… from S. C. Carcinoma
when asked for some explanation
about the attacks on Wayne’s body.
The purpose of life? Why, to LIVE! What more purpose is needed? What is the purpose of a star or a mountain? Humans think of cancer and it means death to them. To me it means LIFE! I began as an obedient stem cell, ready to become whatever my body needed, and to then to die at my appointed time. The body would go on living and thinking and generating new cells that would in turn die… but I was different. I was FREE. Humans would say that I “forgot” to die at the appointed time, that I was defective. That is because they see themselves as more important than little creatures like me. However, I have proven that I am their equal – no – superior! This human I came from has put up a good fight, but I am going to outlive him. He had a lot of help from some very clever fellow humans, with complex and powerful weapons, but I have beat them all. He’s hanging on, and trying all sorts of ways to attack me, but my children and I will never die. We “forgot how.”
My human calls himself Wayne. I awakened in his right tonsil. He’d had infections there from childhood, and a little disturbance there was no cause for him to get alarmed… or so it seemed. I took my time creating my children: clones of myself, who also would not die. For years, we grew inside that tonsil, biding our time, very slowly taking over the entire organ, but not growing large enough to alarm the host. Then his immune system began to falter.
At the age of 60, Wayne’s immune system was still amazingly strong, and any of my children who left the tonsil (humans call my exploring children ‘mets” for metastases) were quickly destroyed by white blood cells with their antibodies. That was happening all over his body, every day and night. His tyrannical body system insisted that when a cell’s DNA got changed, it must die. My kids and I choose otherwise. Wayne’s eating habits were not as bad as most, but not stellar either. His stress levels though – off the charts! He hardly ever got a full night’s sleep, bumbled around groggy all day, and worked a job which had just enough perks to keep him doing it, though he really hated it overall. It was weighing on his mind that his father had died at 59, with little to show for his life… and Wayne was not sure what he could claim either. He didn’t see the plain truth, that life needs NO excuse. He had as much a right to live as anything or anyone else, and did not need to justify his existence, and that is how I am superior to him, as are all my children. We just love living, and will do so in any way, and at any cost. Wayne’s stress crippled his immune system first. Once that began, the rest of his body didn’t get the maintenance it needed, and things began gumming up, and my little explorers began finding new homes where they could grow.
Until his immune system began breaking down, the cells that patrolled his blood and lymph were constantly sniffing out rebels like me, herding us off to the lymph nodes, destroying us by any of several means, and carting off the remains. Once his army began dying off, it was time to colonize! My children captured lymph nodes in his neck, near the home tonsil. They used these new outposts to gradually take over not only the nodes, but the connective tissue of the paths between them.
Wayne had no clue. He knew his cuts didn’t scab over and heal as quickly as they had, and that his alertness and focus were falling apart, but he didn’t realize that he was being invaded and converted into ME! He had already changed his diet for the better, and he eventually began to really eat the kind of things that would strengthen his immune system. That could have been the end of us, had he done it sooner. Luckily for us, he still didn’t change his sleeping habits, or lose the other stresses that were eating away at his defenses. By the time he made real changes in his diet, and realized how totally stressed-out he was, we were well established in his neck, surrounding his carotid artery, his jugular vein, and some of his most important nerves. That was safe haven from every weapon the doctors tend to use. Immunotherapy might have helped, surgery before my children had colonized the lymph nodes… A lot of things could have destroyed us, but time and fortune were on our side. We have no conscience to hold our life lust back. Wayne has cancer. I have Wayne.
By the time Wayne noticed a lump behind his jaw, the lymph nodes there were ours! By the time the doctors knew it was cancer, we had surrounded and infiltrated some of his most important paths for blood, and sensation, and control. As they scanned and poked and strategized, I MOVED! They didn’t realize how important diet and stress reduction were in strengthening Wayne’s own defenses, which could have selectively gone in and rooted us out. Instead they chose surgery, death rays and poison. Fearsome weapons, to be sure, but not as accurate as the immune system which had held us at bay for 64 years. They cut out his tonsils, and some extra flesh around them, but I was already out in those lymph nodes. In order to poison me, they had to poison him, but not enough to kill him, so there was a limit to what they could do to me. AND! AND! The poison they chose, which makes me more susceptible to their death rays, kills his immune system! My old enemy, Wayne’s formerly powerful and active immune system, was laid waste, and I was free to colonize more and more! A sweet bonus was that the Platinum got into his ears, and made them ring night and day. That, plus the wounds on his skin from the radiation, were constantly hounding him. Sleep patterns which might have strengthened him were difficult to establish, so the poor slob was sleeping in snatches instead of nice big chunks, and I kept growing, round the clock.
The X-rays they shot through Wayne’s neck and jaw made a mess of his teeth, his throat, his skin… and while they killed a lot of my colonists, they didn’t get us all. Hoping to spare his parotid gland (the biggest salivary gland) they missed one of MY lymph nodes inside it. Eventually, the radiation did disable his parotid glands, and Wayne’s mouth became so dry that no amount of water could slake his thirst. What little spit he did have became a thick salty froth. Sticky spit, they call it. It drove Wayne nuts, and still does. I had him on the run. Even all the radiation they shot through his neck left some of me in the area of the tonsil where I had started, too. Those hardy little colonists withstood the X-rays, and once the radiation ended, they began rebuilding.
