Sunday, May 25, 2014

Scares and Scans

The funny thing about cancer is that even when it's never really feels completely gone. 

It so happens that this spring has been unusually heavy with some unpleasant medical reminders.... and I really have accepted that these things just can't be avoided. Ah well. But that won't stop me from complaining about them on this blog!! So sit back, relax and enjoy the weirdness that is my post cancer life!! 

As of the beginning of May I have hit the 2 year "cancer free" mark. It is at this point that I undergo a series of different tests and scans to "make sure" that what the doctors have been telling me these two years since my last PET scan after treatment - is still true. That truth being that I don't have cancer. Right now, I basically have to trust them that this is still the case, and they basically have to trust the blood tests, physical examinations and stats  - that this is still the case. But the only thing that can actually prove to any of us 100% that I am still cancer free is the dreaded CT scan (or PET scan). They don't like to dole out these scans but I was told that some people choose to have a scan after the 2 year mark just to be sure (damn straight they do!!!). I assured my oncologist that, no,  I wouldn't be waiting another two years to find this out (as if!?!). Anyway, more on the fun-filled CT scan later.

My first very unwelcome incident/reminder came unexpectedly at the end of March. I had just arrived back from 10 days in Florida visiting a friend, and I was scheduled for a mammogram (which  I now take on a more regular basis because of my increased risk). The day after the mammogram I received a call from the hospital telling me I needed to go to the civic for another mammogram and ultrasound as soon as possible since they had found some "irregularities". Oh man. That word again. I remembered that word. So I got this call on a Tuesday and was not able to go to the hospital till Friday. I can honestly say that those 4 days were some of the longest 4 days I've had in a really really long time. I basically spent the entire four days with friends, trying to distract myself, while all the time I was inwardly planning for the worst possible outcome, along with everything in-between. Exhausting and terrifying. And it seemed a much scarier prospect than it was even the first time around. Muuuuch scarier.

But its a happy ending - as that glorious Friday I got to the hospital, had the first test, endured a 5 minute eternity in the waiting room before a technician came and told me there was nothing at all to worry about and I was fine. I felt like hugging her and punching her! But mostly hugging. Apparently they were being over-cautious.  The sense of relief I felt is one I don't think i experienced the first time was as if it had been delayed a couple of years and decided to all hit me...there in the change room as I was changing out of the gown. It hit in a crazy and beautiful way that day and I felt as if I shed a weight I have carried all this time without even knowing it. It was one of the first warm days of spring that day as well...a truly amazing day. I cried a lot that day. And celebrated a lot.

Just five days ago was my CT scans. It was actually 3 CT scans all rolled into one fantastic package. And of course it was scheduled the day after my birthday! Happy Birthday to me!! If you've never had one the feeling that accompanies a CT scan is really strange, uncomfortable and hard to describe...but I'll do my best. Here's basically the run down:
1) Upon arrival at the hospital I am given what feels like gallons of a "Contrast solution" to drink over the space of an hour and a half that is iodine based and tastes like lead. Awesome. The sweet volunteers try to help by providing crystal light flavour packages...but it just makes the lead taste like slightly sweet lead. 2) In the middle of this nasty drink fiasco I am brought into a room where a nurse jams a large IV into my very shrivelled post chemo veins. This equals major discomfort. 3) Finally after I've barely been able to drink the nasty lead drinks it's time for the scan. This cartoon describes it really well:

That is almost exactly what happened to me - minus the actual vomit. Although it came dangerously close to happening. And yes, a metallic taste immediately fills my mouth along with a feeling of intense heat running through ALL my veins which is what creates the feeling of having to pee. SUPER Bizarre. Like the body is temporarily being inhabited by something else entirely. So now you know. Questions? Comments? I'll answer em all. I should start a consultancy business.

I had to chuckle though when one elderly gentlemen came out of the scan room flushed and saying, "Well, that was an experience!!". I had endured this during diagnostics so I knew basically what to expect. This poor dude clearly did not. Although he did seem mildly amused.

So now I wait to hear what all my doctors and oncologists tell me I am almost guaranteed to hear:
That, yes, I am still cancer free.
I guess I just don't believe in guarantees anymore. I do like to think that when the rubber meets the road I'll still be ready to take whatever else life has to throw at me...but to believe in guarantees?
How could I?

Que sera, sera.

Thanks for reading this impossibly long post cancer rant! If I don't update soon you can assume the doctors were right!