Posted by: cg00n | June 3, 2012

You Only Die Once

There has been another death in my online family:  Doug Gosling died a few days back.  His blogs (Talking About Cancer and Dying Digitally) have been incredibly valuable to me.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that I think of him as a role model.  Thanks to his writing I have a much better feeling for how cancer might play out, the sort of accommodations I might have to make, the kind of care I might need.  Many of the big, scary unknowns are now better known and and much smaller than they used to be thanks to people like Doug who are willing to share their experiences in such a visceral way.

Another inspirational figure is one I mentioned a couple of postings ago:  Dr. David Servan-Schreiber.  He wrote the book Anticancer and succeeded in living well with his own brain cancer for almost 20 years.  Last year he finally succumbed, a process he managed to document in his book Not the Last Goodbye.  Like Doug Gosling’s blogs, it is a very personal account of his thoughts, feelings, trials, and tribulations between the time of his last major relapse and his death.  It helps to demystify the whole process while also encouraging the rest of us to take positive steps to help ourselves, something I am slowly learning.  One anecdote from Anticancer that I forgot to mention in my previous posting underscores the vital role played by the immune system in fighting cancer.

At a hospital where Dr. Servan-Schreiber was a staff member, the recipient of a kidney transplant developed melanoma with no detectable primary tumour site.  All attempts to save the patient ultimately failed.  Some months later a second kidney transplant recipient also developed melanoma.  This was one almighty coincidence so the doctors did a little investigating.  They discovered that both kidneys were from a single donor who had been diagnosed with melanoma many years before but had been pronounced cured after apparently successful treatment.  She had been in good health for some time before being killed in a car accident.  In light of the two cases of melanoma it would appear that the donor’s immune system was keeping ahead of the cancer.  Of course, the transplant recipients were taking a ton of immuno-suppressant drugs which presumably allowed the melanoma to gain the upper hand.  The second patient survived after being given immune system boosters and rejecting the kidney.  Interesting, isn’t it?  The take-home lesson from all this, as far as I am concerned, is that it is possible to help oneself in a pragmatic, scientific way without resorting to magic or  quackery.  That’s important.

In the meantime, for me at least, life goes on.  Tomorrow I get PET scanned again, so today I have to avoid exerting myself – something I’m quite good at.  There is no reason to suspect that the cancer has spread but Dr. G  wants to be sure before we try the IL-2 injections.  Although I still have no firm date for the start of this treatment I have heard that the drug is now available so I am expecting an appointment RSN.  Dr. M and his assistants carved out the three lumps present at the time of my previous posting.  All were positive for melanoma (no big surprise but a little disappointing) and Dr. O will take the stitches out in a couple of days.  I looked into getting tissue samples sent to Dr. Ohashi but was unable to make suitable arrangements.  According to her:

Basically if there is no one on your end that can coordinate a TON of paperwork as well as logistics for how to handle the sample, then its hard to know how to proceed.

I’ll be seeing Dr. D later this week but the PET results won’t be in that quickly and I doubt if we’ll have a lot of new stuff to talk about so I may bring this up.  It may be simpler to go to Toronto for the next lumpectomy but I suspect that, too, is easier said than done.  Just to complete the rounds, as it were, I talked to Dr. C last week.  She seems pleased that my State Of Mind is improving and feels safe enough to take a summer vacation before we meet again.  That’s a good sign, I think.

As you can tell I’m getting very good value for my tax dollars out of the Canadian health care system.  The mere thought of having to cope with all this in the U.S.A is almost enough to bring on an anxiety attack resulting in a complete immune system collapse and death within weeks.  If you live in a country with a good social safety net, be grateful.  Be VERY grateful.  At times like this you will find it is worth every penny.

News Roundup

First, please spare a thought for my friend Mr. R.J of Calgary and his brother who was diagnosed recently with multiple myeloma.  May there be lots of life and happiness yet for both of them.

Sifting the crud of the internet reveals:

I’ll leave you with this final observation on progress in medical science.  Until next time….



  1. I just referred a newly dx melanoma patient to your blog … a friend of a friend on FB and I don’t even have a name. I also suggested Dandelion Tea – who knows it may be a soon-to-be-discovered medical breakthrough! Yesterday I looked for it at Safeway but it wasn’t in the tea section. I will look in a healthy food store 😉
    I suggest the best way to get tissue out here is to fly out with a lump and have it removed by the person who could use the sample. Besides we’d all like to see you. You could have one of those relaxing backyard get together’s you used to have in Calgary when A was little. BYOB, BYOL (lawnchair) and lets have a chat. My backyard would be perfect and I’d add BYOM (for the BBQ). But I get ahead of myself as I only just suggested you fly out with your still attached, live tissue samples. I’m sure all of your friends would be delighted to see you.

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