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Monday, December 6, 2010

Three years, and counting

So, I'm in the office on Friday with oncologist Dr. Lee Zehngebot and he raised a very important point during the brief exam: "You know, it's been three years."

Those are three years I didn't believe I would have; I consider them bonus years. That's because when I first met Dr. Z, I didn't think I'd have much longer to live and, frankly, I didn't know if I'd want to live the tortured life I feared and envisioned. 

So I'll say it: He was right, I was wrong. I'm willing and happy to take that loss.

Dr. Z said the CT scan he ordered for a couple of weeks before our appointment came back clean. Perfectly clean.

That's great news, because many statistics for my esophageal cancer report on survivability three years post treatment. In the trials my treatment was based upon, which was coordinated by the Minnie Pearl Cancer Research Network, the survivability three years out was greater than 43 percent. Earlier esophageal cancer treatments rendered three-year survivors at about a third that percentage, and in many instances far lower.

Still, I'm beating the odds just by being alive today. Thanks to people like Dr. Z, Dr. Philip Styne, Dr. David Diamond, Dr. Joe Boyer, Dr. John Pfeiffer and Dr. Adriana Otto, in addition to the radiologists, nuclear physicists, technicians, nurses, therapists, family, friends, colleagues and those I'm failing to mention.

Basically, it took a village to keep me alive.

And here I am today, swallowing a bunch of pills each day, eating less, drinking more (water) but otherwise back to normal.

In the past few weeks, I've seen pretty much all of my docs and all say the same thing: everything looks good.

I have a couple of friends going through similar ordeals, and I just pray they can experience the same successes as I and that in three years, give or take, they can write the same thing.

Statistics being what they are, I hope to update this blog in seven years to say that I'm still here, doing fine and looking forward to more. I have a good chance due to my age and health condition in other areas. And according to the same trials, the projected survivability 10 years out is nearly 30 percent, meaning about a fourth of those still here today won't be in 2017. I plan to be one of those who will be here.

Dr. Lee Zehngebot shows off his iPhone a couple of years ago.
Back to my conversation with Dr. Z on Friday. As we almost always do, we discussed the technology of the day. He tried to make fun of my Motorola Cliq XT Android phone. "You call this a smartphone," he asked, grabbing my phone. "That's not a smartphone," he added, holding up his Apple iPhone. I asked whether it was the new iPhone 4 and he said no. Finally, I had the edge. "This time, my smartphone's smarter than yours," I replied.

To quote Sheldon, the character on "Big Bang Theory:" Bazinga!

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