Tag Archives: ct scans

Hunting Dragons Again

Yesterday was one of those great days: In the afternoon I met my niece, who is perfect and amazing – just a miracle of life wrapped up like the world’s most beautiful burrito in my arms – and in the evening I ate lobster with a friend who always makes me laugh and inspires me, having herself recently kicked cancer’s a**.  Needless to say I slept soundly.  Smugly, even.

Alas, this morning I came screeching back into cold hard reality at full-speed – right back into the routine that somehow never becomes routine:

  • 9 a.m. needle to the port in my chest – check
  • Extraction of 6 colour-coded vials of blood – check
  • ECG – check
  • IV fluids & drugs for about 2 hours – check
  • Review bloodwork results with my nurse: all counts low, especially platelets. Am instructed to rest as much as possible, and to avoid getting any deep cuts or gashes. Cancel my sword-fighting plans this weekend – uh, check

This evening I’m scheduled for my first CT scan since beginning the clinical trial. They’ll scan everything from head to pelvis, looking for any sign of further metastasis (please, no more) and of course, measuring the growth of the ol’ neck lumps (please, no more than 20%). 

I’ve already choked back half the gigantic bucket of nasty chalk-juice, which, by the way, some jerk had the audacity to brand “E-Z CAT” – probably a relative of the jerk who came up with branding Fox News “fair and balanced.”  Now I shall proceed to eat everything in sight before fasting begins.  Then I’ll nap, if I can possibly quiet my mind, and later my husband will take me back to the hospital for the freaky sci-fi space capsule scan.

And then? 

Well, then we just wait. Probably until Monday. We wait and try to enjoy our weekend as much as possible, hopefully avoiding “deep cuts and gashes” or any manner of flesh-wound, and also trying not to think too much about the results.  This of course is like trying not to breathe too much.  

I really want to stay positive and only think of good things (my family, my new niece, lobster dinners) but the truth is I’m terrified.  Still, if there is something to know, I’d rather know it.  Can’t fight it if you don’t know it’s there, right?  And maybe there just won’t be any surprises.  Maybe the test drug is working, in spite of seemingly enlarged neck lumps, which yes I have stopped touching all the time.  Mostly. 

Anyway, on with the dragon hunt.  Again.

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There Be NO ADDITIONAL Dragons!!!

Results from the bone & CT scans are in, and apart from the neck bumps THERE ARE NO MORE SPOTS!  My husband and I were hugging and crying in my doctor’s office (out of happiness and relief for a change) as she went through the reports one by one: chest cavity, lungs, liver, pelvis… everywhere.  Or rather, NOWHERE!

 

It is the best news I could have hoped for; it has changed my world.  I can fight this, now I know I can.  I was steeling myself for the worst, but I never really expected the best.  Now I feel like shouting from the rooftops: Get out of my way, stupid neck lumps! Prepare to meet your demise, stupid metastasized cancer!

 

I don’t think this happened all on its own.  I think there were too many people targeting their prayers and hope and good thoughts my way.  I have come to believe in the power of remote, collective prayer – or remote, collective non-denominational good mojo of any kind.

 

Yesterday I was e-mailing with a family friend in Manitoba who’s known me since I was a kid, and who also happens to be a priest.  He said his prayer group was stepping up their efforts for me.  And then he sent me a link to what he called my “new theme song.”  Stick some ear-buds in and crank it up:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM

 

Of course I cried the whole way through the video, thinking of all the people standing by me, close to home and far away – and if there were a word bigger than grateful, more affirmative than hopeful, and less over-used than empowered, that might get close to how I’m feeling right now.

 

Please stay with me.  You’ll note that in the video there’s no fat lady marking the end of this, but it sure feels like we’ve got a fighting chance of stomping those dragons and throwing a party right on top of that pile of stinking scales.  That’s the day I’m fighting for, starting now. 

 

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There Be Dragons

In a recent e-mail my aunt referenced the old mapmakers who, when faced with uncharted territory, used to write “There be dragons.”  That’s how it feels as we wait for results from my bone & CT scans.  Scary, unknown, and forbidding.  I just find myself hoping there aren’t very many dragons.  

 

Then, just when I was about to post this, I read two comments that I had missed in response to my “The M-Word” post.  This is an excerpt from one:

 

I never in a million years dreamed this would happen to me….never ever expected that the monster would be inside me. Cancer was so not in my plans-I’ve been fighting to have my life back since last October…I may win this battle, but my innocence and my fertility have been sacrificed to the dragon. I am deeply thankful for everyday and every kindness and I know what every wish will be from here on out and now that I’ve met fear for real-I know what not be afraid of…and what to be – so I’m training and arming myself for the next battle, whenever it may come…next time I will be waiting outside the gate, sword drawn. (Although let’s hope it’s more like laser blasters)—posted by Jules

 

(Thank-you for the comment in its entirety, Jules. My friend Eden asked, “Do you just cry your face off every time you read the comments on your blog??” I do. I cry my face off. Total waterworks.  But in a good way.) 

 

OK so, kind of a creepy coincidence that both Jules and I were doing the dragon associative imagery thing – but also very comforting and strengthening to picture myself standing at the gate, sword drawn. 

