I had my followup with Dr. H today. ... I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know he's as handsome and charming as ever. ... This is how it went down.
Dr. H: Hi. How are you?
Dr. H: (Grinning) Besides the fatigue, I mean.
(The first thing I ever tell anyone who asks me how I'm feeling is how tired I am, because heaven forbid that my doctors start to think my energy level is anywhere near where I'd like it to be. ... I'd already told the nurse all about it, and she'd prepped him before he came in to see me.)
Me: (Laughing) Besides that, I'm pretty good.
Dr. H: Really?
Me: Yeah. I was happy to hear that I have some new tissue growth.
Dr. H: (Incredulously) You were?
Me: I was! ... I've been having this weird pain in my lower back that I couldn't explain. I'd wondered if I was losing my mind and/or having a phantom pain experience, but it turns out that I have new scar tissue back there.
Dr. H: Where is the pain?
Me: Uh... Where I don't have a kidney.
Me: I don't know how else to explain it. It's a familiar pain, in a familiar spot. I couldn't make sense of it, but now that I know I have scar tissue again, it makes sense that I'm feeling what I used to feel back there
Dr. H: How often do you feel it?
Me: Not every day, but often. In the morning, when I first wake up and get out of bed.
Dr. H: When did it start? How long does it last?
Me: I first noticed it about three weeks, maybe a month, ago. I feel it for about an hour or so after I wake up. Once I get ready for work and out the door, I'm not really aware of it anymore.
Dr. H: Do you think it could be a muscle ache? Is it sharp or dull pain?
Me: I don't think it's muscles. It's inside, if that makes sense. ... And it's neither sharp or dull. It's steady.
Me: Maybe I'm sleeping wrong or something. Who knows? I'm just happy to know that there IS something growing in there. New scar tissue explains why I'm feeling something I've felt before.
Pregnant pause as Dr. H leans forward, places his elbows on his knees and smiles...
Dr. H: I think your cancer might be back.
Me: (startled, but not surprised, necessarily - since Friday, I've been feeling like I couldn't officially latch onto the "mostly good" news of the PET scan until I met with Dr. H and he told me the same thing Amanda had told me) Thank you for smiling while you said that.
Dr. H continued to smile, while I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation. I leaned back in my chair, crossed my legs and started questioning him...
Dr. H: Yes. ... It's the pain you're talking about that has me concerned.
Me: Huh. ... I told Amanda about the pain, too, and she didn't think it was a big deal.
Dr. H: Of course she didn't think it was a big deal. She's a surgeon. ... Surgeons cause pain!
Me: (laughing - OUT LOUD) True. ... Is it sick that I've been secretly happy that Dr. G had to have surgery?
Dr. H: No. It makes sense.
Me: Please don't think this means that I secretly hope you'll get cancer. I don't need all of my doctors to experience what I experience, but it does help me to know that my surgeon has become acquainted with the pain of recovery.
Dr. H: Of course not. (Then, getting us back on track.) I see two options. The first is to biopsy the tissue. There are always risks associated with an invasive procedure, and there's a chance that we'd biopsy the wrong area and the results would be inconclusive...
Me: (Interrupting) What do you mean, "biopsy the wrong area"? Are we talking, my right side instead of my left? ... Do you not have any faith in your staff? What are you saying here?
Dr. H: (Smiling, on the verge of a laugh) There's a chance that it's scar tissue, and a chance that there are cancer cells mingled with scar tissue. We could do a biopsy, but we might pull only scar tissue and have a false negative.
Me: Okay, that makes more sense. Thank you. ... Or?
Dr. H: Or we could do an MRI, which would allow us to get better pictures of what's going on in there. I'd rather do the MRI. It's non-invasive, and whether what you have now is only scar tissue or scar tissue mingled with cancer cells, I'd like to have a baseline picture to compare against your next scan in 2-3 months.
Me: So, you'd be able to tell, just by looking at a picture, if this is scar tissue or something more?
Dr. H: Yes.
