Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0006 - Healing

Healing takes many forms. Often it has nothing to do with a cure. That’s a lesson lost on people of faith – not always, of course, because I know many people of faith for whom healing is about connectedness, not cessation of physical symptoms. But some “believers” unfortunately equate healing with evidence of supernatural occurrences.

This morning I attended a healing ceremony at our local Anglican church. Despite my initial uncertainty and hesitation, I found it strangely comforting and meaningful. There was the standard anointing with oil and prayers for healing, but there were also plenty of hugs and expressions of concern and empathy. In other words, there was healing to be found, despite any misgivings I might have about the implied theology of the religious ceremony.

Subsequently, I visited HopeSpring where yet another form of healing was evident. This time it was found with volunteers in a facility dedicated to helping patients and care givers dealing with cancer. The resource centre had some good information available, the most important of which was from the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. As I proceed through treatment, I’m sure the facility and its volunteers will be a good support for me and my family.

Afterwards, I was able to speak with the nurse and receptionist from my family doctor’s office when I picked up copies of my lab reports for the fecal occult blood test. They were clearly interested in my health and wellbeing and that of my family…again, evidence of another form of healing being offered in a spirit of generosity.

Finally, after picking up my wife from work, we found another form of healing in a medical consultation with my surgical oncologist. Not everyone can find healing in medical information, but I’m one of the lucky ones for whom knowledge and expertise provides comfort and direction. We left that consultation with a map which is already helping us deal with an uncertain future. Here’s what’s in store for us:

We will follow a German protocol which distinguishes between colon cancer treatment and rectal cancer treatment depending on the distance of the tumour from the anal verge. If the tumour is over 15 cm from the anal verge, then we will treat the tumour as a form of colon cancer, scheduling surgery as soon as possible. If the tumour is under 15 cm from the anal verge, then we will treat the tumour as a form of rectal cancer, scheduling an MRI immediately and then consulting with a tumour board. This board of experts will determine whether to treat the tumour with radiation therapy for three months before surgery. If they determine not to use radiation therapy, then I will likely receive a short course of chemotherapy followed by surgery.

One way or the other, I will have major surgery. The full staging of the cancer will be incomplete until the pathologist’s report following his/her examination of the excised tumour. There will also likely be postoperative radiation and chemotherapy. As the surgical oncologist said so succinctly, “Our goal is to have you cancer free not just six months from now, but five years from now.” With our plan in place and the knowledge that I am in very good hands surgically, a little more healing has occurred today.

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