As some of you may remember, I had a couple of operations earlier this year to remove what turned out to be the primary site of my cancer from the floor of my mouth. (For those just catching up, I have Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC), which in my case originated in a salivary gland.)
However, the scans done around the same time revealed that I had a number of lung metastases. A metastasis is a secondary cancer caused when the primary sheds cells which implant themselves in other parts of the body; this is a characteristic of most malignant cancers. Further scans done in October confirmed this; I have five in the left lung and two in the right so far visible. There may well be more which are too small to show up on the scan.
I’d been hoping to share these images with you before now, but the files on the CD-ROM I have are in some strange medical interchange format that even imagemagick doesn’t understand (although it claims to). So I had to fire up the proprietary viewer on a Windows machine and take a screenshot.
This is a cross-sectional CT picture of my lungs, taken at the beginning of October this year (click the image for a larger version). The lungs are the black areas – they normally don’t contain much that shows up on a CT scan. This cross-section is from near the top; the bony areas (white) are the top of my ribcage, my spine and my shoulder blades. My left lung is on the right of the picture, and the lump in the bottom left corner is the largest and most clearly defined of the seven metastases. It’s about 1cm across.
A combined PET-CT scan showed no discernible metabolic activity, so they aren’t growing very fast. However, one is getting close to a major blood vessel, so reasonably swift removal is recommended. So, I am having two back-to-back operations – one for each lung – probably just after Easter 2006. Each one will take about a month, including recovery time.
How am I feeling? Well, I was in the pub on Wednesday night with a bunch of Ruby and Perl geeks. One chap (whose name I forget, and who may not want it publicised anyway!) was talking about how he thought for a while he had testicular cancer, and paid £200 to go for a private scan, rather than wait two weeks to get it free on the National Health Service, because he was so stressed about the possibility. In the end, it turned out to be a benign cyst. I then mentioned that I had cancer with lung metastases, and was probably having two operations this year. He said “But they can’t be malignant, right? Otherwise you would be worried. And you don’t look worried.” I said “The creator of the universe is looking after me personally. What possible reason do I have to worry?”