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"The primary concern after cancer - SURVIVAL" Wolfram's story

Published on 23 March 2017 back to previous

WITH ME, EVERYTHING STARTED with my first colonoscopy more than twelve years ago. It was at the age of 59, admitedly four years later than it was recommended in my country by the health system and covered for by the public health insurances. Clinical evidence: a cluster of about 100 polyps adjacent to the near end of my colon. This in combination with my age was as the doctor said pointing to an a enuated familial polyposis – a pre-cancerous condition. I was sent to a coloproctologist who specialized in genetic pre dispositions of colorectal cancer. The regular contact with her would prove to be a lifesaving factor for me. For the sake of prevention, further down the line I had to undergo annual colonoscopies.

No disquieting findings over the following five years. In early 2009 I felt some disturbing pressure in my belly which made me ask to see my doctor prior to the scheduled examination. Then it came thick and fast: CT, colonoscopy, “we have found something”, surgery, subtotal colectomy with the small intestine being hooked-up to the rectum. Eventually the shattering verdict: 4th stage colorectal carcinoma. Chances of survival? – Unpredictable

Answers and help came from my doctor, counselling and care in an oncological rehabilitation clinic. Conversations 
with psycho-oncologists, nutrition experts, rehabilitation therapists and coming back to physical strength made me regain courage and confidence which are preconditions for coping and resilience. Meanwhile my doctor had made arrangements for my subsequent chemotherapy which was to happen in the clinical centre of Essen University – one 
in the network of about 45 national Comprehensive Cancer Centres. Based on the genetic appearance of my cancer I was treated every two weeks with a personalized therapy, a combination of cytotoxic drugs and an immunoglobulin. This therapy proved to be efficient since the liver metastases disappeared within six months and the rest of the cancer in my abdomen afer one year’s time only to show up again after another year. It was the same therapy regimen which helped again and gave me a period of two years of complete remission. However, cancer is perfidious. I had to learn this when a CT examination found metastases in my lungs, offsprings of the original colorectal cancer. The same therapy again and it helped again. Not as yet completely but it is keeping the progress of the cancer at a low threshold.

I’m a survivor for eight years which combined hardship with hope, confidence and good quality of life. My hope was directed to progress and innovation of cancer treatment. Recently my oncologist told me that he was about to offer me the opportunity to participate in a study on the new immunotherapy based treatment on checkpoint inhibitors.

Ultimately this is a story of mishaps and luck. A carcinoma growing in the interval between two colonoscopies is very rare. For me it was luck to meet doctors with skill, perspective and sense of care. Furthermore, it is fortunate that I’m living in a country where the quality of medical care is optimal and where the coverage from the health insurance makes the system accessible.

Writing this, I’m fully aware of the sad situation in many other European countries. This gives me reason to stand up together with my international friends from EuropaColon, with clinicians, politicians and the media to fight for awareness and improvement of standards and care across Europe.

WE ARE UNITED AGAINST COLORECTAL CANCER

#ECCAM17

Wolfram's full story available for download here
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