Saturday, February 11, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0079 - Tom Philp's Journal

“Ideally, from birth to death we would be non-smoking vegetarians, with no extra body fat, exercising moderately every day, living and working in environments that are pollution, parasite and virus free. Other than that, one person's chances on the roulette wheel of life are pretty much the same as another's, proportional to where you live in this world.” – Tom Philp, Living With Cancer – A Weekly series about living with cancer, Saturday, February 11th, 2006, Lifestyles, an Estevan, Saskatchewan community newspaper.

Yesterday, I wrote about voluntary efforts in the battle against cancer. I also mentioned how word-of-mouth conversations are essential to changing the landscape, or should that be war zone?

Tom Philp is one the pioneers in this word-of-mouth effort. Very early on, after my own diagnosis of rectal cancer on November 24, 2005, I discovered an online journal by Tom located at the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada’s website. As I began my research and discovered some of the same disquieting prospects about my impending battle, Tom’s journal entries provided much-needed information and perspective.

Today, Tom continues writing about cancer from the vantage point of someone already through surgery and doing extremely well. My vantage point is more tenuous. The tumour I am fighting is more advanced than what Tom’s was when he was diagnosed. My cancer, unlike his, is considered rectal cancer since the tumour starts at about the 11cm mark from the anal verge and then continues up into the sigmoid colon, whereas Tom’s was in the sigmoid colon with no extension into the rectum. Tom was scheduled for surgery very soon after diagnosis. I had to undergo pre-operative radiation and chemotherapy to improve my chances for post-operative quality of life and to minimize chances for local recurrence of cancer in the same region. Tom’s surgery was in August 2005 and involved a colon rection. Surgery for me will occur on March 28th, 2006, and will involve a total mesorectal excision as well as a resection, possibly a colostomy. Following that, I will undergo a second, more aggressive round of chemotherapy beginning about six weeks after surgery.

No, this isn’t a competition…although if you know guys and, if you’ve seen that memorable scene in Jaws where the shark-fighters compare their scars, then you’ll know how easily we can make even cancer therapy into “Oh, I can beat that!”

I appreciated reading Tom’s journal and checking up on him today. His down-to-earth honesty and gentle Canadian humour (not to mention his sometimes un-Canadian-like assertiveness) have inspired me on my own journey. Some day, I hope to meet Tom, embrace him as a fellow traveller on this unwanted journey, and share some undocumented war stories, all voluntarily.

No comments: