Sunday, March 13, 2011
Anxiety: It Ain't Just a Triple Letter Scrabble Word
There comes a certain time in every cancer-afflicted person's life when they find themselves at the mercy of modern technology. Specifically speaking, the full body scanner. Luckily, once cancer has been detected in one's person, the scan no longer involves a whole body, but is limited to the region in question. In my case, of course, it is a localized chest scan (sometimes CT, which looks for abnormal masses and takes interesting pictures of your blobby insides, and sometimes the PET, which looks for hyper metabolic activity in places other than major organs - a.k.a. bad cancerous dudes trying to thrive at my expense).
Since the end of my radiation treatment in December, I have had 2 scan experiences. The first was at the end of January, and of course, laden with d-r-a-m-a, what with my tachycardia and shortness of breath during the port access (which was a big fail). The chest CT I had (with contrast - that is injected via IV and makes you feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside) turned out to have "favorable" results. It's that one lonely word I'm clinging to at the moment.
The second scan I had was last week's MRI (also with contrast, this time made me feel like I was about to hurl all over the inside of that very small tunnel) of the thoracic spine. My radiation oncologist was looking for anything that might have been putting pressure on my spine, causing my nerves to go haywire (remember that whole sunburned skin minus the redness?). Luckily, we got the all clear from him on my spine. Thank you, Dr. H.
We have finally arrived at the first post-treatment PET. This Scan is the one I've been both dreading as-though-the-world-is-coming-to-an-end-tomorrow, and willing to-hurry-up-and-get-here-already. If I could fast forward through tomorrow until the results are in a nicely typed and printed radiologist's report, we would all be safer and happier (no matter what the outcome).
The worry, the fear, the vomitous lump in my throat that persists every time my thoughts travel back to what tomorrow's scan could bring, are seemingly insurmountable.
Take a trip with me, if you will, down Memory Lane. Almost a year ago, Dan and I were dealing with a miscarriage, me having breathing issues, the start of The Itching, and so forth. Not a great time in our lives. The end of May rolls around and the chest x-ray shows "a mass". This leads to the first CT and then the first PET, the appointments at an ONCOLOGIST'S office, for crying out loud, the bummer of an IR biopsy, the ICU recovery of the surgical biopsy (ugh, catheters suck), and the waiting for results. 6 insufferable rounds of chemotherapy, one neutropenic hospital stay (and the entire practice season of the CHS marching band), and 4 weeks of radiation later, I do not feel any closer to the end of cancer. If anything, I fear the worst, that all of those fevers, the hair loss, overwhelming physical fatigue, insomnia, crying (still), inability to give my child a bath before bed, it was all for nothing.
I must continue to fight, to deflect those dastardly evil cells whose purpose is to destroy all of my good ones.
There are many others (too many) who have been down this road, who have moved onto SCT (stem cell transplants) with great success. I try to remind myself that that option is there for me, that even if tomorrow's scan is not dark and boring as we are all hoping for, that this is not the end of the line, we have not yet exhausted all of the available treatment options.
This doesn't come as much comfort though. The idea of more aggressive chemo, losing my hair all over again, inflicting even more pain and suffering on those around me, somehow is not all that appealing. Surviving? Yes. Living to see my child grow into a young man? Very much so. And I will do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
But having this opportunity to look into the rearview mirror and revisit the trauma of the past 9 months? The only ones who benefit are Puffs and Kleenex. They are SO reaping the profits here.
I realize I did not quite articulate the experience of "scanxiety" the way I had initially envisioned. I hope you get the idea without the actual experience: it's terrifying, in a personal house of horrors sort of way. Instead of ghouls and witches popping up around every corner, it's horrible visions of funerals and sadness, empty holes and lives being led without you.
Bright and early tomorrow morning, my port will be accessed for the bajillionth time. I will post again as soon as I'm ready to share the results publicly.