Looking ahead

The mirror was mounted a little high at the hotel I stayed at in San Francisco, but I could still look ahead. 06.14.21

June 18, 2021. For the last 2-1/2 years I’ve lived each day almost exclusively in the present. I knew looking back wouldn’t change anything, and looking forward was a checkerboard of looming medical appointments and tests and the great unknown.

Since completing oral chemotherapy in November, my goal has been to quietly navigate each day with the hope the cancer treatments worked. It hasn’t been easy. This was my second recurrence of breast cancer, the first recurrence diagnosed in September 2018 after a 19-year reprieve.

This past Monday I made the long drive to San Francisco for several follow-up tests beginning with a PET scan at 11a, followed by two CT scans, and then a breast MRI. The following morning, a dexa scan (bone density) was scheduled and in the afternoon an appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Rugo.

I had taken a prescribed dose of steroids a bit after midnight ahead of the CT scans scheduled for noonish that day. And then around 10a I took another 9-pill dose as well as a Zyrtek. I had a severe allergic reaction to contrast iodine many years ago, and all my CT’s have been administered without contrast ever since. This time, the radiologist had recommended my oncologist prescribe methylprednisolone and an antihistamine. I also had to fast for 12 hours and drink a good amount of water prior to the PET scan.

Anyway, once I arrived at UCSF Mission Bay and passed their COVID screening, sanitized my hands and got my hospital issued mask, I checked in for the PET. Once settled in, I was injected with a special dye containing radioactive tracers through an IV. It takes about an hour for the tracers to make their way through the body before the PET can begin. They kindly left the IV in my arm to administer the contrast iodine for the CT, and later for the contrast medium (gadolinium) used during the final 10 minutes of the MRI. So, I only had to endure one poke.

All the test went smoothly. No allergic reactions. No prolonged wait times. The most I could ask for or expect.

The next morning, I returned to the Cancer Center for a dexa scan. Then there was a two-hour wait before my appointment with Dr. Rugo. By the time I saw her, all the test results were in and the report was…drum roll, please…

Right breast (my bad side): benign
Left breast (my good side): negative

Woo hoo! Wonderful, wonderful news.

My dexa did reveal osteoporosis in my left femur, but the good news is my spine is within a normal range for a woman my age.

Next up. I return for another PET/CT scan in early October to make sure I’m staying on track and the cancer hasn’t returned.

It’s a joy to share good news…to feel a bit of weight lifted. I’m still cautiously optimistic and understand I am not out of the woods yet, but I can see the light shining through.

Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens. —Andy Rooney