Last year at this time I was just beginning the long process of getting diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Those were unpleasant times and memories that I just hate to relive. The initial thinking that the persistent pain in my sternum might be cancer. The mixture of anxiety, panic, denial, doubt, and frustration that I felt everyday for over a month while debating about how to handle the pain. I knew what would happen as soon as I told my oncologist about the pain. We would go down a path of scans and appointments and because I felt about 70% sure it was nothing, my main concern was actually finding time for the appointments. I thought it would all be a waste of time. And then when it wasn’t and the worst case scenario started playing out a whole new set of problems developed. I just didn’t want to deal with it all over again. And I was scared. Scared that new problems would keep turning up. Scared that I’d choose the wrong treatments. Scared that I would yet again let down my family. And mainly scared that I wouldn’t see my kids grow up. I just had this vision of spending the rest of my life in and out of oncology clinics and hospitals.
Here I am a year later feeling pretty good and going in for another PET scan. I’m always amused when I have PET scans because it’s a nuclear medicine scan. The drugs I make are being used to produce the image of the cancer in my body. I remember seeing patients prepping for PET scans at Ohio State where I did my authorized user training and never in a million years did I think I’d be one of them this soon. The whole concept also seems over-simplistic to me. Basically radioactive sugar is injected and because cancer cells love sugar (as every treat-cancer-naturally proponent loves to remind me) the radioactivity goes right to the cancer cells. One key part of the PET scan is a rest period of 45 minutes in a dark room to calm your body so the radioactive sugar will really concentrate in the cancerous cells and not to muscles that would be needed to move, talk, or read. Laying still in a dark room for 45 minutes and then knowing that you have to spend the next 40 minutes in a CT/PET scanner is not the most fun thing ever. Thoughts that started going through my head: Here I am again, getting a cancer scan, how did I end up here? What happened to my life? I wonder what this scan will show? What would I even do for treatment if something did show up? Does thinking use glucose? Is my overthinking going to make it look like I have a brain tumor? Shoot, I just looked at the clock again, will that cause my eyes to light up in the image? Yeah, I’d like to say I had some deep spiritual conversation with God or used the time wisely to solve all of my life’s problems, but I basically just repeated these same thoughts over and over again for the entire waiting period and scan time.
I am happy to report everything looked great! My oncologist told me that based on the scan there is no evidence of cancer in my body! Overall I’ve been feeling healthy, so can’t say I was surprised, but you never know what a scan will reveal, so just having a good one is such a relief. I really hope I can give this positive, annual report for the next few years at least and then who knows what new treatments might come along if something does come back?
Last year at this time I spent the drive home from my oncologist sobbing and then continued sobbing in a rolled up ball on my bed. This year I actually cried tears of joy driving home from the oncologist. I feel like my life has been on hold and now I’ve got it back. My treatments and appointments are even going to become less frequent, so pretty soon my monthly visits will turn into quarterly visits. I know it’s too early to proclaim a Lance Armstrong-esk victory over cancer, but it feels good. Another year down, another good scan in the books. Overall I’m feeling pretty good and definitely feeling grateful that God has given me more time with the people I love.