Note as of 4/14/18: I have been feeling terrible for the past two months, so I haven’t had the energy to make any blog posts. First it was chemo building up in my system, so I was mostly lying in bed watching TV. When I finally got my two weeks on one week off break, my port incision (which still hadn’t healed) got infected. I went into the hospital for eight days and then had to continue on 3 times daily antibiotics for a total of six weeks. Antibiotics have always made me feel like crap, and that’s not even when they’re being intravenously pumped into my veins non-stop.
I’m going to create some of the blog entries I wanted to write, although my memory is finicky. I might miss some things, especially around the nightmarish hospital stay.
This post is about getting the results of my CT scan after my first third of treatment at the beginning of February.
After the big ordeal getting the scans actually done, I’m not nervous about the results, just about whether they’re going to be able to get them to Dr. Freedman in time. Well, okay, I’m 10% nervous about the results, 90% sure it will contain good news. Let’s do a rundown:
- There are people all over the world praying for me. I do not discount this at all. Even if I don’t believe in the same things they all do, I believe in the power of asking for what you want. I believe in a Deity that gives peace in scary places.
- Many people have assured me that Herceptin alone is a miracle drug, keeping people alive when everything else failed. And that’s being coupled with Perjeta, a new, shinier miracle drug, and chemotherapy. I’m young and healthy otherwise. They will work.
- My shoulder and jaw pain are abating. I’m still on painkillers, but I’m not watching the clock like I used to be, anxious for my next dose. I’ve all but stopped using Ibuprofen, so the Percocets are taking care of it mostly themselves.
As I sit in the Cancer Centre waiting room, an email arrives welcoming me to Aurora, the medical marijuana vendor that I will be buying my oils from. Another reason to believe the results will be positive.
- Today is a good day! I get to buy pot!
I install Aurora’s application and browse the selections. It is straightforward. There’s only one CBD oil available, 26.3% strength, with a small (<1%) amount of THC. Later, I find out that the THC is the component that helps pain. I put in an order, and voila, my marijuana is on its way.
“Samantha?” calls the nurse.
Dad is with me as usual, and we shuffle down the hall. My weight, as always, is the same. 20 pounds heavier than before I was pregnant with the twins. Lots of room to absorb… whatever it is that I need fatty stores for. Except, of course, the steroids in the chemotherapy treatment mean that I won’t be losing weight. The women in my support group have indicated that they gained weight.
There is so much about cancer that the media gets wrong. Sigh.
In the exam room, the nurse goes through the symptoms. I’m trying not to be nervous, but I am. Dad and I wait, chatting about nothing.
Dr. Freedman comes in. “Good news! Your tumors are all shrinking.”
I didn’t realize it would hit me that hard. Tears spring to my eyes and flow down my cheeks. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to, and really, why would I want to?
She hands me a piece of paper. It’s the full write-up from the doctor who read my CT scan. “Let me explain this. Now, I don’t have the full report of your head scan yet, but you’ve been telling me your jaw feels better, yes?”
“Go off that. If it feels better, it is better.”
That makes me nervous. I want something in black and white. But we plunge right into the results. (Lack of punctuation [sic]. 1 cm = 10 mm)
Contiguous axial enhanced images of the chest abdomen and pelvis were obtained.
Clinical information: Follow-up metastatic breast, previous CT. Please compare metastases to jaw spine and liver.
Comparison: November 2, 2017.
Lymph nodes: No adenopathy
When I get home, I scour the paper again, and that last line stands out. I don’t remember a confirmation that it wasn’t in my lymph nodes, but that’s the third good news of the day. It’s not in my lymph nodes. The cancer traveled through my blood. So I don’t have to have lymph nodes removed. I don’t have to worry that it’s going to spread through my lymph nodes if the rest is eradicated. No lymph node involvement. No lymph node involvement.
It’s fucked up, though. I never knew cancer could spread through your blood. It such a strange-seeming malady. Like some kind of sci-fi disease, or the Borg–resistance is futile. Fucking cancer. Fuck you.
There are five 1-2mm nodules on my lungs, but I’m not concerned. My brother went through this recently, and as Dr. Freedman explained, pretty much everybody has findings in their lungs at my age. They’re tiny, and they’re probably scar tissue from respiratory illness when I was younger. (Or asthma, blargh.)
Additional findings: Appropriately placed Port-A-Cath.
