Published by pam on Sat, 09/15/2012 - 4:09pm




To establish whether or not chemo worked - it doesn't work for everyone, some people are 'responders' while others are not - I need to be scanned.  And even if the chemo worked, it's possible that cancer cells have been hiding someplace where my chemo laced blood hasn't been able to reach them.  A new tumor could have been growing all this time, silently stealing my life.  


A scan will shine a light on my internal organs.  My liver and lungs are the most likely organs to be affected.  Both filter a lot of blood and if any tumor cells escaped early on, they are most likely to have taken up residence in my liver and/or my lungs.  My brain is also at risk, but it is not routine to scan a brain unless I show symptoms.  


Lately, I have been a lot of heart palpitations.  They started the last week of chemo and have become so frequent that I am often lightheaded.  Several of the drugs I have been taking pose permanent heart damage risks. But the palpitations might not be serious.  It is possible that  the steroids I have been given to increase my tolerance for the chemo drugs are interfering with my heart rhythm.  


I am hoping it is the latter and that once the steroids are out of my system, my heart will return to normal.  


I cannot eat the morning of my scan.  I am supposed to drink a sugar laden drink and they want the sugar to get into my bloodstream quickly.  Then they will send me into the CT tube and inject me with a radioactive dye.  The combination should light up any hidden tumor.  I have seen these spots on earlier scans.  They are hard to miss, even for the untrained eye.  The technicians won't tell you what they see, but as the patient, you know they know.  Most tumors are so obvious, they might as well scream.  


It must be hard not to let the truth show.  They walk patients from the CT room back to the changing room and they know.  But they won't say.  I study them.  I make eye contact.  I parse their faces for clues.  


Drink lots of water, the technician tells me as she sends me off.  You want to flush the dye out of your kidneys as soon as you can.


Kidney, I tell her.  I only have one.


It's one of the things that makes me worry about these scans.  Each one damages my remaining kidney.  


Funny, but I'm kind of protective of the little guy.  He-she-it's been pulling more than his share of weight these days.  


I stare the technician right in the eye.  Thanks, I tell her, deciding that I see no sign of pity on her face.


I'm fine, I tell myself.  More than fine.  I'm stronger than I've ever been.  Except for these annoying palpitations.


My scan was at 10:30 and I have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon at three.  Between the two appointments, I treat myself to a nice lunch and a trip to the local bookstore.  I am surprisingly lightheaded.  Food doesn't help.  I miss feeling competent.  I miss feeling young enough to do anything.  


I arrive at the surgeon's office very early.  Like an hour early.  I figure I will relax, read a magazine, check mail with the limited battery time left on my iPad.  Better for me to be in the doctor's office, than wandering around downtown.  I'm more tired than I thought.  


The appointment before me canceled and surprisingly, the doctor can see me early.  She asks me how I'm doing and I am happy to say that I'm fine, except for all the palpitations.  I'm wondering if they are stress related, I tell her.  I had my first scan this morning and may be more worked up about it than I realize.  


It's fine, she says, pulling a few pages from a folder.  The results are back and everything is fine.  Your internal mammary nodes are back to normal and your organs are clean.  


We continue chatting, but my head is spinning.  I stop the conversation and tell her I need a moment to digest the news.


My scan is clean.  


I do not have cancer.  


I do not have cancer.  


I had cancer, but it's gone.


My tumor was extremely aggressive.  My risk for reoccurrence is front loaded.  Two years from diagnosis - that's the danger zone.  And with each clean scan, my risk goes down.  


One clean scan.


Three more to go.


It is very different walking in the world as a person who is cancer free.  It is kind of like entering the magic kingdom.  Everything just looks different.  Everything looks clean.  Like me.


And my palpitations are gone.  Funny, but they went away the moment I heard the news.  






So glad the scan was clear.  I remember every time I went back to my surgeon, my blood pressure which normally hovers around 110/70 was 138/95.  I was ready to explode - just waiting to hear those words, "everything's fine".  Great news!!