In 2013 I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer and have been on long term ’maintenance’ chemo since 2014. I’ve had clear scans (No Evidence of Disease) for over 18 months now, so it’s not unreasonable for people to ask if I’m cured.
However, it’s not easy to answer. The best way to see if I still have cancer is a CT scan, however, it can only show what is visible to the radiologist and the cancer could still be lurking. There are blood tests, such as CEA, that can also help, but my cancer doesn’t produce CEA so it doesn’t help me.
Therefore, my view is that the cancer is really well controlled – that’s already so much more than I dared hope for at diagnosis when living for two years seemed very optimistic.
So where does that leave me with treatment? The question is to stop or continue my chemo. I’ve discussed this regularly with my oncologist and we agree that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – I’ll stay on my maintenance chemo so long as I can tolerate it and it’s still working for me. This is the state I’m happy in – my chemo is sort of my security blanket, it feels like it keeps me safe and the few side effects I get are a small sacrifice for that, and allows me to live a full and fun life.
Am I cured? I don’t know, but I do know my chemo is doing a great job of controlling the cancer and that’s good enough for me!