I had my scans on May 6th and learned the results on May 7th. The results were quite good, almost as good as we could have hoped for. The MRI scan on my brain showed nothing new, only some necrosis around the site of my radiation surgery back in September of last year. The neck-to-toe PET scan show only some intense uptake around my L4, which I’ll explain because it makes an interesting story.
We were waiting in the doctor’s office, and waiting a little bit longer than usual. We were both getting more anxious the more time went by. I wasn’t really very nervous up until then. I was relieved to have the drama of getting the PET scan over with, what with the stress of worrying if the insurance would approve it and also the stress of trying to keep my blood sugar in range without food or insulin. So I was feeling pretty calm the day of the visit, ready to accept the results and deal with them, however they turned out. After waiting a while, the doctor finally comes into the office with a strained expression on his face and, of course, we both started thinking the worst. Then, he starts off by asking if I had any pain in my lower back and I told him that, yes, I slipped and fell on my butt about a week earlier and I still had some pain there from the fall. His expression turned to relief and then he told us about the intense uptake which the radiologist noted could be a compression fracture or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is not uncommon in people my age, but compression fractures could be the result of bone metastasis. Or a fall. My doctor said that the results were more consistent with a compression fracture and since my pain was getting better, not worse, it was probably from the fall. Whew!
The rest of the scans were unremarkable (always a great word to hear when your’re getting scanned for cancer). Diagnosis: No Active Disease. Doctor said that he only wanted to see me in three months for more scans and he told us to have a great summer. So yeah, very excellent news. We both left there in great spirits.
No Active Disease. This means that, while I’m not cancer-free, the shadows on my previous scans are not active tumors. This isn’t quite as good as No Evidence of Disease (or NED), which means there are no shadows that could be tumors, but it’s the next best thing and certainly something to celebrate. While there’s no such thing as a cure when it comes to melanoma, not having active cancer means that my chances are pretty good. It’s not a pardon, but it’s definitely a reprieve. I said to Lynn, “we’re playing with house money now, so let’s enjoy the hell out of life!”
That’s what I said. The truth is that I think I had a hard time accepting the news, or at least adjusting to it. It’s hard to explain, but I went into a kind of funk over the next few days. Little things upset me more than they should have. By Friday, I was very brittle. I had some issues with FedEx, a package pickup and a package delivery that coincidentally happened on the same day involving two divisions of FedEx: Fedex Express and FedEx Ground. In both cases there were issues that required to me to make multiple calls to various customer service lines. As I said, they were little things, but I was very edgy and it didn’t take much to ruin my day.
What’s up with that? A guy finds out his cancer is totally inactive and he goes into a funk? I don’t know. I think it took a while for the good news to travel to the emotional part of my brain. Intellectually, I knew it was great news but, emotionally, I think it took a while for it to sink in. It’s still sinking in. That’s what I mean about good news traveling slow. I have to learn how to live life without active cancer. I have cancer, but it might not kill me, at least not in the near future. Beyond that, nobody knows. I never knew. There was always a chance I could get cancer or some other dreadful disease just as there is always that chance for anyone. I didn’t live my life then as the guy who could possibly get cancer someday, and there’s no reason I should live my life now as the guy whose cancer might someday return. True, it will always be in the back of my mind, but I shouldn’t let it rule my thoughts or run my life. And I have to remind myself of that daily until it stays in the back of my mind. I’ve given cancer too much of my time and energy already and now I’ve got some catching up to do.
In other news, the chickens have returned (well, some of them). More on that, with pictures, in another post.