Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008 -- Anxiety is NOT Fun

Hi bloggy,

I know a few of you have written to subtly remind me that I have not updated the blog in over a week. There was nothing new to report as far as my health was concerned and although I had a few things I was going to update in the way of pictures and babble, I have to admit, I didn't quite get in the mood to do that.

But the title of today's entry is Anxiety is NOT Fun. I don't know how many of you have had anxiety attacks before or not, but these are relatively new for me. The only anxiety attack I can remember having was when I was at St. Paul's hospital in Dec 2006 and Dr. Brown (surgeon) wanted to check to see if he could find out what was causing the inflammation/blockage of the intestine. I thought this was going to be a routine checkup/scopy and the end result ended up being that he told me he didn't want me to leave the hospital.. that he wanted to admit me right then and there for surgery. I told him that I had to go home and make arrangements for my dog and he gave me an hour ... that I was to be back within the hour. Well, that is the first time I have ever felt a Panic/Anxiety attack and it was horrible... but Mimi and Nathan were home (upstairs) so they got me ready and took me back to the hospital; Greg came over and stayed with Bridget; and I don't know how word got out so fast, but by that evening Dad/Pat were at the hospital and soon after the care team of friends showed up and were with me every day.

Well, the anxiety/panic attacks are back... and they are so foreign to me. I have never been one to be nervous or anxious over things... but once again, they are rearing their ugly head. It seems they fluctuate between terror/fear and then the emotional roller coaster of tears where I will just break out in tears at something that one wouldn't think you would cry over. In other words, there's no rhymne nor reason to when the tears come... although, my intellect does know that a lot of this can be caused by stress.

Right now, I am going through the toughest time of my life. You all might have thought that going through the surgery, then the chemo and those 6 weeks of radiation last spring would have been the toughest time. But the reason I can say it wasn't is because each of those things there was a problem and a plan and treatment that one followed through with. That works for me... tell me what the problem is, what we have to do to fix it, what can I expect from the treatment and then let's do it. I can keep my chin up pretty good during stuff like that because we are getting the problem fixed.

But right now... it is terrifying. We have to find out what exactly the problem is and then depending on what the problem is, that will determine if there is a solution for fixing it. I just assume that if you are sick, or if they find something, then great... they found it, now let's fix it. But cancer doesn't work that way. Sometimes, especially if you catch it early, there can be a fix and it can be eliminated. Other times, if it's caught later, then there's the chance it will reoccur, in which case sometimes it can be fixed, sometimes not. Then there are the cases where there's a high risk of it reoccurring and depending where it starts up again will determine whether or not it can be fixed or not.

In my case, Colon Cancer is one of those nasty cancers that do have a high risk of reoccurring and depending on where it might start up again, pretty much determines whether it can be fixed a second or third time. When the doctors do find a new spot or tumour, then a bunch of tests have to be taken to see if they can figure out if this is a secondary colon cancer (colon cancer most commonly spreads to the liver and/or the lung, so if it spreads to either of these places then tests would be taken to see if it is the colon cancer that has spread and it would then be classified as a secondary colon cancer, and not seen as lung cancer or liver cancer). With me so far?

So, I have the small 1/2 inch tumour in my lung that was found on the PET scan (full body scan) and one can assume that it is a secondary colon cancer, with the original cancer having spread to the lung. But there's no way of knowing if it is a secondary colon cancer or if it is actually a new primary lung cancer (IE: has nothing to do with the colon cancer, but is a cancer that may have sprung up on it's own possibly due to my years of smoking way back when).

Ok, if this is all we were dealing with, then the problem would be - small lung tumour. Solution - surgically remove the tumour and surrounding tissue, at which time the tumour would then be sent to pathology and they would then be able to find out if it's a primary lung cancer or a secondary colon cancer... but all might be good now because it has been removed.

Where it is tricky in my situation, the PET scan lit up for the lung tumour, but it also lit up for the adrenal gland. Now the adrenal gland does have a growth. We know I've had it for at least 7 years and it has not grown, changed size, done anything... so it has been considered benign. Benign adrenal glands are very, very common and most, if found, are found accidently when a scan for something else in the area is done. So we knew I had this adrenal growth but NOW it lit up the PET scan, so this is of great concern to the oncologist and the surgeon.