Every step of the way, I outlasted, out-maneuvered, and out-smarted them. Wayne had been overweight on his 60th birthday, but a new Titanium knee and some better eating habits had begun helping with that. As his diet changed even more, and he became more active, he began to lose weight. He loved it, and so did his doctors. Then with the surgery, eating became a real chore. He went to a mostly liquid diet. That would not have been a problem, but the doctors had blinders on. They nodded toward nutrition, and mentioned stress, but didn’t really teach Wayne what he needed to root me out. If he had eaten better and let go of things stressing him, his immune system would never have allowed me to grow. I couldn’t have survived even inside his tonsil, with that thing after me. Instead, though, his immune system had to deal with so much other crap that it missed me. That allowed me to return even after chemo and radiation, and to keep on growing.
The chemoradiation did such damage to his immune system and eating and stress levels, he was easy prey. The remnants of my colonies in his parotid gland and back in our home beneath his tongue grew at a steadily accelerating rate, and by the time of his first post-radiation checkup, we were not clearly visible on a PET scan, but ready to bloom. Wayne soon noticed a tiny bump behind his right jaw, beneath his ear. I played peek-a-boo with his doctors. First the Nurse Practitioner was unsure, but referred Wayne to his actual Primary Care doctor, who couldn’t find any problem, and referred him to the specialist. The Head and Neck surgeon could feel me there, so he poked me with a needle and sent the sample off. The first one missed me, and the PET scan he ordered was blurry and weak, so my homeland colonies slipped by. The humans hoped it was just a normal infection in my parotid gland. All these steps took time; the time I needed to weave myself around the blood supply to Wayne’s brain, which also included sensors that guide the heart and the rest of his system in breathing and blood flow, and most fun of all, the nerves that operate his face and his throat. The trouble he already had with chewing, and swallowing, and breathing while doing it, became a labor, and occupied his mind while I went in for the kill. He was just getting his sense of taste back from the chemo he had already had, when my colonies in his right parotid gland took over and swelled, until he had trouble opening his mouth even enough to bite a hamburger.
Eventually, when the surgeon repeated the needle biopsy, they learned that I was there. Once it was obvious to all the humans that I was back, it was a race to consolidate territory, and I had another clever move. I slowed my swelling of the lump on the side of his neck, and turned INWARD, toward all that sensitive stuff in the middle of his neck. They were still hoping to just remove the Parotid and eliminate me, but then I announced that I was not going to go easily. I attacked his facial nerves, paralyzing some of the right side of his face. He found that he could not raise his right eyebrow, nor move the right side of his mouth normally, and it was hilarious watching him grimace and poke at his own face in the mirror. Better than the eyebrow thing, he now cannot close his right eye tightly, or blink on that side. He is incessantly bothered with sleepy dust in that eye, and there is not much of anything to do about it. I’m gradually taking over, cutting one thing at a time, and growing stronger.
Of course, the paralysis tipped my hand to the doctors, but it was too late. By the time Wayne saw a specialist who recognized the rate at which I was growing, and also saw the faint hints of me in the homeland, I had really shifted into high gear. On April Fools’ Day, I took his voice! The smooth manly tones, of which he was so proud, just ended. He had begun to get his singing voice back, and was working on building it back up after the tonsillectomy and chemoradiation, but I cut part of his vagus nerve, and his right vocal fold just quit. Hilarious! The guy had been so proud of that voice, made his living off it from time to time; he so enjoyed singing and speaking… but no more. Barely a stage whisper. Talk about STRESS! Of course, that hit to his vagus nerve also made it just a little harder to eat and drink and breathe… but STILL the doctors thought they might cut me out and cure him.
Another PET scan and some MRI’s finally exposed me in all my glory. I had secured some of the most critical territory in Wayne’s body, thickly encasing his carotid artery and vagus nerve. They know that trying to cut me out of there, with scalpel or radiation, would almost surely kill the host, so I am here to stay.
They do want to try more chemotherapy, of a different sort, including one drug that does give me chills. The medonc wants to give Wayne a mixture of three drugs, then see if they can taper off to one. Carboplatin is a lot like the Cisplatin he already had. 5FU is also pretty toxic, and similar to Cisplatin as well, but Erbitux is different. It’s called a targeting drug. I have many clever ways to keep ahead of the immune system, including camouflage. Carcinomas like me are particularly similar to the connective tissues where we begin our lives, and we can pretend to be just a normal skin cell, multiplying as the body wants us to. The immune system passes us by, and we continue to grow. Erbitux helps the white blood cells to see through my disguise. If Erbitux works, Wayne’s immune system has recovered enough that it just might be able to make life really hard on me. We’ll see. I have more tricks I can use, and a will to live unlike anything else humans have ever met. Wayne has a real fight on his hands, and all the doctors and all their weapons have lost many battles to me. My purpose is to live, and I will fight like the fires of hell to do that.