Wednesday, January 28, 2015


This post would be better if I had properly set it up with a post a few days ago to let you know that I had a PET scan this week.  Unfortunately blog time has not been in the cards lately, so you won't get to ride the PET train with me.  That's a good thing for you.  You'll get nervous and relieved all in one sitting.  I, on the other hand, have been a basket case for at least 3 three days now.  That ends now.  Or maybe tomorrow.  I'm still reeling a bit myself.

My PET scan was scheduled for 8:00 Monday morning, with a results appointment scheduled for the same day at 11:15.  My awesome mother-in-law took the girls to school and was going to take me out to breakfast between the appointments.  However, there was no time to kill, because there was no PET scan.  They bumped my appointment to Tuesday, but they forgot to leave or send me a message to that effect.  Ooo I was so frustrated, and I told them that.  You can't mess with someone's head like that!  There's a lot of mental preparation you go through to get your game face on for a PET scan, and now I had to pause the game.  Ack!  But I'll forgive them because in the scheme of things it was no big deal.  

Needless to say, my MIL and I went out to breakfast anyway.  I had a short stack of comfort carbs, and I let almost the entire globe of butter melt into the stack.  PET scan scheduling people can suck it.

Tuesday, 8:00, new game face.  My favorite PET scan technician was working, so we caught up on things:  did Kathy have her baby?  How was your Christmas?  Oh, and when did you last eat something?  She injected me with the radioactive glucose, then I laid in the cosy dark room for an hour.  I brought back my yellow paintbrushes from my last PET scan and meditated on how healthy I feel.  I tried to bring that down to the cellular level, to align my cells with my healthy mo-jo.  Unfortunately I was terribly distracted with other Life thoughts and did a terrible job of meditating, but at least I tried.  It's always good to try.  After my hour-long incubation I was slid in and out of the tube a few times, then I went on my radioactive way.

Today I walked the kids to school.  The temperature was supposed to get up into the 60's, so we thought that it would be a good day to walk.  It was on the chilly side of brisk for our walk, but the kids didn't seem to mind.  It was a great way for me to start the day.

My MIL, uncle, sister, and baby Calvin (the Cure; he's 10 months old now! mobile, but as chill as ever) joined me for my PET-scan-results appointment.  Yes, they all crammed into the exam room with me.  When Dr. Oncologist came in I introduced her to my entourage while she pulled up pictures of my scan.  She had quite the poker face on and it was hard to tell which way the appointment was going to go.

I wish I could remember the first words she used to tell me the results.  I don't remember them, because I couldn't comprehend them, because they didn't make sense, because they weren't what I was expecting.  Her first words, therefore, must have been something like, "There's nothing," or "It's gone."

Because there is nothing in my lungs.  The cancer is all gone.  From everywhere.

She scrolled through the images of my ridiculously amazing cancer-fighting body, and it was the cleanest PET scan of myself that I've ever seen.  My lungs were completely black, as were my bones, brain, and other important parts.  Black is the best color on a PET scan.  I watched her scroll up and down, up and down, with my in-person mouth gaping and tears streaming, gawking at my image-person.  I just couldn't believe it was all gone.  My optimism had led me to the conclusion that the innumerable pulmonary nodules would be the same or smaller, but "gone" never once crossed my mind.  Not once.  I didn't even know that was an option.

Apparently I need to create a new option.  

All day I have been trying to wrap my head around this news, because clearly this is a game-changer.  Where I hesitated to make plans, I can make plans.  Wow.  I can't decide if I want to laugh or cry, jump or crumple, run or crawl, sing or weep.  I think I'll do a little of all of it.  I have that same full-in-the-chest feeling that I had when I was diagnosed just under a year ago.  It's the type of feeling that makes you want to make a really loud noise for a really long time.  I guess I've come full-circle, then, by ending the the same feelings that I started with.      

Cancer, this is my year, not yours.  You can't catch me; I'm the hbomb.    

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The last goodbye

With conviction I called my dad last night to cancel our trip to see Dr. Surgical Oncologist today.  The first snowstorm of the season struck yesterday afternoon and evening.  Area schools were delaying morning classes, and so it seemed like the rational choice to avoid the extra driving by rescheduling my appointment with Dr. Surgical Oncologist.  My dad, however, had a different opinion.  He was confident that the roads would be better by morning, and that we'd be fine in his extended-cab, 4-wheel drive Ford F-150.  I deferred to his expertise and driving abilities in favor of keeping the appointment.  

He picked me up just after 8am.  I tossed my snowpants in the cab just in case we had to hike out of a snow-filled ditch.  Once we hit the interstate he disclosed that the southbound traffic had been plugged up earlier, but hopefully it's cleared now?  Between this question and the thick layer of snow beneath the tread, I began to question our decision.  Fortunately my 511 road-condition app revealed that traffic was indeed flowing up ahead and that road conditions were improving by the minute.  Indeed, by the time I closed the app the packed snow had given way to pavement.  I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for another pleasant drive with my dad.  

Dad has been my chauffeur to all of my distant appointments this entire Cancer year.  He has been gamefully unemployed approximately since my diagnosis, which I selfishly admit has been glorious.  I don't think he's missed a single distant appointment.  He packs snacks for the car ride.  In the exam room, he remembers to ask the questions that I forget to ask.  He asks me things the doctors and I forget to think about.  He thanks the doctors and nurses while I'm still reeling from whatever news has been delivered.  After the appointment, we do lunch, and we've discovered some delicious food.  Sometimes we get a chocolate shake, if it's been that kind of appointment.  Usually we just hit the road.  He makes me laugh.  

It's fitting that just as my Cancer year is winding down, Dad has found a new job.  He starts on Monday.  Congratulations, dad!  I'm glad you have an exciting new job, and I'm so glad that I have fewer appointments, but maybe we can keep the regular lunch dates?  I'm going to miss them.  <3

Today's appointment with Dr. Surgical Oncologist was a simple surgical follow-up.  Everything is still healing well.  I took this opportunity to describe my only concern, which is that when my right arm is at my side I have a sensation that there is something wedged under there.  You know how it is when you wear a shirt with too-small armholes, and the sleeve hikes up and gets bunched in your armpit?  It feels like that, all the time.  This led to my concern, which was not about the sensation itself, but perhaps I was having swelling that was causing the sensation?  She checked me out and determined that I do not have swelling (huzzah!).  She also said that although the surgical team tried to avoid damage to major nerves, microscopic nerves were certainly damaged.  She has had other patients complain of this full-armpit sensation, and she thinks that it's due to damage to these microscopic nerves.  She expects that the sensation will go away with time.  

Then the appointment turned a sad corner.  As long as I stay healthy for the next eight months, this is the last time that I will see Dr. Surgical Oncologist.  She is retiring in October, but now I only need yearly check-ups at the clinic's survivorship center.  I suppose even if she weren't retiring I would probably be graduating to the survivorship clinic and out of her purview since I no longer bear the subjects of her profession--she is a breast surgeon, after all.  Although I am sad to know that I will have to find a new surgeon should the occasion arise, I am truly happy for her at her retirement.  I am grateful to have been her patient and to have benefitted from her expertise.  I hope that she will do everything that she enjoys.  

We parted with a hug, then another hug.  There was so much I wanted to say that I couldn't say any of it.  I thanked myself for sending her a thank-you note in November and I hoped that I had said everything in that.  There's no way to fully convey my sentiments, and yet they can be summarized in eight words or less.  Thank you, Dr. Surgical Oncologist, for my life.