She has an adenocarcinoma in her transverse colon. It was spotted during a colonoscopy on January 26th and results of the biopsy came in on February 4th.
Bowel cancer is relatively common, relatively easy to treat, and if it's caught early, the chances of a successful treatment are good. She'll have a resection quite soon -- a length of colon will be removed and the remaining ends reconnected -- and during the surgery biopsies of nearby lymph nodes will be taken.
Of crucial import is the progress that the cancer has made. In the early stages bowel cancer is usually very well contained, and chances of recovery and remission are excellent. In later stages the tumour, if untreated, extends through the bowel wall and can appear in secondaries elsewhere, typically the liver, and the prognosis worsens accordingly.
We don't know how far the tumour has progressed, because the only side we can see is the side which faces into the colon. For technical reasons scarlatti can't undergo a CT scan, and so we don't know whether anything untoward is happening on the outside wall of the colon, or indeed in the liver or elsewhere. We won't know any more until the surgery.
After the surgery, after the biopsies of the lymph nodes, we'll know more.
We don't yet have a date for surgery.
You can gauge scarlatti's state of mind, in part at least, by reading her recent post which opens with the words "this is really hard". She's right, of course -- this is really hard. For her, naturally, but also for me.
I cope by understanding what's going on. When Anne was ill, as she was quite a lot during her last couple of years, I learnt to cope by understanding what was going on, by keeping myself up to date with developments in her condition so that I could do something practical to help. I was already a bit of a bio-geek, but I did some serious learning. I learnt as much about the lymphatic system as any layman has a right to, and put myself on courses to learn manual lymph drainage and pressure-bandaging. I knew what was going on, I could do something about it, I could cope. And when life was too hard for Anne, or too hard for me, we could collapse into each other's arms and cuddle each other better.
There's a lot about the current situation which we don't know, and which we won't know until after the surgery. There's very little opportunity to do anything practical to help. I'm already fairly up-to-speed on bowel cancer, since that's what Anne's father had. But there's nothing I can do which is of practical worth. There's nothing I can find out until after the surgery. And the timetable is in someone else's hands, and there's nothing I can do to accelerate it.
And because we're three and a half thousand miles apart, when life is too hard for scarlatti, or too hard for me, when all we want to do is to collapse into each other's arms and cuddle each other better, there's nothing either of us can do about it.
It's really hard.