Today, I was swiftly fitted into a gap in Mr George’s surgery, so that we could establish, as expected, that I am not currently a candidate for spinal surgery. This time it was at Salford Royal (and not the Christie bit), but the surgeon’s secretary instructions were excellent in getting me to the neurosurgery door, then when someone spotted me, time for #waitingroomfeet:
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I had been sent for the appointment as Dr Colaco felt that as I was in fit/good condition, it was worth a discussion to cut the tumour out, rather than try and blast it with radiotherapy rays. Mr George was clear in that it’s still relatively rare for spinal surgery to be undertaken on oligomets (or indeed any treatment at all if it’s asymptomatic), but that the cross-Manchester team wants to check if there are opportunities to be ahead of the curve, but that radiotherapy and spinal surgery are both not without risks. He indicated that even though we can put people on the moon, still cutting tumours out is the only real ‘curative’ option, but because the tumour would require the spine to be rotated, and is close to the aortic nerve, and because of the size of it (1.8-2cm, with a bit of swelling around it), radiotherapy at present seems to be the appropriate option.
Mr George had already seen my MRI and CT scans – and they were on the screen when I can in – and I then had my back prodded, was asked to bend backwards/forwards/side-to-side, asked to talk through treatment so far, and what I understood was where we were with treatment. I then asked for a closer look at the scans (I might ask if I can see my breast scans too actually – it’s kinda fascinating to see inside the body), and he said ‘they are yours, you can have a photo of them if you like’, so chose the two which gave the clearest picture…
You can clearly see the dark mark which is the tumour in T11 (I’m not convinced I’d call that tiny, but still..)
So this is a cross section of my body. The dark circle is near the spinal cord, and the bit in the top of the ‘spaceship/penguin’ (as noted on Facebook) where the dark spots are is the tumour.
We then had a brief chat about what I’m OK to do at the gym (emphasis on pilates, yoga, only light weights, low impact, etc.) and he emphasised that it’s really important to keep this going – the fitter I am, the more treatment options open up for me if things progress/spread. If the radiotherapy doesn’t work (unlikely), then we can talk more.
So, tomorrow morning I have a chat with Dr Calaco and hopefully establish the official start date of chemotherapy.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.