Friday, February 10, 2012

Things You Didn’t Know About Getting Cancer

The Tests Results Are Wrong
There are lots of things that can spot a potential cancer; Xrays, CT scans, endoscopes, mammograms, bend overs, ball-handling in the shower and my personal favourite; when the wife allows you to do a manual breast exam. However, these identify only POTENTIAL tumours. From there you usually have to go through one or two more doctors and hopefully one refers you to a lab to get a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a piece of the potential tumour where it is then looked at by a trained professional who identifies what kind of cancer you have. Sound simple, right?

Nope. If you are lucky, the biopsy will fail because of contamination or insufficient samples and they schedule for another one, a few weeks to a month later. If you’re unlucky, they accidentally pick out some healthy tissue instead and tell you that the extra arm growing out of your liver is just a harmless fat deposit.

Not to mention that cancer is an incredibly complex thing, and the pathologists who look into those microscopes are only human. You get one coming in all cranky because his wife is sex-txting the pool-boy and his kid just announced his intention to drop out of pre-law and travel the world following Lady Gaga’s world tour, you could be royally screwed.

Doctors Will Lie to You
Doctors do like to look stupid. They spend a lot of time and money to get through med school to raise themselves above the masses and leave mundane forms of address like Mr. and Ms. behind them. They are DOCTORS damn it!

Actually, chances are they ARE smarter than you, at least about mediciney stuff, but as TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy will tell you, they still have a lot to learn about the complex desires of the human heart.

So partially, they lie to you because you’re stupid. It is no good telling you exactly what has gone wrong in your body, because you likely won’t understand it. So they give you the Coles Notes of the Coles Notes version, which means they are gonna gloss over and avoid trickier subjects unless they have to, like exactly how they are going to take a look at that giant polyp up your behind that looks suspiciously on the Xray like a My Little Pony.

They might also lie to you because they can be lazy pricks. I was initially referred to a surgeon who flat out lied to me and said the lab had not sent over the results of my biopsy. I knew this was a lie because the doctor in the ER where I’d spent the night before was able to see the results. The surgeon had glanced at the report, judged it to be non-surgical and tossed it into some file where it waited for FIVE WEEKS to be sent to an oncologist where it belonged and I could finally start on proper treatment. Five weeks can be a lifetime for some cancer patients.

Nor can I even call him on his dickishness because once the chemo is over guess what… the dick doctor will be in charge of my case again.

They Don’t Know What is Going On
As I said, caner isn’t just one thing, it is more like a catch all phrase that describes thousands of different conditions. Which means that if your cancer isn’t obvious, the oncologist have a lot of sorting to do to figure out what is going on.

I’m currently on my second day of chemo of a five day in-patient cycle, followed by two weeks home rest before coming in for another five days. This will go on for three months before surgery. And you know what, they still don’t really know what I have. I’ve been cleared of lymphoma and testicular cancer, but my bloodwork is still going haywire and I have a seven inch Kuato sitting inside my chest (hence the needed surgery), but Kuato wouldn’t cause the blood test results and is usually an indicator of something else. So, what is it?

Too bad they are cancelling House.

It Will Be Expensive
I am a full time employee whose salary will be cut by almost 50% while I’m off on extended sick time, plus the drug costs down the road. The wife is a student working part time with another year to go.

Yeah, this is going to suck.

Patience is a Virtue, and a Curse
We’ve all seen the movie or the TV show where a character is diagnosed with cancer in a few days after first noticing a lump… bullshit. It can take months for you to go from your GP, to a specialist and finally to an oncologist. Shiva help you if your file gets to the wrong sort of specialist along the way, because that will eat up weeks. Some of it you will just have to suck up, close your eyes and think of England.


Do not grin and beat it. Be a squeaky wheel. Call every week for that test result. Ask to see another doctor or if nothing else, pester your GP until she’s run every test she can and she’s sick of the sight of you.

Once treatment has begun, don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions. Tell your doctors everything and everything then watch them scramble to come up with an answer, (My farts smell like Skittles, is that normal?) Trust me, the embarrassment will fade pretty quickly and soon you’ll be dropping your pants in front of strangers and asking nurses to check your stool samples with grace and aplomb.

I’m sure more things will occur to me as I go, but until then, Good Luck!

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