cried like a baby. When no one could see me or hear me. Not because I
feared what cancer would do, but because I didn't want the disease. I
wanted my life to be normal, which it could no longer be." ~Yuvraj Singh
Les went down to London on Tuesday last for his latest scan results. There is one microscopic lesion on his right lung which has not grown at all since his previous scan in July and a lesion on his left lung that has grown from 4 mm to 5 mm which is very slow growth for metastatic colon cancer. Their advice: wait and watch; see what the next three month scan indicates.
I have been diagnosed with degenerative Osteoarthritis in both knees. This is a disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears away. Cartilage
is a buffer of sorts that lets your joints move smoothly. When cartilage begins
to break down, your bones end up rubbing together when you move. The friction
causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
It is not uncommon for older people to develop OA, but it is not restricted to baby boomers and other aging populations. Younger adults can also feel the morning joint
stiffness, aching pain, tender joints, and limited range of motion that
signifies OA. Younger people are more likely to develop arthritis as a direct
result of a trauma.
The seven common causes are: Genetic pre-disposition (my mother suffered from it), age and gender: before age fifty-five both genders develop OA evenly. After age fifty-five more women than men develop OA. The trauma of injury from sports, accidents, war, and abuse can cause OA to develop in a joint. Repetitive straining of the joints can cause the
cartilage to wear down prematurely. People who perform physical labor, kneel,
squat, or climb stairs for hours at a time may be more likely to develop joint
pain and stiffness. The hands, knees, and hips are common joints affected by
occupation-related OA. your risk increases if you’re overweight.
Excess body weight places additional stress on your joints, especially your
knees, hips, and back. It can also cause cartilage damage, which is the
hallmark of osteoarthritis. You’re also more at risk for OA if you have other forms of
arthritis, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
I had my knees x-rayed on Thursday and amazingly Dr. D called me that afternoon at 5:30 PM to tell me the x-rays revealed I have degenerative Osteoarthritis in both knees with my left knee joint severely affected. My knee pad has shrunk severely and the bones on the outward left side of my knee are rubbing together and have done so for long enough to cause severe damage to the bones.
The GP said I would need a knee replacement but first I had to go through physio and see what they recommended and I needed to lose as much weight as possible before any surgery could be done.
I am a big proponent of personal responsibility. So, onward and upward as they say. I will fast two days a week, by having fresh made carrot-apple juice twice a day, and eating Ozlem's delicious vegetarian soup (recipe here
) for lunch and dinner.
Since we had all these medical appointments to attend to in Warwick, we stayed moored up near Hatton Station on the North Grand Union for five days. We had the pleasure of Tom and Jan's company as NB Waiouru
came up the Hatton flight and moored behind us for a few days. Afternoon tea and conversation gave us a great chance to get to know one another. It was a joy to sit and converse face-to-face. They are lovely folk and we learned a ton from Tom about the latest computer gadgets. Note to Les: time to upgrade a couple of things!!
We moved up Thursday afternoon to pick up a Tesco order at Station bridge and then cruised up for water at Tom 'O' the Woods and on to Kingswood Junction where the Grand Union intersects the Stratford Canal. The sky was a bright blue, the leaves turning slowly to tapestry colors of gold and red. We were on new water for me. As we cruised along the cutting and embankment between Shrewley Tunnel and Turner's Green, we passed by a tree farm. The embankment was so high we only saw the very tops of large, tall Blue Spruce. For those who have never been on a canal before, let me explain these geographic terms.
