Monthly Archives: July 2009

Prophetic poem – Let those who read be warned and heed!

In June 2008 I travelled to Malaysia and Sri Lanka. It was quite a tiring trip and I thought it was a spiritual assault I was battling. Only after the colonoscopy and scans in October did I realise that the tiredness was caused by my body trying to cope with the advancing cancer in my liver.

During that trip a little voice inside me seemed to keep telling me that I should “slow down and smell the roses”. I did resolve that I would not travel so much without Bronwen and to seriously look at adjusting my lifestyle. There was also an inner sense of foreboding that I needed to do more than just think about slowing down.

I ended up writing a poem about my musings. I did not realise at the time just how prophetic the third verse would turn out to be. Till now I have only shared it with Bronwen. In the light of events over the past 9 months I think it might be opportune to let others read it (and hopefully heed its warning!):

Slow down
(D.S.Duncan, June 2008)

Slow down –
Impassioned, yet so easily bored
Too many goals lie incomplete;
Your ceaseless drive makes others tired;
Your visions, out of people’s reach;
And joints barked raw from scaling rocks;
It’s time you learned to –

Slow down, and smell the roses;
Flow along with God’s good plan.
Cease from striving
And conniving:
The dove can’t settle on a storm-tossed bough.

Slow down –
Consider God is never late
His promises to you endowed.
Don’t agitate, but contemplate
How He perfoms the things He’s vowed.
No need to try and force locked doors;
It’s time you learned to –

Slow down, and smell the roses;
Flow along with God’s good plan.
Cease from striving
And conniving:
The dove can’t settle on a storm-tossed bough.

Slow down –
Your plan to slow is ne’er today,
Until some crises strikes your plans
And trouble comes to dog your way,
Then it’s taken from your hands
You’ll have no other option then
Too late to learn to –

Slow down, and smell the roses;
Flow along with God’s good plan.
Cease from striving
And conniving:
The dove can’t settle on a storm-tossed bough.

REMEMBER – this was written 4 months before I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer plus secondaries in the liver!


Posted by on 29 July, 2009 in Poetry


Round 2

Victory has been declared with the metastases in the liver – the most serious issue I’ve had to face in this battle with cancer.

Now round 2 is about to start against the Primary growth in the rectum.

My senior Oncologist from Christchurch phoned today with the results of the specialist team meeting yesterday. It appears that the primary tumour has started to grow again and appears “angry”. It is now nearly 7 weeks since my last chemo and that has given it some respite to revive.

The plan of attack now is that Bronwen and I will return to Christchurch next week for consultations on Tuesday with the Radiation specialist and the Senior Oncologist.

Because the liver has responded perfectly they have decided to treat me as if this is a first cancer and hit the Primary with ‘full treatment’ – what they describe as “maximum aggressive therapy”. In about 3-4 weeks I will be subjected to 5 weeks of daily combined chemo/radiation therapy in Christchurch. There will then be a 4 – 6 week recovery period before I will undergo surgery in Nelson to remove the tumour and the lower rectum. Unfortunately, because of the location of the tumour I will end up with a permanent ‘stoma‘ (sounds like a stomach without the ache!)

Evidently there has been cancer in the Mesorectal Node because the MRI, comparing this scan with the first MRI scan last October, states that this node has reduced to 4mm. It will possibly be removed at the time of surgery. Fortunately no other nodes are affected. This scan also shows that instead of growing out in volume as it did at the start, it has been flying under the radar and is now growing around the rectal wall. This has been showing on the CT scan as “slight thickening of the wall”. The outward volume had reduced but the ‘circumferential volume’ is increasing and that was evidently undetectable by the CT scanner.

We are relieved that the medical specialists are now “on to it”. The head of the research team told me that the 3 specialists handling my case are the best around and have very good reputations. Even the Nelson surgeon was highly recommended by the Christchurch team, including the surgery professor. The Oncologist said that this is highly unusual as they usually like the surgery to be done “in house” in Christchurch.

God is in control and we are not phased by this latest turn of events. At least now we can plan our calendar till the end of the year with a little more certainty!

Sola Dei Gloria

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Posted by on 28 July, 2009 in Medical


Swings and roundabouts

Same playground; different toys.

Last Wednesday I had a CT scan in Christchurch to confirm the earlier findings about the liver. The results were again very positive: No trace of cancer in the liver and no signs of disease in nodes either. Cancer markers in the blood were 2.9 (last time 3.3; normal range 1 – 5).

The following day I had an MRI scan at the Public Hospital to investigate the status of the Primary cancer in the rectum. Those results took a bit longer but were needed together with the sigmoidoscopy results for a meeting of the specialist team of surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, etc in Christchurch on Monday morning, 27th July.

Because of the good result with the liver, normal liver function and the cancer markers, the doctor suggested my symptoms relating to the primary cancer were a bit of a mystery. Hence the scheduling of the MRI in the hope that all will be revealed in that scan.

The ups and downs of the journey keep you on your toes, stop you becoming arrogant about good results or presumptuous about ultimate outcomes.

Hope is a great and a real strength when it is anchored outside of oneself upon the Rock of Ages. Mediation techniques promoted by the Cancer Society, designed to help sufferers “centre” themselves, unfortunately are founded on Buddhist techniques and have no anchor outside the subjectivity of one’s own thoughts and spirit.

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Posted by on 26 July, 2009 in Medical


Not your everyday view

I’m used to looking at myself in the mirror. On Friday I got a different view of myself.

I had to submit to a sigmoidoscopy to examine the site of my primary cancer. The surgeon decided I didn’t need any sedation so the nurse gave me back my glasses so that I could see on the surgeon’s TV monitor what he would be looking at.

Most interesting!!

The surgeon was very informative, explaining everything he saw to me and viewing the site of the cancer from different angles. He took several photos so that he can discuss the situation with the surgical and oncology team in Christchurch. I was encouraged by his comments as he did not seem to think the situation is as grave (no pun intended!) as he had first thought. He described evidence of response to treatment thus far.

This week I visit Christchurch for another CT scan so that the Oncologist and Research team can verify that the Liver is indeed free of metastases. The next day I will have an MRI scan which will give a detailed picture of the primary cancer and how that has responded. The results of the MRI plus the surgeon’s analysis of the Sigmoidoscopy should give them and me a clearer picture of whether any further treatments will be needed in the immediate future.

In between these appointments I am blessed and thankful to have made it to my 64th birthday! It does not pay to take birthdays for granted. Last September I had doubts about being able to enjoy this one. Now I have my sights set on enjoying a few more.

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Posted by on 19 July, 2009 in Medical


Victory declared: Mopping up continues


Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

The nuclear and chemical weapons assault on Al Quancer in my liver has been declared “radiologically complete response”, or “Mission accomplished”, however it appears the ground troops may be required to ‘go in’ and attend to some mopping up operations. They need to secure the back entrance to prevent further infiltration of terrorist cells seeking to re-occupy the liver.

My surgeon is concerned that the Primary Tumour in my rectum shows signs that it not be completely harmless yet and would like to spy out the territory to ensure a total victory. I will therefore be submitting to a sigmoidoscopy in a couple of weeks. Depending on the outcome some localised aerial bombardments using radiation therapy may be necessary on the rectum to eliminate any final pockets of resistance.

I will keep you posted on how this ‘search and destroy’ mission progresses.

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Posted by on 3 July, 2009 in Medical