Wednesday, July 02, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0950 - Lesions on the Liver

A colleague at work loaned me a book by Neil Peart called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. At one point in the narration, Peart talks about how he had once thought, "Life's great; people suck." Then, as he dealt with loss and sorrow, he came to realize that the exact opposite was true, "Life sucks; people are great."

Simple wisdom, to be sure, but it could just as easily have come from me. It's a lesson I'm learning in spades these days as I seem to get more bad medical news. In getting the news, I am constantly surprised how random the vagaries of life are and how truly compassionate and helpful most people are. One thing cancer teaches is just how wonderful family, friends, and colleagues can be.

Today, for instance, my family physician came back from his holidays to see me in his office to review the test results of the CT scan. It appears that I have three lesions on the liver - 2 of them are 3.2 to 3.4 cm in length and on the left hepatic lobe, the other a little smaller at 1.3 to 1.74 cm in length and on the middle hepatic wing. I haven't done enough research yet to know what the chances are that the liver metastases are resectable or not, but I'm sure my medical and surgical oncologists will have something to say about that.

While I must remain optimistic, the main reason why colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the western world is because of liver metastases (in fact, Medline Plus goes so far as to say, "patients with metastatic cancer to the liver usually die of their disease"). Some more positive statistics from the American Cancer Society from 2006 speak of up to 25% of those with liver metastases undergoing curative resection with 5-year survival rates now over 50%. In one study, up to 71.5% survived for 5 years or more with resectable metastases.

But, as I learned when I was first diagnosed, statistics are only useful in talking about aggregates and trends. They don't help much on an individual case-by-case level. My situation could be better or it could be worse that the statistics imply.

So many questions! Can the left hepatic lobe be resected? What about the middle hepatic wing? What chemotherapy or immunotherapy options are available? What about radio-frequency ablation (RFA) and chemoembolization?

The answer to these questions will be mainly about people, people who know, people who care, people who can do something. And even those who don't know and can't do anything medically...well, they're already stepping up and offering me support. Yes, I may have liver metastases, but I've also got a lot of great people on my side.


Ruth Morton said...

Don - wow - my heart and prayers go out to you and your family. Let me or any of the WWITPRO folks know if there is anything we can do. In addition to my prayers, I'm crossing all of my fingers and toes that you come out on the better side of the statistics.

Anonymous said...

I have read this book and perhaps you should read his other books about how has been able to overcome such grief and loss in his life. I know Neil Peart personally and is a wonderful person. Very ariculate and descriptive.
Here is his website.
Saw the concert last night in Toronto. Hope all is well. Thinking of you in prayers and thoughts

Don Spencer said...

Ruth and Shawn,

Thanks for writing. Ruth, I look foward to trying to hold twin babies in my arms someday (with your permission, of course). Shawn, I look forward to you introducing me to Neil Peart. I will definitely get his other books too.

All the best,


Shawn said...

are you willing to drive to Los Angeles or Quebec in the winter?

Don Spencer said...

As soon as the chemo is over and I have recovered enough, Quebec could definitely be in the cards...


Ruth Morton said...

Count on it, Don!