Sunday, February 9, 2014

Four years in -- things still looking good

I spent a fair amount of time at Portland Providence last month.  January is when I received my cancer diagnosis, so that's when I have my annual CT/MRI scans.  And, since it was three years since my last colonoscopy, I was due for my Year 4 colonoscopy (3rd since diagnosis, 2nd since treatment).  So, I was busy with scans and a scope.  (For those who looking to care compare surveillance notes, under the protocol that my surgeon follows, he does a colonoscopy one year after diagnosis, and if that's clean he doesn't do another colonoscopy for another three years.)
Side note on colonoscopy logistics.  The prep was different this time -- they had me use Suprep -- no Miralax, no Gatorade.  It was expensive (~$90) and my insurance didn't cover it, for whatever reason, but my surgeon's office floated me a sample.  Anyways, this stuff, just like all of the other colon cleansers I've used before, did its job just fine.  (They all taste nasty after a few gulps, no matter what kind of artificial flavoring they throw in.  No getting around that.)  My only beef was the timing -- you have to drink one liter of Suprep mixture 12 hours before the procedure, which meant 6:30P, and another liter of the stuff six hours later.  Yes, that meant getting up at 2:30AM to finish the prep.  And since I was already up for a few hours to deal with the first liter, not much sleep was had.  But, whatever.  I'll drink their liquids and follow their instructions.  I want what's left of my colon to be clean whenever someone needs to go in there to take a look.  And, not getting a full night's sleep doesn't mean much.  You get a nice nap at the surgeon's office anyways and then you get to spend the rest of the day sleeping off the anesthesia.  No work.  No email.  No driving heavy machinery.
The results were of the scope and scans were good -- "no evidence of disease."  That's a nice lawyerly phrase -- no evidence of disease.  It gives the doctors a nice out because if cancer does come back, say, next month, and I say "What the hell -- I thought I was clean?!?"  they can say, "Well, we didn't find any evidence of it back in January.  That doesn't mean that you actually didn't have it.  We either missed it or it was too small to see."  So, while it's great news (sure as hell beats "We found something .... "), it doesn't allow me to relax entirely.   My mind is pretty much occupied with day-to-day concerns, but still, the part of my brain that is responsible for worrying still casts a wary eye on cancer now and then.

So, I'm pretty happy with being even further down the road to recover and oh-so-close to the magic five year mark.  I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'm always surprised by how relieved I am once I get the "no evidence" news.  Damn scanxiety builds up without me even knowing it.  I always think I'm cool and collected about things as I'm getting the scans and then when I get the news, a big weight that I never knew was there is always lifted. 

Practically, what does this mean?  Well, for one, it means fewer colonoscopies.  Now, it's one every five years (twice as often as the recommended screening of once-every-ten years after 50).  So, when I'm 49, one year before the recommended colonoscopy screening age of 50, I'll have had FIVE colonoscopies.  As far as blood tests, it's now once every six months instead of once every three.  And as far as scans, I have one more set of scans next January, and then I'm DONE with scans.  And blood tests, too, I think.

I'm a little nervous about the idea of living without the safety net of regular blood tests and CT/MRI scans.  I like being watched closely.  If cancer comes back, I want it to be caught immediately.  But, the statistics say that it's not needed.  If I make it clean to five years with no recurrence, that odds are something like 98% that the cancer I had will not return.  Something is going to kill me eventually, that's for sure, and if may even be cancer, but it won't be the ass cancer I had in 2010.  Plus, not getting any more CT scans will be good.  Each one is radiation equivalent of something like 5,000 chest x-rays.  Surprised I already don't glow.


Some cool happenings with The Colon Club.  They've invited me to help out with the 2015 Colondar photo shoot, and they're planning a Colondar model reunion in Breckenridge in October.  For the photo shoot, they've asked me to help with some writing.  There'll be more writing in the 2015 Colondar than in years past.  It's in Nashville, not upstate New York, and I'm I'm honored to have been invited and can't wait to meet the 2015 crop of models and watch them bond.  I'm excited about the reunion since I missed the one they held last fall in Park City, Utah while I was traveling in Scotland. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice site! Just wanted to comment that if you have a Costco membership you can try getting the prep there for a nice discount.