That’s a relief. I’ve been having such problems with it that I wasn’t sure if it was installed right. Except, it’s not that port itself, it’s the incision that isn’t healing. The port works perfectly fine, and I like it much better than getting an IV poked in my arm every time I have to get treatment. I just wish the nurses wouldn’t hem and haw over it. Should I be worried? The damn thing is still open.
Ah, well. Today is not the day to worry about that.
The spiculated lesion in the left breast is decreased in size measuring 10 x 19 mm, previously 18 x 19 mm.
WOW! My first proof that this thing is getting its ass kicked. Still, it was only 2 cm wide. As always, I wonder how I was supposed to know. It’s on the back of my breast, near my breastbone. Nobody felt it. I’m only 36. How… ?
But no. Today is a day for celebrating.
Bones: Measurement on series 201.
Increased calcification of a left diatal clavicular lytic desctructive lesion seen on image 2. The size is stable measuring approximately 2.7 cm.
Increased sclerosis of a left scapular focus on image 3 measuring approximately 1.8 cm.
Increased sclerosis of a lesion in the left side of the T6 vertebral body on image 56.
Increased sclerosis of a vertebral body lesion in T10 on image 106.
Increased sclerosis of the right 12th rib lesion seen on image 160.
Increased size of a lytic lesion with a sclerotic rim measuring 2.5 cm on image 178, previously 1 cm.
The right iliac lytic lesion on image 246 is slightly smaller on today’s examination measuring 2 cm, previously 2.5 cm.
“Calcification and sclerosis means your bones are healing,” says Dr. Freedman. “The tumors are being replaced with new bone scar tissue.”
I’m confused because I thought she said that wasn’t going to happen. But I absorb it all. Maybe she didn’t say that–maybe she didn’t know–maybe it happens for some people and not for others. My fear was that the tumors would dissolve and there’d be a gap where the bones used to be. But no, my body is healing itself.
It’s amazing to me how the human body can do this. It’s medicine, but it feels like sorcery, like some kind of magical ability. They gave me a potion that got rid of a malfunction in my body, and my body said, “Heck, yes!” and grew new parts of itself.
No wonder I’m tired all the time.
This is the most information I’ve gotten so far on where everything is at. I didn’t want it before, but with this good news, I do. When I go home, I look up all the different places on my body. Rib 12 is in my back. T6 and T10 are in my spine.
The “increased size of a lytic lesion” makes me nervous, but it says it has a sclerotic rim. It’s possible the tumor grew between when I had the CT scan and when I started chemo. I mean to ask her about it my next appointment, but I never do. Maybe at my next CT scan.
Abdomen and pelvis:
Liver: Multiple hypoechoic enhancing liver lesions. Marker lesions as follows:
In segment 2 lesion measures 7 mm on image 114, previously 1.6 cm.
WHAT WHAT, my liver lesions are shrinking.
A previously identified segment 7 lesion is not longer apparent.
GONE, YOU FUCKER!
An adjacent segment 7 lesion measures 1.6 cm on image 112, previously 2 cm. More inferiorly in segment 7 lesion now measures 11 mm on image 119, previously 1.4 cm.
A lesion in segment 5 measures 5 mm on image 125, previously 12 mm.
So all my liver lesions are shrinking, some by more than half, one is gone, and we’re only 1/3 of the way through treatment. That is good, good, good news.
Adrenal glands: Normal
Lymph nodes: Normal
Great vessels and retroperitoneum: Normal
Additional findings: None
Opinion: Significant interval decrease in the size of liver nodules. Most of the bony lesions demonstrate increased sclerosis suggesting healing. No new lesions. Pulmonary nodules are stable. The mandible was not assessed.
Well. There you have it.
I think I may have hugged Dr. Freedman. I don’t remember. The tears, the excitement, the relief buoys me out of room. I carry the paper with me in my to-do notebook, to touch and feel when I’m having a down day. This is a turning point for me. I know I’m going to get better now. I know it’s still a hard road, but it’s one I can walk down with renewed vigor.
I get my first break this cycle. And next cycle, we’re going to Ohio to see my cousins, aunts, uncles–and my brother is going to round up his family onto an airplane from Texas.
It will be glorious.
I buy a lottery ticket. (Spoiler alert: I don’t win.) Dad and I go to a local bakery and get cookies, a couple mini-cheesecakes, and a box of fancy-looking English Breakfast Tea from London. In the shop, I cry again, but I don’t care. I’m wearing my headscarf, and anyone who looks funny at a woman wearing a headscarf crying is, well, heartless.
No one does, of course.
Today is a good day.