STABLE… the word Sun columnist Deborah James has been so desperate to hear.
It might sound underwhelming, but when you are living with stage 4 bowel cancer it can mean the world, she said.
Last night, doctors told the mum-of-two that the four cancerous tumours invading her liver are just that, stable – meaning they haven't grown.
It is the latest milestone for the 37-year-old, just over two years after she was diagnosed with the bowel cancer.
And its a significant one. Deborah has exhausted lots of different treatments since her diagnosis – and said she's haunted by the fear her options are running out.
So to be told her latest round of treatment – three new drugs – is working, is "like being given a new lease of life".
Deborah, who writes her weekly Things Cancer Made Me Say column for Sun Online, said: "It's about the best news a stage 4 cancer patient can get – in the absence of a miracle.
"It's all I can hope for. My cancer should have killed me by now, if you believe the stats.
"So to hear I am stable is a huge deal. I really wasn't expecting it."
The news comes just a week after Deborah visited a hospice with the BBC, forcing her to confront the reality of her own death.
Just before Christmas she started a new round of treatment – three targeted drugs, aimed at stabilising the four new tumours that had grown in her liver.
She suffered a nasty reaction, spending much of New Year asleep after breaking out in a rash so painful she was left bleeding.
It marks the latest in a long line of treatments that are keeping the mum, from South West London alive.
Since being diagnosed days before Christmas in 2016, Deborah has been through:
- a bowel resection to remove a 6cm tumour
- four ops to blast lung tumours after her cancer spread
- Cyber Knife targeted radiotherapy to tackle a new tumour wrapped around an artery
- 21 rounds of chemo
- four hits of new targeted drug therapy
Deborah's latest results mean that her "heroic" team of medics at The Royal Marsden can attempt to "blast" what remains of the four liver tumours.
She's scheduled to have a liver ablation op in the coming weeks, with the same specialist who removed the tumours in her lungs.
'I'm terrified my options will run out'
With so many treatments already under her belt, Deborah said it is daunting to think she might run out of options.
"Options, after stable, is the next most important thing a stage 4 cancer patient can hear," she added.
"As long as I know I have options, I have hope.
"When you go through so many different treatments you worry there might not be many left, if the latest one doesn't work.
"That's why it's so significant for me that these drugs are working, and are keeping my tumours stable.
"I was really poorly from December to February, and recently I've started feeling better so it's nice to have positive news."
'Scanxiety is real… and only gets worse'
Living her life from scan to scan – plagued by what she's dubbed "scanxiety" – Deborah said waiting for results only gets worse.
"I feel like my luck might run out, it gets worse the longer it goes on," she told The Sun.
"I'm not going to think too far down the line, I also know it could change really quickly and I know that I could've had really bad news from these scans.
"I count myself very lucky."
For now, though, the 37-year-old said she is going to enjoy feeling positive, and celebrate with a glass of wine or two.
"The reality is my cancer will probably kill me, but not any time too soon, I hope," she added.
"These latest results just give me renewed hope, reassuring me that everything I am doing and going through is working.
"It's hard to put into words, but I feel like I can look forward to things again.
"I have always believed you can live with cancer, and that's what I want to show others.
"Knowing my tumours are stable just makes that living so much easier to do."
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