I can't believe how much of a procrastinator I am when it comes to adding blog entries!! Seriously... it just doesn't make sense! I love to write, I love to babble and when the subject is "all about ME", then I can babble every day, on and on ad nauseum, and it wouldn't be surprising to have pages and pages and still not say anything :) Of course, sometimes I guess it's a matter of wondering... am I writing just to hear myself speak or am I writing to have a record of this amazing journey I seem to be on, or am I writing to keep all my family and friends informed so that I'm not having to constantly repeat the same information over and over again? I'm sure it's a combination of all three, although it would be kind of nice to know if anyone is actually reading my ramblings or if I'm just talking to myself
Ok... enough about that ramble... let me catch you up on the latest medical adventure. I was at the radiologist last week for the followup CAT scan and appt. with regards to the lung ablation I had back in January. There was nothing new to report about that followup appt. since it went how it should. All is looking good and the ablated area is healing as it should. I literally had the CAT scan done and then I met with him so he only had a few minutes to look at the scan and his focus was on the ablation and how that area was doing... he did not have time to look at each layer/slice of the scan to check on the other nodules/tumours in the lungs.
Yesterday, I had an appointment with my oncologist and with one of the interns. As is the procedure at the BC Cancer Agency, the intern sees the patient first, followed by the actual appt. with your own oncologist. Last year, I did have some issues with some of the interns. I realize and understand that they do have to do practicum at some point with real patients, but seriously... some of them are severely lacking in basic Patient Compassion Skill and should take a course in how to communicate with patients with at least the basics in compassion. At one point I even said, "No more interns!! I only want to talk with my oncologist from now on". So while we were going through all the stuff/tests/appts. when we found out the cancer had spread, I no longer had any pre-appt visits with the interns. But once things calmed down, I allowed it again.
Well, yesterday's intern (I wish I could remember his name) was absolutely fantastic!! He is going to make one great oncologist ... heck, he is already!! We had a nice long visit and he explained a lot of things that I sort of knew before but not with such great detail. And he did it in such a very friendly, compassionate way that I told Sharlene (my oncologist) I wouldn't mind having him be the intern on every visit.
Ok... so it was a GOOD NEWS appt. that still had surprising results that I wasn't prepared for. I think I have said on numerous blog entries in the past that when they found the lung nodule on that first PET scan, we then had a CAT scan and there were 7 nodules all together. I have stuck with that number and not thought of the possibility there were more, although I did know all the doctors said more can show up at any time... that's the nature of the beast. What I didn't know is that when they do a CAT scan, it's actually a scan done in "layers" or "slices". So think of it as a whole picture say done in 10 slices, 5mm a slice (these are just fictitious numbers... I have no idea how many slices... I think there are many, many more). If you have a nodule that is under 5mm, and it's between the slices... then it's quite possible that the radiologist will not see it. Well, Dr. Halkier (the interventional radiologist) who did my lung ablation, went through the latest CAT scan with a fine tooth comb and he has actually come up with ELEVEN small nodules... and according to his report, these are all very small nodules (the largest is 7-8mm, the rest are under 5mm). Most are too small to even show up on a PET scan. Needless to say, he can not ablate any more of them because they are too small and his criteria is that they have to be affecting the patient's quality of life... whereas I am totally asymptomatic, with no signs of any breathing problems, etc.
My oncologist says that I am one of the lucky ones... since these nodules are so small, there is no way of telling if some of them are scar tissue, benign growths or cancer. Statistically speaking, the majority SHOULD be cancer, but no one can say for sure until they start growing. The one that was ablated WAS cancer, there's no question there, so we do know that some of these 11 are too... we just don't know which ones or how many. But, they are all too small to ablate and they are too small to do any kind of chemo. They would be resistant to chemo because the purpose of chemo is to try and shrink them to the size they are now, and slow down the growth. Well, mine are already slow growing and we don't even know if/when they will grow... so Sharlene wants to keep me off chemo for as long as possible... the longer the better.
So this is the good news... in the medical world, it is pretty incredible that I have these nodules in my lungs and have not had to have any chemo treatment for 17 months. Our next CAT scan will be in 4 months, so that means I will have been chemo-free for 21 months. Back at the time when we had found out that the cancer had spread to the adrenal gland and the lung, it was a very, very serious prognosis. I was given the "Your prognosis is more than likely 2 months - maximum 2 years, although that's pushing it" talk. As some of you will remember, that was a year ago... and I was absolutely terrified. Terrified like I have never been in my life, and I've had some close calls before... but this one is the worst.
Now, she says that we aren't even going to talk treatment ... and if any of these nodules decide to grow on their own, then we will deal with them as get larger. We have various chemo combos that we can try, as well, lung ablation may always be an option. I had asked about a chemo combination that I had read about and she said that she doesn't want me to even think about chemos... we can think about those when we need them, but for now, I am chemo-free and my job is to let my body heal from what it has been put through. She said that I really got a beating up when we were fighting it so aggressively with the 8 months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation... and it's going to take some time for my body to heal it's internal wounds. So she wants me to stay off chemo unless we absolutely need to use it... and that won't happen until the nodules start getting larger.
Before anyone suggests it... no, the cancer will not disappear. Stage IV is the label for "advanced cancer"... and it won't magically disappear. BUT, medicine and research have made huge leaps and bounds and it's possible that we might be able to treat it so that I am "living with cancer" rather than "dying from cancer"... and again, sometimes it's just the luck of the draw. Someone else could be diagnosed with the exact same cancer and have the exact same surgery and procedures done that I had when it was found... and yet their's grows so quickly there's no being able to treat it... and that's when you hear of people having just found out they have cancer and then they die within weeks. Had my surgeon at St. Paul's NOT insisted on doing a sigmoidoscopy before sending me off with antibiotics for the diagnosis of "Diverticulitis - inflammation of the intestine", I would have been dead within 2 months of the surgery he did. Talk about almost not getting it in time!
I look back on this journey I've had so far... filled with highs and lows, but I count my lucky stars and all the positive energy that has been directed my way and realize just how fragile our lives are. And when we are given a second chance... or at least a chance to be on this planet longer than we might have been, then it really does become important to enjoy every single moment we are here. It sounds like a cliche, but it took this journey for me to wake up and realize.. it's NOT a cliche... I was so intent on how I was going to pay bills, put away for retirement, put away for future trips, waiting until "later" to do the things I really wanted to try, that I had no idea I was letting the here and now slip by and not even being aware of it, let alone enjoy it!!
So when folk say, "Sheesh, Cheryl... don't you ever slow down? You are such a social butterfly, always here, there and everywhere", I can only laugh and say, "It's about time!! I'm having the time of my life and I'm not about to waste any more time saying, "I'll enjoy that later, when I have time!" :D
Huggggggs to everyone out there!! Sign in on the comments field and leave your mark (chuckle)