Friday, February 26, 2010

A Family History

This is not the first time we have battled cancer as a family.

Ten years ago Kevin was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had a radical prostatectomy which was successful in completely removing the cancer, along with his prostate, and no further treatment was required. We both knew the risks from surgery and were prepared for the possibilities of incontinence and impotence. The first healed itself quickly. As for the second: "Dead men don't have erections either " and life is still fulfilling for us both. While he has had the "all clear" for five years now, he still has his PSA checked regularly.

When he was diagnosed, he went on a crusade to persuade all his male friends to have their PSA checked. Even so, one of our friends was diagnosed with prostate cancer which had spread to his bladder. He now also has bone cancer. His operation was successful in removing the prostate cancer, but he is still undergoing chemotherapy for the metastases.

My father developed bowel cancer when he was in his seventies. He had a bowel section and had to wear a colostomy bag for eighteen months, but the cancer was eliminated. He died shortly before his eighty fourth birthday from kidney failure.

One of the things I now regret is that I didn't insist on regular colonoscopies after I turned sixty. The GP had my family history on file, but the suggestion was never made and I didn't want to pursue it.

Kevin is more proactive. He has a colonoscopy every two years. His father, Arthur, also had bowel cancer. By the time it was diagnosed it had spread to his liver and he died within three years in January, 1990. While Arthur had some chemotherapy it was not the organised regimen that is prescribed now, 20 years later. He also had radiation as a last chance therapy, but no treatment succeeded.

I am grateful that treatments for bowel and metastatic liver cancer have progressed so much in the last twenty years that I have a much better chance of a far longer survival than Arthur had. I know my cancers are incurable - I just want to live as long as possible with them doing me as little harm as medical science can provide.

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