Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The beginning of the end

I received depressing news this morning.  My best friend who has been experiencing pain in his chest since last Thursday finally saw his oncologist and it's now confirmed that the tumour in his lungs have grown so large that it's pressing against the lining of his lungs.  He has been asymptomatic for a long time but this time, the first symptoms have appeared.  He's now on the slippery slope that leads to sure death.  I can say all this because he does not read this particular blog of mine.

It all started in early 2008 when he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  He went through two surgeries but each time after a surgery, there were fresh malignant growths in his liver.  The best bet for him was a liver transplant but they refused to let him have a liver in Singapore because the cancer had seeded to the portal vein.  He made arrangements to have a liver transplant in Tianjin, China.

As it turned out, my wife and I are friends with a top surgeon in Tianjin.  We got in touch with them (both husband and wife are surgeons).  I flew to Tianjin to make arrangements for my friend to have the best liver transplant surgeon.  My friend had initially contacted a doctor in Tianjin but when my China friends heard of it, they insisted that we got hold of the head of the liver department.  Within a short space of time, a liver was available for my friend and the transplant was a huge success.  We were later told by the nurses in the hospital that if we had got the other doctor, my poor friend would have had to wait for months for a liver and even then, the surgery might not have been such a resounding success.

When they removed his liver, the doctors were shocked to see that the tumour was really large.  He was told that the categorization for such a cancer was Stage 4.  They also told him that this meant that there would be cancer cells in his blood stream and because he had to be on immuno-suppressant drugs to prevent a rejection of his new liver, the likelihood of the cancer appearing in other body parts was very high.  They told him that the lungs, the bones and the brain were highly susceptible.  

All was well until last year when a routine checkup revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs.  There were 12 small tumours in his lungs.  Various surgeons saw him but the general consensus was not to cut them out because of the position of the tumours.  He went through a series of drug treatments but nothing stopped the slow but steady progress of the tumours.

Despite all this he was asymptomatic for a long time.  We met regularly for meals and nobody would have thought that he had cancer.  Recently, he seemed to cough quite a bit.  I asked him if all was well and he said it was a mere throat irritation.

Last Thursday, he experienced pain in his chest every time he breathed in deeply or if he made a sudden movement.  He attributed it to an inflamed nerve.  I told him to see his oncologist.  He did this morning and he was told that the pain was caused by the enlarged tumour pressing against the lung linings.  This is the early symptom of terminal lung cancer.

After we had spoken on the phone, he sent me a text that merely said "Dying soon".  How does one reply to that?  Of course he was right.  I replied dishonestly, "Don't be silly".  What else could I have said?

He has two daughters aged 5 and 3.

He is one of the three chaps I led to Christ (I wrote about this in an earlier entry in this blog) shortly after I returned to the church, having spent 3 years as an atheist.

If I really believed 100% and without the slightest doubt in the existence of a divine being who is loving and omnipotent, I should be most outraged.  Thank God I have my doubts.

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