The reason being... IF it IS malignant, then that means either the colon cancer has spread to the adrenal AND to the lung; or, if the lung tumour is a primary lung cancer, then it may have spread from the lung to the adrenal gland. If the adrenal growth is malignant, then it is a spread from either the colon cancer or the lung cancer... and this is NOT a good thing. That would mean that either the colon cancer or the lung cancer is widespread, which means that I either have advanced colon cancer or advanced lung cancer.

And this is where I'm freaking out and why the panic/anxiety attacks. IF I have either advanced staged cancer, then the treatment plan would not be to go in and surgically remove the lung tumour or the adrenal tumour... the plan would be to administer palliative chemo or palliative radiation to slow down the progress of the growth. The prognosis for either... would be about 2 years.

So, for anyone reading this blog, you can pretty much understand that it doesn't matter that anxiety/panic attacks don't help... these are something you don't have control over. When I even give thought to the possibility of knowing my days could be numbered to under 2 years, the anxiety is right back there. Oh sure, none of us knows when we are going to die and any one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow and that would be that... but what are our chances of that happening? Which is why we don't think about it, nor do we panic about it. But I am waiting for a needle biopsy of the adrenal growth and that will tell us for sure whether we are dealing with a benign tumour or a malignant one... and if it is malignant, then it doesn't really matter whether it's the colon cancer spread or a lung cancer spread... as far as the prognosis for life. The biopsy will tell because of the cells it extracts and depending what kind it is will determine the kind of chemo they would use.

Anywho... I need all of your positive thoughts big time... even more so than before. I need you all to be thinking and willing that the adrenal tumour is benign. BENIGN BENIGN BENIGN!! Oh my God... that would be like winning the lottery and you all would hear me from the corners of the earth! If the adrenal is benign, we would just put it aside and not worry about what we are going to do with it for now... but would go surgically after the lung tumour.

My girlfriend, Jo, came with me to today's very emotional appt. It started with one of the "interns" coming in to talk to me before Dr. Gill. His name was David... and let me tell you, it was him that triggered off my tears. He may be a straight A student, very book-smart and all of that... but does not have a clue how to deal compassionately with patients who are under a lot of stress. It's not that he was intentionally trying to hurt anyone, but he just didn't have a clue. I think between me letting him know I was not happy and I think Jo may have given him a sign that now would be a good time for him to leave the room and we would just wait for Dr. Gill.

I can't even begin to explain the difference between Dr. Sharlene Gill and David the intern. Sharlene knows her stuff, is brilliant, but at the same time is compassionate and looks in your eyes, reading the fear/terror and calms you down. Then we went over all the procedures and why we were doing what we were doing and why it was taking longer.

So, now my mind is getting a bit muddled... not sure if I've already written this down but here's what we are in the process of doing:

1) Waiting for the blood test result (this one takes a week or longer for the lab to do it) that will let us know if the adrenal growth is safe to do a fine needle biopsy. This is the test we still don't have the results for yet.

2) Dr. Gill is going to set book a fine needle biopsy appt. although I'm not to go to it until I have checked with her to see if that blood test result has come in.

3) The biopsy result will determine my fate, basically... and that will be one either super happy appt or one terrifying one.

Ok... I know this is long and I hope I haven't missed out any news, but I have to admit I'm tired now after writing this all up. After my appt. with Dr. Gill, I then went to see my GP because the waterworks were just coming on and off, even when I was driving home. So he sat me down and reminded me that I have been through a hell of a lot of various health issues and he has never understood how I have managed to keep such a brave face... so these tears and emotions are showing that I am, in fact, human. At the same time, he says that no one should have to live their life in fear and terror while waiting for what happens next. He says that we will meet each hurdle head on, like we have every other hurdle I've had thrown at me... and in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with accepting a little medication help so that I am not being terrorized.

He had prescribed .5mg Ativan (fast-acting anti-depressent med) for me to take on an as needed basis. But today he prescribed me a 1mg Ativan tablet, three times/day until we get the results of the biopsy. The biopsy itself may not be for another two weeks. So he says if I take this med as he's prescribed then I should be pretty mellow and I won't feel the sharp edges of fear and terror.

I know I'll be able to get rid of the meds if the biopsy comes back saying the growth is benign! :)