Cancer During A Pandemic

Apr 26, 2020

Strange Times

In my last blog post, I told you about my latest MRI and the fuss I made trying to get it done. Well - the results are in.

When I first spoke to my oncologist, Dr S., to check in, he hadn’t seen my scan, he’d only received the initial scan report. He told me he wanted to compare the actual scans with previous ones to see what the differences were. We were going to have to wait another week. Ross and I have gotten used to waiting for results, for decisions, for treatment to begin. Things don’t seem to happen as quickly as you’d like them to with cancer, but still the juggernaut makes its way forward, slowly, slowly, but still moving onwards.

The next time we spoke to Dr. S., via a Zoom call no less!!, it was obvious things were different. There’s no messing about when he gives out information. He is very softly spoken, which is somewhat comforting, despite him telling me that there are tumours on my T2 & T7 vertebrae. Here’s a picture of a spine, so I can explain where things are, and what’s what.

Spine Source: Spinal Column

There are five different parts to the spinal coloumn: Cervical; Thoracic; Lumbar; Sacral; Coccyx. As it stands, I have stable tumours in C2, L4, S1, as well as the new ones in T2 & T7. Tumours in every part of my spine except the coccyx.

Dr S, plans to treat these new ones with Cyberknife, and the planning session is booked in for the end of April, with the 3 treatment sessions starting shortly after. This will mean I have had Cyberknife on 6 bits of me: L4 vertebrae; hip; shoulder; C2 vertebrae; T2 vertebrae; T7 vertebrae.

Once these Thoracic tumours are treated, I can begin the next part of my treatment.

And this one is a doozy - a hip replacement. This tumour, despite having Chemotherapy, Herceptin, Perjeta and Cyberknife thrown at it, refuses to budge, in fact it’s growing. At first the cancer was contained within the femoral head, but now it’s growing into the femoral neck. And with that, there comes an increased risk of my hip spontaneously breaking. Only last month, this was not the case. Last month, the decision to have the hip replacement would have been mine, decided when I thought the pain was at a level where I couldn’t handle. But as soon as the scan was done, that decision was out of my hands.

I’ve had urgent operations before. When I had my L4 vertebrae removed and reconstructed, it was urgent. If it hadn’t been done, I would have become paralysed from the waist down. Unable to walk, stand, toilet, etc. It doesn’t bear thinking about. The operation was done, I stayed in hospital for a few days, I had physio, and I was sent home. All nicely planned, all nicely done. No drama.

This time, the operation is again urgent. If it doesn’t get done, the hip or femur will snap on it’s own and even given the huge amount of painkillers I’m taking, it will still really, really, hurt. And I don’t want that to happen. The difference this time, is that this time we are in the middle of a pandemic. A global virus which is so contagious, the majority of the country are in lockdown. We have a new vocabulary, “lockdown”, “shielding”, “social-distancing”, “PPE”, “keyworkers”, “coronavirus”, “covid-19”. Where you queue to get into shops, and only shops that sells essentials are allowed open. Our local pub has turned into am Off-Licence and General Store. Hardware stores, hairdressers, beauty salons, barbers, clothes shops, florists, charity shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. have all had to shut.

And yet, despite all this madness, and being 25 years younger than the average for people who have it, I still need to have a hip replacement. It cannot wait until things calm down. It cannot wait until there is a cure for covid-19, or until most of the population are immune, it has to be done sooner rather than later. And that scares me a little. I know that every care will be taken to reduce the risk of my catching covid-19, but it does feel like I’ll be in the belly of the beast.

So, tomorrow, I’ll head down to Mount Vernon Cancer Centre for a planning CT, and get prepped to start the cyberknife sessions, and try not to worry about what is going to happen in the not too distant future.

Keep on, keeping on, right?


P.S. Please check out our Facebook page Big Lump and the Lawley’s for more regular updates.