing a day before the surgery. The anesthesiologist said that the surgery is going to hurt and it really did. I even got a morphine pump to get rid of the pain. I used it all up in a day, but after that, I didn't need it, I was on my feet on Thursday. I got my first real meal on Friday and had the first longer visit on the toilet the next Monday. I was allowed to home on Wednesday. It was a really effective diet, I've lost 8 kgs in the process in about a week. (Got them back already with some extras...)
Two weeks later I got the histology results, and the doctors said that even if a tumour was in a developed state (pT3pN1), I'm lucky that it has been discovered. Chemotherapy was the next step, they said that I'm in really good shape, I'm gonna get over it easily and I might not even lose my hair (I don't have too much anyway). I have not lost any indeed, neither grow it thicker.
I endured the treatments quite well indeed. I've received 12 treatments fortnightly, started in July and finished just before Christmas. The treatment (called FOLFOX) took usually about 3 hours, first I received 2.5 dl of infusion as preparation (to prevent throwing up, at least in the treatment room), then oxaliplatin (dissolved in half a liter of water, very slowly, this was the most wicked one), leucovorin (in 2.5 dl again, much faster), then some fluorouracil from a very big syringe, and finally I got a medicine pump hanged in my neck that was pumping later one into me for about two days. I was off work for the next day, but back on the second and we removed the catheter from my arm together with my colleagues.
Besides the general chemotherapy effects (nausea, weakness, the feeling that you have been hit by a train) oxaliplatin caused some funny things like cold-sensitivity (not just was not allowed to eat ice cream, even getting out something from the fridge hurt/made my hands numb), hand / feet numbness, trembling, strange tastes… After about the 7th treatment, I also got some allergic reactions because of oxaliplatin - we tried it on the next occasion as well (3 times more diluted and slower), but all I got was an extra half litre of infusion with the antihistamine. I felt so dizzy I could barely get home. So I didn't get oxaliplatin anymore, but that's also a known treatment, called DeGrammont.
The main side-effect of fluorouracil was that it burned out some of my veins. It hurts and looks like it's rotting for about a month. (Or does it indeed?)
On the second week, I usually went running in the nearby hills at home or with my colleagues on the Gellért hill. Not long ones, but it helped me to keep some of my fitness which helped me during the treatments. "Keeping" means that my watch [based on VO₂Max measurement approximation or something like that] said before the surgery I was fit like 28 years old, and now it says I'm fit like 48 years old. Like a sporty 48 yo :P
I usually lost a few (~5) kgs on the first weeks, the doctor said I should try to get them back on the second weeks, and so did I. At the end I overachieved the goal a bit :)
I had a lot of tests to discover possible hidden metastases including multiple CT screenings, MRI, bone scan after isotope injection, colonoscopy and several blood tests.
This is where we are now, currently, I am clear and well examined. I'm going to have regular checks in the future as well.
Thanks to my friends, my family and especially Judit for support. It is quite a physical effort to get over the whole procedure, but it's even harder mentally and you've helped me a lot.
Please, take regular medical screening tests!
A few images (slightly NSFW)