Thursday, 8 December 2011

Results now in...

When the doctors told Roy Castle he had 12 months to live, he said he'd do it in six because he was a lump-pumpin', cell-poppin', metastasisin' Record Breaker - yeah!

Ok, that's alienated any readers who didn't grow up watching UK children's TV in the 70s and 80s, not to mention those with taste and discretion.

But it looks like I've got a bit of record breaking to do myself, as it turns out.

The lumpy bit they took out of my head last week is called a glioblastoma. Better out than in, rather like Simon Cowell and a life-raft (thanks to Jo Brand on QI for that one), but not a good thing to have had in my skull in the first place.

A glioblastoma is a type of brain tumour, and it's not a nice one. While the object itself is gone -  excised, dissected and centrifuged, or whatever it is they do to determine what a blob of ronin cells actually comprises -  the mismatched wiring along my double-helix that triggered it remains, and is quite likely to try to grow a new one.

This is not curable. But it is controllable with chemo and radiation, both of which I will shortly be receiving in abundance. I'll know a bit more about that when I go in for my first appointment at Glasgow's reputedly excellent Beatson Institute on Monday, but it looks like it'll involve a five-day-a-week regime of both for six weeks, beginning in the New Year. The treatment seems relatively kind, with the main side-effect of the orally-administered chemo being mere nausea, controllable by another drug, and the side-effects of the radiotherapy just temporary tiredness and a patch of baldness where the gamma-rays go in – and, let's face it, I'm getting to that age anyway.

Prognosis is wide and varied. An average life expectancy for this kind of tumour is about a year, but people have lived for ten years or more. And averages are meaningless here, since they must include the elderly, the infirm, people with bigger, nastier and inoperable tumours or ones in places inaccessible to radiation. I am, it seems, on a good base-line: I am young, strong, apparently very good at recovering quickly from major surgery; my tumour was easily accessible and is out, so any treatment is to prevent or control return, rather than to try to deal with something that remains lurking; I feel healthy and well, and I will remain positive because depression is debilitating, so I'm not going to do that.

So while I know what it is that is likely to kill me, I don't know when. And since the timings involved and the relevance of the data on which they are based all seem so imprecise, I'm taking the ten years as an absolute bare minimum and, in fact, plan to do a great deal better than that.

This is not faith or mindless optimism, but a rational interpretation of the facts and information I have available. This type of tumour does not spread, not even to other parts of the brain, but should simply try to regrow where it was. With the gold-star treatment I am down to receive, which is as good as any available on any system anywhere in the world, followed by constant monitoring and a regime of discover-and-zap as appropriate, combined with my own natural resilience, I see no particular reason not to save my final breath for cursing the driver who eventually knocks me down as I stagger out of the pub somewhere around my 87th birthday. Ideally, later.

Break a few records, in fact.

1 comment:

  1. Right-oh, deep breaths. Tough times ahead (awful,unintended pun, I realise, but I'll leave it there as I think you might like it). Good luck. Isla