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.