For most of us cancer is something other people get – and that we hope doesn’t affect us. However, the incidence increases with age, to around1% of the population.
For anyone affected it is a worrying time and most of us have no idea of what will happen about treatment and how to cope with whatever occurs.
As a fit and healthy 84 year-old, without any real warning, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer that had spread outside the immediate stomach area.
Three years earlier, my dear wife of almost 50 years died from cancer of the peritoneum. We handled that together at our home, helped by her medical advisors and by the Gold Coast Private Hospital – and lovingly supported by our children and friends. As a result, I had some experience of how her cancer evolved.
However, like most cancers, my experience was unique - a voyage into the unkown.
I decided to set out something of how it was diagnosed and progressed, in the hope that it might help others who are unfortunate and become affected.
If you are interested, please let me know and I will post what I have written about my experience
The good news is that here in Australia, diagnosis, treatment and care are simply outstanding. Nine months into a 12 month prognosis, I have nothing but praise for the care and attention I receive. I face my future with confidence and contentment.
I'm sorry to hear about your wife @BrianF.
It sounds like you are doing well. I am very pleased to read this.
I think that we would all love to read what you have written about your experience.
Like you said, everybody's experience is different and I am certain that many people will get a lot out of reading about your experience!
I hope you continue to do well and welcome.
Thank for you responding and for your words of encouragement.
I might post inspections and see if there is any continuing interest.
Here is the first - I call it "SAN CHOY BAU" for reasons that will become obvious.
I'd value and appreciate your comments.
San Choy Bau
In my mind, eating alone and cooking for one are in the same category – you do them out of habit or out of necessity – not because of the social aspects of enjoying a meal.
So that’s how I came to cook San Choy Bau.
I was bored with the meals I had been eating and decided I needed to branch out and cook something a little different.
So off I went and bought some lettuce, mince and a kit that included most of the herbs and spices needed to make San Choy Bau. Additionally, it needed oyster sauce to be added and I knew I had a bottle at home.
Everything I’d bought was fresh and I set to work to get it prepared.
Now while I am reasonably circumspect about use-by dates on products, I do have some blind spots. One of them is that while I keep sauces in the fridge, I keep condiments like vinegars and oils in a cupboard – and that’s where the oyster sauce was. Like most people, oyster sauce is not an everyday item and if I’d given it a moment’s thought, I would have realised that it was way out-of-date – a fact that I totally overlooked – and that it should have been kept in the fridge.
The recipe only required one teaspoonful of the oyster sauce – so in it went.
I finished cooking the dish and set it aside to rest and to eat in the lettuce leaves later in the evening.
When it came time to eat at around 8 o’clock, I tried it and had a lettuce leaf full. By that time I’d realised that the oyster sauce would have been well-past its use-by date. I wondered about the taste, so I didn’t eat any more and threw out the rest of the mince.
Bed as usual at about 9:30pm – and off to sleep.
Come 2:30am or so and I woke with a terrible feeling that I was about to throw-up.
I managed to get to the bathroom and hang over the wash basin.
In retrospect, that wasn’t a good decision.
I vomited violently, so much so that I blacked out and fell on the tiled bathroom floor, damaging the skin on my elbow, on my knee and cracking my head on the tiled floor.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours but was only a brief minute or two, I did get up – only to vomit violently again.
After that, I dragged myself to bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Next day, I called my daughter, who lives close to my place and she came round and patched me up.
In the meantime, I had tidied the bathroom.
Generally, I felt OK – none the worse for my terrible experience overnight.
Fast forward to three days later. I had been feeling OK – no after-effects of the oyster sauce and the skin abrasions were healing well.
About 3:00am, I woke up feeling terrible and ready to throw-up.
I made it to the bathroom – this time to the toilet bowl on my knees - and vomited. To my alarm, it was totally liquid and bright crimson – blood!
Again, I got back to bed and slept until morning. I called may daughter and she got me to Gold Coast Private Hospital, where I checked in to Emergency. Within minutes, a doctor came to attend to me and subsequently arranged for me to see a Gastroenterologist, Dr OE. The next day, I had a gastroscopy (camera down the throat) and waited for the results.
It turned out that my first bout of vomiting had been sufficiently violent that I had damaged the oesophagus, causing it to bleed. Dr OE said that it would heal quite quickly but that I would need to have another gastroscopy to check that after about a month.
She said also that she had noticed a small ulcer in my stomach but because it was friable, she had not taken a biopsy sample and would do that when the gastroscopy was repeated.
I was discharged later that day and resumed what was, up to then, my normal routine.
My gastroenterologist, Dr O, took a short holiday and my second gastroscopy was delayed for a couple of weeks, beyond the four weeks originally envisaged.
It’s a straightforward procedure and I was discharged later the same day.
Days later, Dr OE contacted me and said that the biopsy had detected cancerous cells and she arranged for me to see Dr LR, a gastro surgeon, who quickly arranged a laparoscopy, again at Gold Coast Private Hospital.
The results were quite devastating – extensive stomach cancer, with evidence that it had spread beyond the stomach into the peritoneum.
Dr LR explained that the usual treatment would be to remove the stomach – a risky operation for someone my age but do-able, given my general level of good health. However, it wasn’t practical in my case because the cells had spread and would continue to grow outside the stomach.
Dr LR arranged for me to speak with Dr KH, an oncologist, who told me about options to consider.
Firstly, intravenous chemotherapy was not an option because it would be too debilitating.
Chemotherapy by tablet form was really the only option and Dr KH advised that there was a 30% chance it might extend my life span by a few months – but with some risk of adverse side effects.
Left untreated, the prognosis was for 12 months.
My eldest son and my daughter both accompanied me to see the oncologist and my own personal GP, Dr o.
After speaking with Drs KH, LR and DO, I concluded that I would not embark on any treatment, encouraged by Dr Oo and without any contrary view from either of the other doctors.
To be direct – there is no cure and any treatment might add some weeks or perhaps months, to a relatively short prognosis, with a significant possibility of adverse effects.
I chose quality of life over a possible brief extension to the prognosis.
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