Great news!! (definitely worth two exclamation points) Another clean PET scan! Diagnosed in 2012 Stage 3C…Three and a half years later…2 surgeries, countless chemotherapy infusions, 25 radiation treatments and a year of maintenance. Finals are graded and it’s time to enjoy the family and a much needed relaxation time.
Do you remember the childhood party game Musical Chairs? I used to love going to birthday parties and playing that. When the music started, you would walk around the circle casually, sometimes touching the chairs, just listening to the music playing a happy tune until some unseen hand took the needle off the record (Yes, we played that game with vinyl albums!) As the music suddenly halted, you lunged into the nearest available chair-hoping not to be the extra child without a seat. If you were unfortunate enough to be the last one standing, you were out of the game.
I compare my current situation to that childhood game. I go along living my life, teaching classes, walking, going to church, watching movies, listening to music, and then suddenly, it’s time for a PET scan. There is a breath holding few days where we wait for the results…Will I still be doing the daily drive to work (#hitraffic), watching Chopped on the Food Network, hiking the Aiea Loop trail, and generally being “normal” OR will I be thrown back into the grind of surgery, weekly chemotherapy, blood testing, and hospital visits. Each scan, I wait for the music to stop, and then determine if I am with or without a chair.
Last year on Valentine’s Day (incredibly bad timing), I received that call that my cancer had returned. Since March 14th, I have earned frequent flyer points at Tripler Army Medical Center. The current status is a monthly (which really means every three weeks) maintenance plan of Avastin and careful monitoring of my CA 125 levels to continue indefinitely (like in forever). Side effects of all of this include some pretty unkind migraine headaches and fatigue, but this is small “kine” stuff compared to the radiation and frontline chemotherapy.
In the meantime, I am listening to the music and focusing on my One Word for 2015! That word is Strength. Rather than making a series of New Year’s Resolutions about working out, eating less, and reading more, I am choosing to focus on a single word-focusing all my efforts towards building strength…in my body, in my mind, in my faith, and in my relationships. My plan for 2015 is not a single day event, but hopefully a series of activities that will make me stronger. Physically, I feel better now than I have felt since January of last year. I plan to run (haha-just kidding) walk in the Great Aloha Run in February. Am I ready? Absolutely not. But, the training process has begun.
I believe I’ll still have a chair in the game come next week! You are not behind. Start now. What is your One Word for 2015?
I am scheduled for another PET scan today. I have the routine down fairly well. Cut back on carbohydrates two days before the scan, and go carb “free” on the day before the scan. I am not a huge carb fan, but the moment you tell me that I can’t have carbs, that is all I want. This photo is the “good” carbs, but I am thinking any carbs would be good about now.
The PET scan uses a radioactive tracer with glucose (sugar). Once you starve your body of sugar, and then re-introduce it in the form of glucose, it happily travels to all areas of your body….particularly areas of high metabolic activity. High metabolic activity is not good. My recent scan (Sept. 5) was good, so that bodes well for today. My number one goal is to focus on getting my body back to eating well, feeling well, and exercising well. So, what’s the hitch? My latest CA levels (the markers that they use to check Cancer) have notched up a bit. Could be nothing, could be something.
So, I am waiting. No food since last night at 6 pm. I am allowed to drink watery water (not my favorite) and I’ll be to Tripler Army Medical Center in a bit. First order of business is accessing my port, and then they’ll start the radioactive tracer. One hour of complete solitude in a dark room will follow. No music, no TV, no books, no company, nothing. (I guess they don’t want my high-intellect from listening to Morrissey or watching The Walking Dead to light up the scan.) After that, the tube. I am fairly good with the claustrophobic aspect of the tube, but my hands usually fall asleep during the scan. They used to tape down my forehead and hands, but evidently, I have graduated from this (or someone complained). Now, I just have to hold them above my head.
Results? Probably in a day or two. So much of this disease is waiting and watching. I know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I thought I’d put in a plug for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Simply put, if you have had unexplained digestive issues for more than several weeks, it would be a good idea to get it check out. I urge you to go and check out the symptoms.
Do the words “on the edge” connote something good or bad? I am hopeful as I take my first steps into unknown territory that is the start of something amazing. Today will mark (assuming all my blood work is in order) the last of the frontline chemo. If anyone was counting (me), there have been 28 treatments in total (16 in 2012 and 12 in 2014). Twenty eight infusions of chemicals into my bloodstream and 28 mini-battles to get myself back together again. But now… NO MORE Carboplatin and Gemzar….only Avastin. As Ross says, “I’m no mathematician,” (he is) but that is a 66.7% reduction in drugs. That is definitely worth a celebration!
The good news is that the weekly grind of treatments will disappear, but in its stead, is an extended regimen (while not as physically debilitating) which will extend for a full year. Done, but not done. The last time I did this, done was done, until it came back. This time, we are hoping that the Avastin will keep any new tumors from developing and growing. This monthly every three week therapy is one of the hot new cancer treatments that they are using on me. The word on the street The nurses are telling me that it will be much easier to bounce back from these infusions.
Even though 2015 is around the corner, this is my own personal New Year’s Celebration! The “journey” isn’t over by any means, but hopefully, it won’t be as rigorous. I am excited to begin exercising without catching my breath, drinking a glass of wine without getting a headache or vomitting, and spending more time with friends/family instead of crashed on the couch.
The next hold-your-breath moment will be at the end of this month. Doctor has ordered a PET scan to make sure that done means done.
No, not that kind…this kind…a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan.
Tomorrow is my six month scan. We are hoping not to see any areas light up this time! Today (Thursday) is the prep day. Starving the body of sugar and focusing on low carb eating.
A day of eating this…
Tomorrow (Friday) is just watery water…Nothing else!
Then, they inject the radioactive tracer…and allow it to circulate in the bloodstream.
One hour of sitting “Quietly”…no music, books, talking, moving, etc. They really mean it when they say sit quietly. After 1 hour, the dye has had a chance to circulate through the whole body (organs and tissue) and you’re ready for the scan to begin. Any areas of hypermetabolic hungry cancer cells, will be activated and light up during the scan.
Then, the tube. It like a crystal ball to look at your innards.
And then waiting…for results…till Monday-an exercise in patience impatience. What makes you impatient? How do you cope?
Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.