Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

So here's where I anticipate your questions and try to answer them.

Q. How old are you?
A. Just turned 43 - days before the diagnosis. I really wanted something else for my birthday and this tumor didn't come with a gift receipt. Oh well.

Q. Isn't that too young to get colorectal cancer?
Thank you! That's what I've been telling the docs. But noooooo! Just because they went to medical school and did oncology residencies, they think they know more than I do.

Q. Any family history?
A. Lots of heart disease, but no rectal cancer.

Q. What’s the treatment?
A. Roughly it's 6 weeks of chemo and radiation, 3-4 weeks to recover from the radiation, surgery to remove the tumor, then more chemotherapy to make sure none of the cancerous cells escape.

Q. What's the stage?
A. Stage III (T3N1). It's invaded the tissues and has spread to the local lymph nodes.

Q. What's the survival rate?
A. It's hard to say exactly, because the available data are all in aggregate, not stratified by stage and age. The five-year survival rate (post-diagnosis) is 70%. In other words, colorectal cancer patients have a 7 in 10 chance of being alive five years after the diagnosis.

Q. Is that your survival rate?
A. I’m shooting for 100% (n=1). I'm younger than the vast majority of patients, in Stage III, and have a microsatellite instability (genetic anomaly) in the tumor that suggests a better than average response rate to therapy. Also, I'm confident that I'll be around for a while because I'm supposed to die of heart disease, not cancer.

Q. Did you look into any clinical trials?
A. Yeah, but I'm not eligible for the interventional ones in the local area. Many trials, especially the ones at NIH, are for Stage IV patients who have not responded conventional therapy. The oncologists think that this thing will respond to the standard treatment.

Q. Why did you call the blog "The Local Lanes"?
A. "I-270, Exit 1" is my alias on the soccer blogs. The Local Lanes seemed like a good variation on that theme. Besides, I couldn't have my mother tell her friends that her son's blog is called

Finally, in response to a real question:

No, I will not send Twitter updates from surgery.

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