Tag Archives: results

Cancer Spots and Parking Spots

On the way to the hospital this morning, as we navigated the morning rush hour / rainy day traffic, my husband and I were saying that we would just for once like to leave one of these meetings with some really good news. Just a little luck, that’s all we wanted.  Sometimes it feels like we’ve been so beaten down with bad news and raw deals that just a tiny bit of good luck would send us into paroxysms of glee and gratitude.  We’d be so giddy that people would cross the street when they saw us coming.  

So, because the universe has a sick sense of humour (and has obviously bugged our car) when we arrived at the normally chaotic, totally un-parkable hospital, we found the world’s most perfect parking spot waiting for us right in front of the entrance to the breast clinic elevators.  Imagine – in the pouring rain, armed with a broken umbrella (I pulled it out of the stand in two pieces this morning) we beheld this beautiful, glorious parking spot – I swear it almost glowed. It almost made that chorus-of-angels sound. We had to laugh: just our luck that the answer to our prayers for good luck would come in the form of a great parking spot.  

Well, I’m very happy to say that the good luck didn’t end there today.  Ladies and Gentlemen: I have great news, good news and no news!!

First, the great news: The CT scan showed no spots in my brain! My notoriously low blood pressure is the cause of my dizziness and I can take a break from worrying about nasty things growing in my brain. I know some of you won’t be able to resist the airhead jokes (you know who you are… Shawn Coppen) so I’ll beat you to it: Finally, we have proof that there is nothing in my brain! And that’s fine with me.

Next, the good news: The lymph node tumours have either shrunk or stabilized!  Those one or two lumps in my neck are indeed getting smaller (okay, so maybe this counts as great news!) and the others haven’t managed to get any bigger.  Stabilization is almost as good as shrinkage, because, as my oncologist explained, Tykerb/lapatinib gradually stabilizes tumours over time and then begins to shrink them, hopefully all the way to oblivion.  So for now, stable is just fantastic in my books.

And finally, in the no news department: Well, it seems there was an error. The analysis of the chest CT scan was compared to an old scan from last year, rather than my most recent scan in August, so it’s no good. My oncologist has ordered a re-analysis against my most recent chest scan, so we can see what’s going on with the spots between my lungs. Reassuringly, my doc says her initial reading is good, but she will call me tomorrow when she has the complete analysis.  No news – while not as thrilling as “no new spots,” “shrinkage,” or “stable” – is still good news.

So, I’m massively, tearfully, hugely relieved.  And, oddly, also deeply thankful, though I’m not precisely sure to what or whom. But the gratitude I feel is strangely palpable; I can literally feel it emanating from me.  Also, I find I’m physically exhausted. Like, knackered.  I guess all the tension that I have been carrying has finally been released and my body wants me to let it rest now.  Which I will gladly do, as soon as I post this.

Tomorrow is another day – for chest scan results and parking spots – and let’s just hope the luck continues!

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Losing My Marbles in The Hope-Fear Continuum

On Friday I had CT scans of pretty much everything but my arms and legs to check the stage of my lumps and bumps as compared to three treatment cycles ago (that’s  just over two months ago.)  We’ll get the results Thursday morning, when I go in for my regular clinic appointment. 

Normally a head scan wouldn’t be included but I’ve been having some dizzy spells and frankly they’re freaking me out a bit.  Despite my best efforts, the words “brain tumour” crept into my mind like sneaky little spiders leaving clingy cobwebs of fear behind.   Reassuringly, my oncologist said that the problem is more likely related to circulation (it mostly happens when I stand up or get out of bed) but since I have a pretty good record of reporting symptoms that turn out to be indicators of disease progression, she’s not messing around. She tagged an “urgent” head scan onto my scheduled CT so we can get all the results at the same time. 

And so here I am again, trapped in the hope-fear continuum, as I always am whenever I wait for the results of tests like these.  No matter what I’m doing – working or buying groceries, talking or typing, listening or laughing – I can feel the almost magnetic tension between the poles of hope and fear.  It feels like walking a tightrope, where any slip can hurl me either into terror or wild optimism.

And this time in particular there’s a lot going on, pulling me in both directions.  There is the fear that the scans will reveal tumour growth or new spots, possibly in my (gulp) brain.  I’ve also noticed pain at the site of my original tumour, the one long-ago removed, and …is that a little lump under my arm?? 

But before I spiral down into the murky depths of Fearsville, let’s just shake off the slime of terror and foreboding for a moment and give the other end of the spectrum a chance.  Because there is also the lure of hope: pure and shiny and just as powerful a pull as the gravity of fear. And this time, offsetting the whirlpool suck of fear, I have to say hope’s got a pretty good leg-up. This time, I actually believe I have reason to be hopeful – dizzy spells and phantom tumour pain notwithstanding. 

