Here is my fantasy. The PET scan results reveal no cancer. The biopsy was a false read. I am cancer free. That is why it is called a fantasy.
October 18. My entourage is with me for the 3:40 p.m. appointment with Dr. Wang. Steve, Katie and I are sitting in the waiting room when they call my name. We go to the exam room and make a brief stop for the weigh-in. I remove nothing – 101 lbs.
The nurse brings in an extra chair and then does the usual blood pressure, temperature check. After a bit of time, Dr. Wang comes in and we introduce him to Katie.
He pulls up the PET Scan images and slowly goes through each frame—from the top of my head to the top of my thighs. He points out my eyeballs, esophagus, heart and talks about how the radiated sugar attaches to cancer cells and glows. That is also true of anywhere there is fluid like the stomach and bladder. He looks for glowing where it should not glow.
The location that glows is my tumor and one small spot under my arm. The rest of the PET scan is clear. Whew. The cancer appears to be isolated. Encouraging news. At this point it is considered a recurrence of the breast cancer 19 years ago. Mostly due to the close proximity to the original cancer, even though this cancer is not estrogen receptive and the breast cancer tumor was estrogen receptive.
We talk about treatment. He suggests that the surgical removal of the pea-sized tumor under the arm would be relatively simple. But the main tumor—the poorly differentiated carcinoma—attached to the muscle is tricky. There is no one locally he would recommend. UCSF is my best option going forward. What oncologist would I like to be referred to? I just happen to have a name given to me by a doctor friend on my Board of Directors. Oncologist Hope Rugo. Dr. Wang holds Dr. Rugo in very high regard and hopes I can get an appointment with her as she is in high demand. He also wants to refer me to a UCSF breast cancer surgeon. A friend who recently had a double mastectomy gave Katie the name of Dr. Cheryl Ewing. a surgeon who she highly recommended. Dr. Wang also knows or knows of Dr. Ewing and agrees I would be in excellent hands in her care. The referrals are made.
So now I wait for the schedulers to call.
There is a sense of encouragement. Steve and Katie see it as good news. For me, it’s hard to see any news as good news as long as I still have cancer. I’m grateful it is in one area, for sure. For me it will be good news when it is gone.
Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. —Voltaire
October 18. I wake up early thinking that I might have a bite of yogurt before my 6-hour fasting time officially begins at 7:00 a.m. But I’m just not hungry. I have a big glass of water and read emails and play a game on my tablet. I never do eat. I just drink water switching from cold water to cups of hot water. I drink lots and lots of water while I lie on the bed watching TV. Rest and relaxation is also a requirement.
We leave a bit early so I can drop something off at the College where I work. I’ve got a caffeine headache and am feeling anxious. When we are almost to the College I get sick. Really sick. Too much water maybe. Ugh.
When we get to the hospital I take half a valium. We check-in. At 1:30 p.m. a young man named Ivan (I think that was his name) comes out to walk me to the mobile PET scan unit parked behind the hospital. Steve isn’t allowed to come. He’s told it will be about two hours. There’s no room for anyone other than patients (two max) and the two technician’s. I let Ivan know I’ve been sick. Likely motion sickness.
The unit has a tiny, dark room at one end. They guide me into the room and onto a recliner chair. They bring me a thin blanket. I get asked a lot of questions about allergies, other surgeries, medications, etc. The imaging technician (can’t remember his name) explains the procedure and why I needed to fast and why I needed to drink so much water. Here’s a link to more information about PET scans.
Once I am injected, they instruct me to sit quietly for the next 30 to 40 minutes. Before they close the door I’m given a barf bag, just in case. Good call. I get sick again.
Next they guide me to the opposite end of the unit and lie me down on the scanner table. I put my arms over my head and am told to relax. They close the door and the scan commences.
Once the scan is done they sit me up and ask how I’m doing. Okay. After a few minutes I stand up to leave. On my way to the lift, I am overcome with nausea. They help sit me down and give me another barf bag. I tell them how kind they are and get sick again. Such a lightweight.
Finally I am in the waiting room and Steve guides me out to the car. We make it nearly all the way home before I get sick again. I am weak and have a splitting headache.
At home I go to bed and am miserable. I try drinking tea and eating toast but only manage a sip or two and a nibble of toast. Later I manage a couple bites of yogurt. It is all I can do to get out of bed to wash my face and brush my teeth. When I look at my phone to check for text messages, I am shocked that it is 9:15 p.m.