APRIL: I ask the specialist, a senior lady, to bring matters to a head.
' What you have will shorten your life. I cannot say how much. It starts with just one rogue cell. If I knew why, I would get a Nobel prize. But there is no cure.'
' So what is wrong?'
'You have a type of cancer called myeloma. It is a cancer of the bone marrow. Have you heard of it?'
'And I would like you in here next week. To start treatment.'
' Yes. With luck we should have you back at work in October.'
' But this is June . . . and you said there was no cure.'
' No cure. But we have treatment.'
' From next week until October?'
Crunch time. Decision. Except the lady specialist thinks there is nothing to decide.
Treatment but no cure? Why treat if you cannot cure? Why such a long treatment? My life is depend on the intelligence of this lady specialist. She is not explaining what she plans. Even in outline. Am I to sign myself away on nothing? Is that what she expects?
Was I insufferable to the consultant? She was only doing her job. I know nothing about cancer: do I think I am exempt from getting it ?
What about the library?
I find a book, Ress, Goodman and Bullimore, Cancer in Practice (1993). Myeloma is in the index, and p. 193 reads:
Multiple myeloma is incurable. The median survival time from clinical confirmation to death is under a year in untreated patients, and two to three years with treatment. Some 15% die within the first threee months.
Underneath there are :
Symptoms and signs Bone pain, pathological fracture, anaemia, symptoms of hypercalcaemia and renal failure, fever due to infection.
So here is my anaemia and fever. Also bone pain : I slipped a disc in 1989, which went on for months, and I am still sore if I sit for any great length on time.
Life as a scholar gives you reflexes. Where does the word myeloma come from? Classical Greek? A dictionary gives me Greek muelos, bone marrow. Hence, myeloma , cancer of the bone marrow.
Is it a modern disease? The 1991 Encyclopaedia Britannica has a villain myelitis , also of the bone marrow : ' the most that can be hoped for is the relief of symptoms by careful nursing and attention to the condition of the body and its functions'.
Myelitis is not myeloma, but the vista of humiliation is enough.
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