I’ve just come back from what has turned out to be my final consultation with the Oncology team at Lincoln County: the 5-year sign-off milestone. It is indeed five years to the day since my last treatment (f**k, where did that time go?).
My nasal passages had a final attempt at forming a barricade to prevent camera ingress; I whispered ‘bye bye’ to the video image whilst admiring the interior architecture of my head; the neck region was thoroughly prodded and massaged, and he pronounced that all is well – I should consider myself ‘cured’ (yay – cue wild crowd scenes).
The Consultant then provided a ‘life’ lecture about the journey I’d been on. Going through my notes, he told me about my very aggressive treatment campaign (no shit Sherlock, really?); the physical and psychological issues (including losing all my facial and body hair over a 6-month period); and how I must now ‘let go’ of the need for re-assurance from the medical team and go live my life. It was a truly surreal and bizarre history lesson…
Given the usual contributory factors of my cancer, and the fact that I didn’t fit the normal profile, he said that I’d been very unlucky in the first instance. At this point, I should certainly stop buying lottery tickets as I’m plainly never going to win. It explains my betting history too.
For those about to embark on this journey, there have been significant recent advances in non-surgical oncological management of head and neck cancer. These developments are likely to continue over the next decade and beyond as the medical profession develop more effective, less toxic treatments. Some of these involve:
- Improved imaging techniques
- Advances in surgical tools, including robotic surgery
- Improved outcomes through new radiotherapy technologies
- Development of effective post-radiotherapy/chemotherapy adjuvant treatments (adjuvants are added to a vaccine to boost the immune response to produce more antibodies and longer-lasting immunity).
This is the good news: what is more disconcerting is that the standard of oncology services provided in some – not all – NHS hospitals has declined due to funding & staffing shortfalls (quickly climbs on soapbox). The treatment I received was of the highest quality, and I would hate to think that others following in my footsteps would not receive the same – or better. Whatever we might think of the NHS, I owe my life to them. I want others after me to feel the same about this wonderful service. If it requires tax rises to make this happen, let it be so (gets off box: I don’t like heights).
Anyway, back to today: I celebrated by treating myself to fish & chips for the first time in six months, then promptly remembered why I don’t eat fish & chips that often…
So, unless something dramatic occurs, that should wrap this blog up nicely, though I’ll keep posting rubbish on the music page. I’ll also continue to contribute to the Macmillan forums. Thank you for reading it, and for all your kind words: it was always heartening to remember that I had a receptive audience.
I wish you all the best of health!
PS: Embracing my bald bonce 🙂
…and sailing off into the sunset.