Me: That is amazing to me. (Seriously. Amazing. It blows my mind that these people can look at MRI images and know exactly what they're looking at! I have nothing but respect for medical students. They have to learn SO MANY things!)
A quick break to relay what I learned today regarding the an MRI v. the PET of last week. The PET scan was to look for cancer cells that may have spread to other organs/areas (I'm pleased to report that my lymph nodes and lungs are A-OK!), but it doesn't show up close and personal pics of each organ. While the tracer does show how various organs react to the sugars in the radioactive injection, the PET doesn't give the kind of detailed pic that an MRI would give. In an MRI, the contrast they inject you with creates an actual contrast in how the organs/tissue show up in the pics. That contrast helps give more detailed and specific pictures than you can get otherwise. ... Interesting, no?
Dr. H: What do you want to do?
Me: I will do whatever you want me to do. (Anyone who knows anything about me and how I handle the cancer as it comes at me is that I will do what my doctors tell me to do. I have been given very specific instruction from the Lord, multiple times, that I am to trust my doctors and follow their counsel.) ... I say, let's do the MRI.
Dr. H: (Smiling) Okay. Is your work schedule still crazy?
Me: (Laughing) Of course it is. ... It always is. ... But they know that this is the most important thing in my life, and are really great about letting me rearrange my schedule so I can do what I need to do. It won't be a problem.
Dr. H: I need to get pictures, soon, so I can develop a surgery or treatment plan if I need to. I would like to have the MRI scheduled in the next two weeks.
And that, my friends, is where we are right now.
Five months ago today, I had surgery to remove two tumors (and a slew of impacted organs). This morning, I was told that my new tissue may be more than scar tissue. Awesome. I love it when I have momentous occasions on anniversaries - makes it so much easier to remember/track. (I'm not kidding even one little bit. I really do love it! And I'm pretty sure the fact that things keep happening on anniversary dates is another sign that the Lord is invested in the details of my life. He knows I like to track things, and He makes things as easy for me as He can in that way. I love Him!)
The good news is that there's still a 50/50 chance that it's just scar tissue. And I have this fabulous, aggressive (and super dreamy, single) doctor who's not wanting to waste any time when it comes to figuring out exactly what's going on inside of me.
I'm incredibly grateful for the way my oncologist thinks; that what a surgeon took for residual pain associated with surgery recovery, he sees as possible symptomatic pain, and he wants to check it out.
I'm so grateful for a team of doctors and health care professionals who see things from a multitude of different angles, and collaborate to find the best treatment plan for me. (I also had PT today and learned a lot - again - about my body. But this post is already too long, so I'll save that info for another day.)
As always, I am grateful for my support system, for all of the people in my life who I know love me.
It has been interesting to me today, how many people have said something along the lines of "What crappy timing!", or "I hope this doesn't ruin your Thanksgiving!" in response to my sharing this information with them. I can promise you that it won't ruin my Thanksgiving. And the interesting thing is that, for me, this isn't crappy timing. In fact, for me, it is perfect timing.
Nothing - and I do mean nothing - makes me as grateful for my life as the days/times in which I am made aware that everything can turn on a dime. Days like today help me recognize the blessings in my life in a way that few other things can.
I am so incredibly grateful for the miracle of modern medicine, for the fact that I was born - in this body - in this dispensation of time, when we have access to so many awesome diagnostic and treatment options.
I am grateful for technology: for the cell phone that allows me to talk to my family while I'm on the road, for texting that provides a quick and easy touch stone with friends throughout my day, for the www and this blogspot that allow me to share my life in real-time with my people who live all across the country and on the other side of the world.
I'm so grateful for family and friends who I know are with me - some literally, some virtually - every step of the way.
I'm so grateful for all of the love that is in my life. ... Some days, I am simply astonished at the warmth I can feel coming at me from all directions.
Today, I was told that the cancer might be back. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for. Much. (And I'm not just talking about that 13 lb turkey that I get to eat all by myself!)
My life is blessed. Truly, blessed.