Even though I’m superstitious enough to hesitate to blog it out to the universe for fear of jinxing myself, I’ve decided that I will share why I’m leaning toward hope because I also have a cockamamie theory that other people wishing for it too might help to make it come true.  So, here goes: I can feel that the lumps in my neck are getting smaller!  Its not just my imagination – my oncologist has on two occasions made a happy/surprised face and a little “Hm!” sound when examining me in the past few weeks.  (She is not the overly effusive type, so for her, I like to think “hm!” is the equivalent of jumping up and down and high-fiving me.) 

Anyway, I’ll know on Thursday. In the meantime I’ll walk the tightrope and try not to go completely mad.  Although I confess I’m rubbing my shrunken neck lumps like lucky pennies, and giving my brain and under arm lump 800-pound-gorilla status just by dint of the concentration it requires to not think about them.  

Luckily, I had a visit with my amazing cancer shrink yesterday, and he says “What-ifs” are strictly off limits.  No matter how positively you spin a What-if, reasons my amazing cancer shrink, it invites its opposite, thereby opening the door to anxiety.  And nobody wants to live in that house, located, as it is, in the reeking swamp of Fearsville.  So I just have to stay with what I know, which, right now, is …nothing.  Nothing is pretty hard to hold onto – but even if it’s not as great as good news, it’s still better than bad news.

Holding onto nothing… Oh my, my, my.  That’s the thing about cancer: you might beat the disease, but you’ll probably go crazy doing it.

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Bad News and Bubbly

Good news first: some of the nodes in my neck have actually stabilized.

The bad news is that the CT scans show several enlarged lymph nodes in my chest, between my lungs, and a couple of small lesions on my lungs. Also one or two tiny places on my liver that we “need to watch.”

Hearing the news in my oncologist’s office, my husband and I were devastated (read: crying our faces off) and left the meeting shaky and disoriented (read: stunned and wanting to scream at the universe.) We dried our tears, donned our sunglasses, went to a patio and ordered champagne. Eff you cancer, said we.  This is the best we could manage this afternoon, and I think we did it well.

What this all means is that I’m off the clinical trial, ending my love affair with HDAC-inhibitors before it could really begin. But I still have a lot of options.  I am to begin a new chemotherapy immediately. I will continue with Herceptin. I can even still do the 60K “Weekend to End Breast Cancer” walk on September 12/13 if I feel up to it.  And I intend to feel up to it.

For now though, I don’t feel up to anything, except taking a nap to rest my cried-out eyes, and then maybe jumping on a plane and running away to somewhere hot and sunny and beachy…  But how can you run away from something that’s inside you?  You can’t.  You just have to stand and fight.

So I will fight. But first, that nap.

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CT Scan: Waiting For Results

We’re still waiting for results of the CT scans.  We made it through the weekend — the rainy, stressful, anxiety-sodden weekend.  Friday was Complete Meltdown Day, as if there’s anything productive about sobbing on my bed and asking my husband (and the universe) “Why does it have to be this hard??”  Neither of them gave me a satisfactory answer. 

Saturday was Exhausted and Depressed Day, but by Sunday we had kind of found our groove of Denial and Distraction.  

Now we’re mostly in the Numb and Calm stage, with a little glimmer of Hopeful and Determined: today I woke up to a sunny day and found that I actually believe that whatever the CT scans show, we will just take it in stride as best we can and get on with the business of beating this horrible thing. 

Which is not to say that I’m done with crying and asking impossible questions of the universe and my husband, but for the moment, no news is simply no news.  For the moment, as far as I’m concerned the cancer hasn’t colonized any new bodily territories and the neck lumps haven’t pushed their evil lebensraum campaign too terribly far.  And that’s good enough to get me through one more night.

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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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Here We Go Again

The cancer is back.

 

On Friday evening as I was unloading the dishwasher my surgeon called to tell me that the results of the surgical biopsy were positive. I sat down on the kitchen floor with the phone to my ear and a bunch of cutlery in my fist – my daughter napping in her bed upstairs, my husband at work, a rush in my ears like a wave of water drowning out everything…

 

Hold on. Listen to him.  Then speak.  Instructions from a part of my brain that I obeyed as best I could.

 

I asked, “How is it possible that it managed to grow when I have had so much chemo and radiation and I’m still receiving Herceptin treatments every three weeks?”

 

He said the words “Well, this is bad.” Then said that we needed to come in to talk about it. The rest is a blur.

 

We don’t know what it means yet.  Tomorrow we will meet with him and my other oncologist, and hopefully our questions will be answered.  Questions like what is the possible extent of the spread, what will my treatment be, how is this possible, and of course the all-encompassing query: WTF??  

 

We’re in shock, angry, devastated, terrified… All I can think is, NOT AGAIN. And then, How dare you, cancer?  Really, how dare you?

 

Here we go again, just when I thought I could see the finish line.

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