New Year’s Day is a time of introspection for me —. a day that is usually quiet and often, in this cloudy upstate New York landscape, snowy and a bit bleak. I keep my Christmas decorations up in January to provide light and some glitter against the cold and give me time to daydream.
It’s been twelve years since I spent New Year’s Day waiting for surgery to remove a mass on my ovary. It had been about 18 months since my second colon cancer had been discovered, and this new mass was (1) no cancer at all (very unlikely) (2) a brand-new ovarian primary cancer (not good news, but better than the alternative) which was (3) a metastasis of the colon cancer. Dumb luck, many prayers, a tickled DNA? Who knows, but in January 2006 I have been cancer-free for 12 years after surgery and chemotherapy that essentially cured ovarian cancer.
Of course, the second-shoe of hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) hangs over my head, waiting to bring fresh excitement into an already too-full-of-excitement life. I’ll have an annual colonoscopy in a couple of weeks to keep an eye on any polyps that might be waiting in the wings, but obsessing about dangling shoes or unlucky swords of Damocles isn’t much my style anymore. I plan to keep on keeping on in 2006, staying as healthy and busy as I possibly can.
Here’s my 2006 New Year’s Wish List:
- A simple, non-invasive screening test for colorectal cancer that is as sensitive as colonoscopy in finding polyps before they become cancer
- While we are waiting for that test, a way of preparing for colonoscopy that is safe, tasty, and doesn’t provoke nausea, vomiting, or cramps.
- A reliable way to predict which patients will benefit from chemotherapy and which ones really don’t need the risks and hassles.
- Methods to reduce oxaliplatin neuropathy and the skin rash from Erbitux and panitumumab.
- No more diarrhea!
- Treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer that CURES . . . or at least keeps the cancer in check without suffering until people with the disease can die of a quiet and peaceful old age.
- One hundred percent public awareness that colorectal cancer can be prevented through timely and effective screening.
- A health care system that pays for quality screening and state-of-the-art treatment for everyone — rich or poor.
- Solid clinical trials that fill up fast, zip to conclusions, and are the offered to every newly diagnosed patient as a first treatment choice.
Cock-eyed optimist that I am, I fully believe that these are reasonable, do-able wishes. They will take dedication, but there is lots of that available from researchers, advocates, and planners. They will take money, of course, but lack of funding should never get in the way of dreams.
So, let’s dream that 2006 brings us giant steps toward ending death and suffering from colorectal cancer — and that patients, caregivers, and survivors find health, strength, and peace in their struggles.