At Steve's last assessment in June, we were told that his mesothelioma is growing, but so very, very slowly that the difference between X-rays taken at three monthly intervals is imperceptible - you have to compare the most recent picture with the earliest to spot the small amount of change that has taken place over the last two years. Today's assessment felt like a bit like deja vu - the doctor was different but the news was the same - such a subtle change that the difference is only discernible when comparing X-rays separated by long period of time. Steve's chest sounds good; the pleura are intact; no fluid build up and no sign that the mesothelioma has spread to any other parts of his body.
In short, no need for any treatment - come back in December for the next check up, unless there are any problems in between then and now.
Given that mesothelioma can be such an aggressive cancer and bearing in mind that Steve is not in pain, not breathless and is able to lead a "normal" life in terms of day-to-day activities, getting that same news has got to be a good deja vu experience. Even so, disease progression of any type is a reminder of how vulnerable he is - as if we need reminding - and such thoughts don't exactly lift the spirits. We were both a bit quiet as we left the hospital, digesting and analysizing the doctor's every word.
When I asked Steve how he felt about the outcome of today's assessment, not surprisingly, he replied that what he really wanted was a silver bullet - something that would stop the mesothelioma dead in its tracks, take it away altogether. But until a cure for mesothelioma is found, he knows that isn't going to happen. Although it's killing him slowly, provided this very slow rate of growth continues, he still has a few years of good life to look forward to. And who knows - may be the silver bullet will be found in the meantime.
He also pointed out that at least he knew what was going on inside him and could live his life accordingly. So many people have no idea that their hearts are weakening, arteries furring up, or that a degenerative disease is slowing killing them until it's too late.
Having this conversation took me back to memories of the Velcade drug trial, and our initial disappointment that the mesothelioma did not shrink in response to the chemotherapy treatment. However, Dr Louise kept telling us that stable is GOOD, especially for someone in Steve's otherwise good condition. Over the two years since then, we have realized that she was right.
By the time we arrived home, we were feeling more positive and that feeling has grown as the day wore on. The half empty glass now looks half full. The lethargy of the last few days is lifting. We have started doing things and making plans. The car is booked in for a service; Steve is booked in for his over 60s general health check; we've splashed out on a new tap for the kitchen and bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. We can firm up plans that have only been lightly pencilled in and look forward to a wonderful autumn. If we haven't seen you over the summer, don't be surprised to hear from us soon!