I've got cancer -- again.
The colorectal cancer I was diagnosed with on June 5, 2007, and that for the past year or so I thought I might have beaten, has shown up again in my latest PET scan Aug. 4.
And this time, like a good reporter, I figure I'll write about my renewed go-round with the disease, since it could well be my last.
In fact, it probably will be my last. I just looked up the survival stats for Stage 4 colorectal cancer, the last stage of the disease, and found only 5 percent of patients diagnosed at that stage in the United States survive the disease for more than five years.
Back in the summer of 2007 (the 40-year anniversary of the "Summer of Love, when I joined the throngs of baby boomers who trekked to San Francisco), Dr. Thomas Kenney, my oncologist, told me I had about a 50 percent chance of surviving the disease for that long, and about a 20 percent chance of being cured. But he also warned there was a high recurrence rate for colorectal cancer, and for that reason he would treat mine aggressively.
I underwent radiation, surgery (actually four surgeries within fourteen months), and six months of intense chemotherapy that deadened the nerves in my hands and feet (neuropathy, which continues today), and was cleared of cancer cells last summer or so. Probably.
They don't tell you much definitively when you are being treated for cancer, the argument being every individual is individual, and no one can predict beyond the average how your body will respond to treatment.
I wanted to write about my treatment this time around because I want the cancer to work for me instead of against me, as it has done so far. The last time around, I considered writing a longer, magazine-style journalistic piece about what it cost to be treated for cancer in Denver. But I never did it.
I admit my own laziness in putting off that attempt, but I also felt like my treatment never really ended while the neuropathy continued and the management of my own re-sectioned bowel continues to give me problems. It's also why I never seriously looked for a public-relations job following the initial diagnosis and surgery since I had left my job at ColoradoBiz magazine in February 2007.
Instead, I took the two years of treatment to decide I wanted to make a business of my own out of my writing: poems, short stories, a novel that has been started, a non-fiction book I'm writing for Denver oil man Tim Marquez, and perhaps some specialized small-business media consulting I would do if I could find the work. And this blog.
And now the cancer has come back, threatening to cut short those efforts -- but not really, at least for as long as I can continue them. So I'll continue to write about small businesses here. About politics, and anything else that comes to mind. I'll keep writing poems to post on my website, http://www.robertschwabpoet.com/, and I'll keep writing about literature at http://www.examiner.com/. Keep reading.
This story is "probably" going to be the best one I've ever written.
(Photo credit: Cancer Cell, HealthJockey.com)