A cutting is a deep trench dug through a hill into which the canal bed is laid, lowering it down. I imagine the dirt dug out of the trench is piled up on the top. An embankment is a place where the dirt is piled up high to build up a stretch of land into which the canal bed is laid, lifting it up. Both forms allow a canal to pass through an area without the need for building locks to lift or lower the canal; it also means the canal need not meander like a river in wide arcs and turns as it was dug around low or high spots in the landscape, essentially going around them to keep the building of locks to a minimum.
|Inside Shrewley Tunnel.|
|Cruising along the embankment. See how high up we are? Embankments offer great views across the countryside. |
|Here we are entering a cutting. Note the trees growing up the sloping sides.|
|As we come out of the cutting and cruise toward an embankment, I looked back at the narrowed cut we just came through. |
|The tunnel through the bridge hole!|
|Just past the hedge one can see the tops of very tall, large spruce trees growing down the other side of the embankment, on a tree farm.|
|A fall tapestry hedge.|
|Someone's cat is perched in an excellent spot for mouse hunting.|
|Approaching the permanent offside moorings at Tom O the Woods. We discovered a water point here on the towpath side which doesn't appear in our fifteen year old Nicholson's Guide Books. According to a local boater it was installed three years ago. Never pass up a water point! We top up our tank before moving on. |
As we cruised along enjoying the brilliance of the day and each other's company I began to think about Les' latest scan results and the loss of family and friends from cancer this past year.
My brother-in-law died a year ago tomorrow of liver cancer caused by over exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at work. He waited patiently for a liver transplant but by the time one became available, the cancer had spread too far. He was young and full of spirit--only in his early 60's. Nick used to hold all phone callers hostage by telling a joke and then waiting for you to tell one back. Whenever he wanted to learn something new he undertook to gather as much information as possible and then practiced, practiced, practiced until he mastered the skill he sought to own. He too had dimples one could drown in and laughter so contagious one could have a hilarious meltdown just watching him, as his belly heaved with mirth, his dark brown eyes crinkled up in the corners, cheeks roundly lifted underneath. Nick always laughed from his belly and you couldn't help but join in.
On Summer Solstice a dear friend and mentor died of advanced colon cancer at the age of fifty eight. We'd known each other for twenty five years. In that time he had gone from one strength to the next, gaining national recognition as an educator and serving as president of a top ranked research university. His career made him wealthy and well known and his character made him highly respected and well loved. E. could afford the very best in medical care, and he received it, undergoing surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. For six months he recovered slowly, hopeful he had beat the monster inside.
The cancer returned with a flourish, growing faster than before and spreading everywhere. Sadly this is an all too common outcome of chemotherapy. Oncologists tell patients it will kill all the cancerous cells but cancer is a tricky disease. It evolves, developing immunity to the poison of chemotherapy, while healthy cells die of shock and the immune system breathes its last. Oncologists use cytotoxic therapy to take a patient to death's door, leaving them there in the hope they will somehow recover. The newly evolved malignant cells' immunity to chemo allow even faster growth, spreading with a vengeance that is breathtaking in its pace. As cancer colonized his liver, blood, bone and brain, he pushed to establish a new school of medicine for the university. It was his last act. His final days were spent in hospital, with every need attended to by someone while his wife watched day by day, hour by hour, as this stinking disease devoured her husband and my friend.
Today I've received word that another boater--the lovely, funny, kindhearted Mo of NB Balmaha--died last night after a lengthy battle of his own with cancer. Their deaths have left a huge wound in their communities, their families, and my heart.
When Les was told, after undergoing five days of radiotherapy followed by what we were told was a successful surgery, that he needed six months of chemotherapy as a follow up despite there being only a 12-15% chance of living another five years with a highly recommended regimen of cytotoxic agent Capcitibane/5 FU, which oncologists jokingly refer to as "Five Feet Under," he refused to have chemo and has refused it every time he returns for scan results.
We are using a variety of different alternative methods to fight our battle, as the doctors reveal a bit more information with each assault. We know now that colon cancer is considered one of the metastatic cancers, and it nearly always spreads from the colon to the liver, and from there to the lungs, heart, and brain. If only they had been completely honest with us from the beginning, but medical professionals assume they are the only ones with any answers to the questions concerning cancer. They assume patients can do nothing but sit at home on their hands and fret until a surgeon or oncologist takes control of the situation. There are alternative treatments we could have tried earlier on with a greater chance of stopping cancer from spreading to Les' liver and lungs if we had been told everything earlier rather than after his liver surgery or with each new scan.
