Is the cancer back? Maybe.

This morning I blogged on the events of the past 24 hours surrounding my dad’s health. He’d been called in to see his consultant urgently – about 2.5 years ago my dad was diagnosed with bile duct cancer (official name cholangiocarcinoma), after years of surgery, chemo, MRSA, abscesses and other such complications, he was given the ‘all clear’ at the end of last year. Think it’s fair to say that yesterday’s phonecall resulted in heightened levels of anxiety for all of us as we tried to balance the best and worse case scenarios.

So dad went to see his consultant this morning and it turns out that its scenario two – the routine scan he had a couple weeks ago was inconclusive. There is a mass of something showing up behind his liver:

  • it could be scar tissue (but it wasn’t there on previous scans so unlikely)
  • it could be a new tumour or the old one regrown (his surgery never got all the tumour so this was always a possibility)
  • it could be a mass of something else linked to an abscess.

While at this stage we don’t know what it is, there is a strong likelihood that it is cancer and his consultants are proceeding as though it was. Next steps is to have a PET Scan which will happen next week, he’ll get the results of that the following week and then a discussion will be held about how to proceed.

The reality of facing the uncertainty of the next few weeks (and yes I know none of us *ever* know what the future holds); the reminder of how difficult things were; the knowledge of how much strain it will put on everyone in our family and our friends who support us leaves me feeling fairly daunted, nervous and generally crappy.

However, there are a few things that I have to acknowledge as much better than the possible worse case scenario I’d imagined:

  • Today Dad wasn’t told that there was nothing more his medical team could do. After his surgery a couple of years ago, when they stopped the chemo, it was made very clear to us that if the cancer came back there was nothing more that could be done. Last December his consultant offered for the first time that if it came back, there might be some action they could take. So at least there is some hope.
  • The PET Scan should give them all a clearer idea of what they are dealing with and what action to take. My dad’s consultant in Derriford has already said that there is the possibility that he could operate again and try to remove it if it is a tumour.
  • The scan didn’t show up tumours in his lungs or chest area caused by secondary cancer.
  • As far as I’m concerned the biggest highlight actually is that the communication between his consultants has improved! It was without doubt one hell of a shock to get a phonecall out the blue yesterday *but* when Dad saw the consultant at Torbay he’d already spoken with the consultant in Plymouth. They’d both seen the scan results and discussed them, the possible treatment options and agreed the next steps. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that was that my mum isn’t left trying to negotiate communications between two different consultants, departments and hospitals. I’m sure there will be hitches and communication breakdowns ahead but most of our difficulties when Dad was ill before were in communication between the two systems – and at least it appears that there has been a massive improvement there.

So the next few weeks will contain yet more waiting, no doubt too much pondering and reminiscing, but at least we are confident that Dad is getting the best possible treatment and we know that his consultants are amongst the best out there; at least they are as far as we’re concerned – they’ve already pulled it off once before. Here’s hoping.

Ray of Hope by Kevin Dooley

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