I have fucking cancer.
Now, before you freak out completely (somehow, I've managed to avoid that since I found out this afternoon), it's not as bad as it could have been. Today my doctor told me that, yes, the polyp in my intestine is cancerous. More specifically, a moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma. Most simply, I have what is likely a very early stage of colorectal cancer, which may very well be cured quite soon by a minor surgical procedure.
UPDATE: As of October 2007, this turned out to be way more serious than I thought when I wrote this post in January. There were two aggressive tumours in my rectum, and the cells have spread to small metastatic spots in my lungs. Far from Stage Zero, I have Stage Four metastatic colorectal cancer, which routinely kills people. I've since taken both chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously for two months, had three surgeries (one quite major), spent almost a month in hospital, acquired myself what's supposed to be a temporary ileostomy bag, and am waiting for another multi-month round of chemo starting in the fall. But I'm still fighting the fucking thing, and at least now the main tumours are gone. Read more in my various cancer posts.
As a quick primer, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, which, over time, turns into tumours in your body that can do all sorts of nasty things, including (if untreated) kill you. In biology, a differentiated cell is one that is more developed into the type of cell it's supposed to be. Undifferentiated cells are more primordial, less specific, more "generic." So the more differentiated the cells in a growth are, the less virulent they are, because they are more like "real" cells that do actual work, and less like "generic" cells that do nothing but grow.
So the cells in my polyp aren't completely undifferentiated, but they aren't normal cells either. They are growing, and need to be removed.
There's no change in how I'll be treated: on the 24th, I'll be having a colonoscopy, as planned. My very entertaining gastroenterologist, Dr. Enns, will remove the polyp and look for any others, which he'll also remove. The way things look now, I probably have Stage Zero of the disease, so that procedure may very well be all that's necessary—at this early stage, such a polypectomy can be, as they say, "curative," i.e. the cancer will be gone.
That's what I'm assuming will happen unless I hear differently afterwards. I'm still taking a trip to L.A. next week, and I'm still planning to have my varicose veins treated in February. And I'll need to be monitored regularly to make sure nothing comes back.
I'm a fucking cancer patient now.
I left work early today, and my wife and I stopped by the liquor store for some of the Glenlivet, of which I've had two servings tonight, neat. Odds are that we'll kill this thing, and I'll go on just fine.
But still, fuck. Hel-lo 2007.
I did want to take time to tell my kids and my parents and in-laws before I blogged it, so they didn't read it here first, which is why I'm posting so late.
Oh, and one more thing...