50/50

Alright, it's probably right that you get introduced to my cancer. Its name is Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. That's the fancy schmancy name for a rare cancer of the glandular tissues that affects about 5 in a million people.


Now ACC and I were first introduced to each other seven years ago. I was having nose bleeds very frequently. The nose bleeds will happen very suddenly, without warning. Li Ling and I were living in The Maldives at that time and the doctors there told me that I had sinus problems, so we left it as that. While transiting in Singapore en route our trip to India, which was going to be beautiful and awesome, we decided to consult an ENT. I still remember the moment when he raised the MRI scan on to the light board and immediately turned to us and said, "That's not sinus problem. That's a tumour." He did a scope and we saw it for the first time on the screen. Hello ACC. Bye bye beautiful and awesome trip to India.


I did a surgery to remove it, followed by Radiotherapy, and was declared clear to continue with my life after that. There was no more traces of ACC in me.


But ACC is like this. It is small, and likes to play hide and seek. It also likes to jump. Unfortunately my body's immune system is not good in seeking it, so it stayed on in my body.


Fast forward, it jumped to my lungs and reappeared in the nasal cavity a few more times. I had operations to get rid of it but it kept coming back, that bugger.


Cancer patients would understand what I am going to write about; The scans.


You have the very basic X-Ray which is usually over in seconds. They don't really tell you much.


Then you have CT scans that are actually rather tolerable. You lie on a machine and are told to keep still. The air condition is on full blast and you're covered with a nice blanket so it is rather cosy. The 'bed' you're lying on moves in and out of a machine as it takes cross section images of you. The machine hardly makes a sound and it's usually over in 15 minutes. Sometimes, they inject you with a radioactive substance to make the cancer light up in the scans. After that you have to stay away from children and pregnant women for at least half a day or so.


And finally there's the much dreaded MRI. Similar to CT scan, you lie on a 'bed' that moves you in and out of a machine as it takes images of your insides. What makes MRI quite a terrible experience is that it takes a long time. Sometimes you are required to lay still for almost an hour. To top it up, MRI is very VERY L.O.U.D.


When it first starts, you hear loud clicks, as though the machine is clicking its tongue, trying to get your attention. Then comes the laser sounds. They sound like scenes from a sci-fi movie where the soldiers are trying to cut open an armour door using lasers. Phzzzz......


Next the machine guns enters the scene. Think Mad Max, or Rambo. Ratatatatatatatat!

Then comes a whirling rumble, like a giant spaceship preparing for hyper speed.

I usually am able to endure the first half of it with mindful breathing. The last half is usually spent trying to construct an epic space battle with sound effects.


The wait between completing your scans and getting the results from your doctor can be excruciating. No matter if you feel great and have no symptoms, at the back of your mind you can't help but think of the worst at times. Your mind fluctuates between telling yourself to be hopeful and positive to planning for the worst.


And then the day comes to see your doctor about the results of the scans. One can argue that if you feel great the results surely must be good. However, sitting in the doctor's room, none of that matters. The way I see it, it's a 50/50 chance because it is either good news or bad news. I know mathematically there's probability and statistics involved that should comfort you if your body feel good. But really as you watch your doctor's mouth move in slow motion, telling you the news, in that split second you will either hear a Yes or a No.


And of course if your doctor ends up massaging his forehead with his eyes closed, as if it will squeeze out a problem solving solution, you know it's no longer good news.


That happened to me two weeks ago.




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