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Two-Gun Chemo Kid
Saturday, 18 March, 2023 Filed in: TGIF
ON TUESDAY NEXT, if all continues going well, I will restart my final four cycles of chemotherapy as a hedge against the possible return of cancer. My body will be pumped full of toxic chemicals that will kill everything they touch.
Some guys just know how to have fun.
I’d say, “Eat your hearts out” but it would be too close to home, since my cancer was oesophageal. (A knowledge of Gray’s Anatomy, the med school text, not the TV show, might be required to catch that joke.)
Now I want to believe I’ve been cancer free since my surgery on 10 December last. My surgeons certainly scoff at the idea that they may have sewn me back up with any trace of the big C left in the sleeping BC. They are professional scalpel-slingers and they went into theatre to get the job done – and they in fact put down a work like a Trini gangster with an AK-47 in a home invasion. Or a gang of them: after telling me the other day he’d consult with the other eight doctors involved in my care, my oncologist said, “You know, an eye surgeon is like Zorro: one man flashing a single blade. With cancer, it’s more like one guy with the M-60, another one with the walkie-talkie, a couple with M-16s… We’re more like a Vietnam movie squad.”
And, with luck, I’m going into the last couple of reels of this particular film franchise, which has already had one sequel too many for me.
My original treatment outline called for four cycles of pre-surgery chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumour, and another four cycles of post-surgery chemo.
The first cycles all rolled out without a bump between the end of September and the start of November: two days in hospital, a strong blast of PLOT for 24 consecutive hours, followed by a two-week rest before the next cycle. That first round went so well, I actually put weight on during chemo.
My surgery was less smooth.
An envisaged five to six hours became a nine-hour slog; the whole surgical team had to have been exhausted. (And I know they weren’t padding their parts because, while I was under the knife, we all missed England v France in the World Cup semi-final.) I don’t think I could pay unflinching attention to back-to-back screenings of The Godfather I and II and Apocalypse Now Redux, three of my favourite films, which would run to the same nine hours. My surgeons fought for three hours to stem the blood flood after the rupture of a major vessel before they could even start my operation, something I shall never begin to understand but never stop being grateful for; I’m shuffling around on my increasingly stronger legs today because they stood firm in my corner last December.
Post-surgery complications prevented my being fed except by stomach feeding tube for six weeks. I dropped weight like a poor relative drops hints about money, plummeting from 175lbs in December to 142 in January and under-129 in February. My oncologist banned me from restarting chemo on 24 January as planned because I might not have survived it.
On Tuesday, I’ll be given 75 per cent of the chemo blast I got in my last cycle, with solid oncological arithmetic underpinning it: if I am able to withstand chemo at three-quarter strength, I can have the remaining three cycles at full strength and, at the end, will have had 94 per cent of my planned chemotherapy; if I were given the full blast next week and didn’t handle it well, the chemo might have to be reduced even further; or stopped.
Show me a cancer survivor who chose not to have post-surgery chemo to avoid pain and/or discomfort and I’ll show you metastasis lurking; if you understand the odds, you roll the post-surgery chemo dice. As I will roll mine next Tuesday.
Better to be the Two-Gun than the Rawhide Kid at high noon.
I’m due a little luck, and not because I’ve had such severe post-surgery complications for so long.
Like half the adult population of Trinidad and Tobago, I bought a lotto ticket for Wednesday’s $18.5m draw.
And didn’t win.
Like half the population.
So cross your fingers for me and hope, by the next cycle of chemo, I’m back to 100 per cent.
BC Pires is dropping anti-nausea medication like a Hollywood star drops anti-depressants