 

Comforting, and then (because my imagination is about as sophisticated and easily contained as an untrained puppy) it descended into a nerded-out Dungeons-and-Dragons type fantasy, as I pictured all my friends and family and all the “sisters” in a Lord of the Rings-meets-Braveheart type scene: everyone armoured-up and ready for battle outside the gates of Mordor, wielding gigantic swords, faces painted, thumping at their chests à la Mel Gibson meeting the British army… I know I’ve cross-pollenated my genres but good god did I chuckle. Honestly, just the vision of my mom sporting chain-mail while trying to look menacing with a sword that’s way too heavy for her* — this alone is worth the drive to Middle Earth any day.

 

So thanks Jules for making me cry and laugh all at once – and for giving me some good positive spin on my “there be dragons” fear of the unknown.  Let’s hope the dragons aren’t too numerous or too ravenous, and when it’s all over they’re just a heap of scales and claws and bad smells at our feet. 

 

* Yes, mummy, I know:  No sword is too heavy for a mother protecting her child. I love you too.

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Bottoms Up!

 

  

   

I am drinking a vast quantity of barium from a gigantic Super Slurpee-sized cup in preparation for my CT scans tonight.  It’s not that bad, if you don’t mind drinking a bucket of orange-flavoured chalk-water — but I would much rather have the Slurpee.

 

 

 

 

 

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Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…

Yesterday I went for the bone scan.  I already knew the drill: come in for the injection of radioactive tracer fluid (say it with me, just in case I didn’t already have cancer) wait an hour, and then lie still while a giant waffle-maker transmits images of my skeleton to a computer screen.  I confess I like the bone scan.  It is cool to see your own skeleton from head to toe.  It’s very sci-fi.  Plus it doesn’t hurt.

 

Unfortunately I have to wait until Monday for my CT scans, and even then we’ve asked my oncologist to get all the results before telling us what (if anything) these tests turn up.  So, likely end of next week sometime, we will know what we’re facing.

 

I’m trying to approach the CT scans and bone scan realistically.  My strategy is to assume that something will turn up somewhere; that in all likelihood, given that I found the lump in my neck because it was protruding, there will be things (lesions, tumours, groups of evil, hateful, unwelcome cells) in places I can’t feel them. The idea is to be mentally prepared so that if absolutely nothing else should turn up (can you imagine the relief??) I can celebrate, but if they find something I will have been expecting it.

 

Basically it’s a nice theory, but in practice it’s BS.  The truth is I’m scared.  When I’m not totally distracted by something else, I’m living in dread.  So I’m actually relieved that I have several more days to try to get my head around it, and even then I think it’s a tall order.

 

On the up-side, the clinical trial nurse called today to tell me that they have a place for me in the study!  Now I just have to go through the whole screening process and actually qualify as a subject… Yes, more testing.  That’s just my life right now, but if it means I’m going to have a chance at beating this thing, I’m ok with it.

 

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The M-Word

After meeting with my oncologists yesterday we have some answers. Not great ones. Apparently, the cancer was able to grow after so much treatment – and while I’m still receiving Herceptin – because it’s very “aggressive.” Cancers in younger women often are.  Thing is, when I was told that the lymph nodes in my neck were positive I assumed they were part of the same lymph node system as the original cancer, but this is not the case.  And this is crucial, because this means that my cancer has moved to a new site.  It has metastasized. 

 

The M-word.  More menacing even than its terrifying step-mother, the C-word.

 

I have metastatic breast cancer.  The cancer has metastasized.  Any way I try to say it or write it, it is gigantically overwhelming. C-word + M-word = so, so scary.

 

It means the cancer is on the move.  It travels in disguise and is sneaky and strong and knows lots of martial arts and is hell-bent on killing me, like an evil cellular-level Jason Bourne that has somehow slipped past the defensive lines of chemo and Herceptin.

 

Basically, at the very least, it means I can never let my guard down ever again for as long as I live.  Which is to say they have taken treating my cancer “curatively” off the table and are now talking about “prolonging my life.”

 

When you are 37 that sounds like a bum deal.  Probably it sounds like a bum deal at any age.  But my husband and I are still in the early years of life together and our daughter is only 3 years old.  She picks me dandelions.  She races into my arms. She mispronounces words captivatingly. She has tantrums and is extraordinarily affectionate, like a benevolent dictator. She needs me.

 

So you know what that means: I need to beat this thing.  It means, get out of my way, stupid metastasized cancer.

 

Next week I’m lined up for a bone scan and CT scans of all my organs to see, well, whatever there is to be seen.  Or not seen. Then, we attack.

 

I sound brave?  I’m not brave, I’m scared, but I’m not going to be bullied.

 

They won’t surgically remove the lymph nodes in my neck because of the risks of this kind of surgery and because they feel they can effectively deal with the affected lymph nodes through radiation.  Also because this needs to be treated systemically not just locally. We were originally told that they wouldn’t do chemo because it’s too soon following my last course of treatment, but it turns out that isn’t entirely true.  There is a possible chemo option (oh, hateful chemo!) and a very promising clinical trial option, which we’re really, reeeeally hoping I’ll qualify for and be able to start ASAP.

 

Scared or brave or both, I’m going to do whatever it takes.  Yesterday my friend Adam sent me a Bruce Cockburn quote: “We’re going to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”

 

One kick at a time.

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