The details

This Thursday I’m happy to report that I’m feeling fabulous. In fact I’m feeling better than I have for months or maybe even a year. The poke-your-eye-out tiredness has lifted; I’m perky upon waking in the mornings. So maybe the big bad brothers in the smoked-glass limousine – aka Carboplatin and Paclitaxol – have already given my tumours a good dressing-down. Yes! I can just see those tumours shrinking and cowering, lifting their stranglehold on my internal organs.

In my first blog post about my diagnosis I said I couldn’t bear to hear any details about the size or shape of my tumours. The fact that I had them at all, and their approximate positions, was more than enough information. For a long while I even stayed off Dr Google. Fear trumped curiosity for weeks. But all that’s changed. I’m now able to read the radiologist’s report that Dawn read out to Steve while I blocked my ears. I’ve been reading the results of Google searches (“primary peritoneal cancer prognosis”) without having to peer through the fingers covering my eyes. In other words, I’m getting to know the size and shape and capabilities of my disease.

So, here are some of the details I couldn’t even whisper a while ago. The radiologist’s report says this: “Lying between the left lobe of the liver and the stomach and compressing and displacing the stomach there is a complex cyst like lesion which measure about 110mm in greatest diameter. There is partial extension into the inferior aspect of the left lobe of the liver. There appears to be very slight enhancement of the edges.” After the choppy waters of those three sentences, there’s a bit of smooth sailing: “The liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, adrenals and kidneys all otherwise appear normal.” Normal! What a blessed word! But then we plunge back into the storm: “In the right side of the pelvis in the pouch of Douglas there is a mass about 50mm in diameter.” The radiologist goes on to explain how this is squashing things around in my lower abdomen but mercifully adds that there is “no evidence of intra abdominal or pelvic lymphadenopathy.” Okay, back to Google. The Pouch of Douglas is just a bit of a space down there; lymphadenopathy is all about swollen lymph nodes. As for prognosis, there are some scary stories, but there are some inspiring ones, too.

I’ve been reading about the peritoneum itself – what it is and what it does when it’s working properly. I’m learning all the time, but this is how I visualise it: Imagine a plastic shopping bag full of oranges. Tie it off at the top and put that bag inside another shopping bag. The inner bag is wrapped around the abdominal organs (oranges); the outer bag is the abdominal wall. Both bags, together, make up the peritoneum. Another word for the inner bag is the viscera, as in visceral reaction – feeling something right in the guts. The space between the two bags – actually no real space at all – is called a potential space, because most of the time the inner and outer bits of the peritoneum are rubbing right up against each other, moistened by a tiny amount of fluid so you don’t feel it. The peritoneum, quietly doing its stuff in the background while the more charismatic organs hog the limelight, actually holds the whole shebang together.

I want to get to know more about my threatened peritoneum and the organs it holds. I’m going to do some craft. I’m going round to my friend Karen’s place on Saturday to make a start on a peritoneum (crocheted? knitted? made out of sheer fabric?) and a set of organs (maybe made out of felt). I’ve been inspired by the anatomical craft on Etsy, like this crocheted plush spleen.

Now that I feel better and I’ve had time to assimilate the details, my goal is to get my “R Rating” (a term coined by a friend on Facebook) by Spring. R as in Remission! With my friends Carbo and Taxol and some nice sharp surgeons’ knives, not to mention waves of love and support from family and friends, I think I can get there. Oh, and Medicare. I’ll talk about Medicare next time.

8 thoughts on “The details”

  1. Good news that you are feeling a bit better. Put the tumors into such a state of shame with your wonderful craft alternatives so that they will turn up their toes and shrivel away in embarrassment!

  2. What a fantastic thing to do Trace. Make a crocheted bag of guts! You can yarn bomb those tumours out of existence! So glad you’re feeling hearty. Its good to read the actual description of the tumours. They actually sound much less scary now that we know their details and its very encouraging that they don’t seem to have affected very much around them. Looking forward to seeing the artwork! Lou x

  3. Hi, wow what a visual journey. I love the 3D creation exploration … displace the horror holograph of overgrowth internally into an externalised manifestation. Parallels with my decade-old journey … womb gone, I kept finding … and being gifted … symbols of pears in my life. Yup the average womb is about the size of a pear. Even my then husband insisted our then pup be called Krushka without knowing what it meant … pear. Ok hope we see your 3d creation on Facebook.

  4. Hey Trace
    Thanks for explaining the peritoneum. 20 years of nursing and 40000 years of study and now I get it. No one mentioned oranges. After all this you can make a small fortune writing books on A & Physiology. (Seriously).
    So glad you’re feeling well and planning crocheting a stomach, liver etc. I would have expected no less 🙂 Dawn xx

  5. Yup, Helen, Dr Douglas (1675–1742) “extensively explored this region of the female body” (thanks Wikipedia). His name lives on in this unglamorous little bit of nothing at the bottom of the female abdomen.

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