Nevertheless something we are doing is slowing cancer's growth inside him. We take heart in that small miracle, and we are thankful he feels good in himself. He has energy enough for both of us, a hearty appetite, a zest for life, and he is enjoying every day. We believe Les' body with its functional immune system is responding to the change in our diet, the supplements, and alternative treatments we are trying. When Les was told cancer had colonized his liver, The medical team said the scan indicated a minimum of 30% of his liver would have to be removed--probably more. I started him immediately on large doses of Milk Thistle which assists the liver in healing and regeneration. He took it for a month. To his surgical team's amazement, only 10% of his liver had to be removed and then only the actual malignant lesions and a small margin of healthy tissue.
|I fell in love with those dimples!!|
Lest you labor under the assumption that we think we have all the answers, I tell you we feel like blind beggars groping in the dark. We try something and see what the next scan brings. If we see no improvement we try something else. All my research indicates that when relying on alternative treatments for cancer one has a better chance of survival by combining at least three treatments. But which three? Which three will work for us? That is the puzzle, isn't it?
I still continue my research, pounding away at the keyboard late at night delving into cell biology, grasping tumor morphology: DNA synthesizing for preparation of mitosis that allows accelerated cell growth, taking notes, asking questions, searching for answers, reading literature reviews, abstracts and medical research reports, downloading book after book onto my Kindle regarding the biology of cancer, reviews of alternative treatments, and so on. I immerse myself in looking at different alternative modalities and surfing cancer patient forums which are a wealth of real time information about treatments experienced by real patients who don't sugar coat the side effects or hide behind pharmaceutical company literature and non-profits that have jumped onto the cancer industry bankroll, to "be there for you through your disease."
Most folks over here have see the Cancer Research adverts on TV which say " Fifty percent of all cancer patients survive; but we know that isn't good enough..." for those who are a part of that fifty percent we are hysterically happy for you, your family, and your community. And you fifty percenters who survive have all the mainstream media, medicine, and politics supporting you. But what about the other fifty percent? The other HALF of cancer patients who die despite following all the protocols, the new drug trials, etc. etc. Who speaks for them? Who speaks for those of us with cancer who don't believe fifty percent survival to five years is actually a cure, or something in which we can trust with our lives? I am sure I don't know. In this blog I am only speaking for me and Les.
Lest you think I never tire, I will tell you the bitter truth: there are times when I take a shower and cry while the water runs so Les doesn't hear me. There are mornings when I have to force myself to get up and put my feet on the floor, to walk to the galley and begin "The regimen" of hot water with fresh squeezed lemon juice first, which we drink while I count out twenty four of the thirty pills Les will take each day, knowing he will not remember to take them if I don't remind him throughout each interval of every single day.
I plan our menus with care to make the most nutritious, healing meals filled with cancer fighting agents resveratrol, ellagic acids, buteryl acids, short chain fatty acids, and so on to stop or slow angiogenesis, cell division and mitosis of cancer cells inside my husband. I grow weary of brewing herbal decoctions every week, decanting them into jars taking up precious real estate in our tiny fridge, and remembering to mix them: 30 ML of medicinal herbal decoction with 60 ML of water every night before bed; mixing blackberry, raspberry or blueberry smoothies for lunch with additions of Ultra B Complex. IP-6, Whey powder, and Modified Citrus Complex.
Understand, I am not complaining about the doing of these things for Les--he is my lover, my best friend, and the best of my Best Beloveds. I feel entirely grateful he is still here to laugh with me and pull me into his arms each night. It is the disease that makes me weary, sad, tired and angry; my enemy, my foe--and the modern cancer industry which grows richer each month while it consumes the lives of those I love and feeds on our misery. I have spent almost a decade now fighting cancer; for myself first and now for Les. Cancer is relentless in its growth and colonization of new territory and so I must be just as relentless. I cannot afford a day off here, a night out there; a vacation from this war is not an option.