Curve ball

October 9, 2021. It seems almost impossible that more than three months have passed since my last post. It was a time for stepping away from my extraordinary cancer journey and taking a side-trip on the road of ordinary. Steve and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. There was a vacation spent with friends and family that included lots of relaxation and laughing and plain old silliness. And after more than a year of pandemic isolation, we’ve had several occasions of overnight guests with lots of catching up over home-cooked meals and wine. We’ve met groups of friends for dinner (all outdoors, of course) where we good-naturedly complained about the heat, and our various aches and pains and told stories on ourselves that made us laugh until we cried. Most weeks the girlfriends gathered for an afternoon of Mexican Train or a card game. In spite of the lingering pandemic, it was a pretty good summer. The ordinariness of it all was intoxicating.

But there was something lingering. Unspoken. When I had my check-up in June the PET/CT scans revealed a small, glowing nodule in my lung. Too small to biopsy. Something to keep an eye on. It was decided then that I would return in 3 or 4 months for another PET to see if it changed. The only person who knew, besides my caregivers, was my husband Steve. And since there really wasn’t anything to tell, we decided to keep it that way.

This past Monday I had the follow-up PET/CTs, and on Tuesday afternoon I saw Dr. Rugo. When I arrived she hadn’t seen the preliminary report, so we all went over it together. There were three spots that lit up, two in my right lung and one just below my right collarbone. The findings were as follows:

1. Compared to 6/14/2021, increasing hypermetabolism in a 7 mm right lower lobe lung nodule and in an area of ill-defined enhancement in the right pectoralis minor muscle. Findings raise suspicion for metastatic disease.  
2. 4 mm nodule along an area of linear atelectasis in the anterior right middle lobe, increased in size from prior, with new low level radiotracer uptake. This may reflect aspiration and/or infection, but attention on follow-up.

Dr. Rugo then did an exam and was able to find a small, hard lump near my collarbone. I felt it, too. I then had a FNA (fine needle aspiration). If the results came back benign, then we would continue to “keep an eye on it” and “wait and see.” If it was malignant, then the assumption would be that the lung nodules were cancerous as well. After the procedure we headed home. The results would come back in a day or two.

Thursday morning I noticed there was a voice message from Dr. Rugo. When I listened I could tell she was calling as she drove to work. That is never a good sign. How many times have you had a doctor call you with good news while they were driving to work? Exactly.

I called her back. Left a message. She called me right back. “It’s more cancer. I suspected as much when I felt it. I think you knew it, too,” she said. She went on to say she had already talked to Dr. Ewing, my surgeon. There is a decision to be made about either removing the cancer near my collarbone or doing a core biopsy. Dr. Rugo mentioned the possibility of immunotherapy as a next treatment option.

Yesterday morning I got a notification in MyChart that I had an appointment with Dr. Ewing’s Nurse Practitioner Shelley on Wednesday morning. It’s weird how in a matter of hours things can get super real.

So that’s the curve ball. Another recurrence of cancer, but now it’s also in my lung. The bright side is that it is slow growing and was found early on.

I’ll be forever grateful for the adventures of Summer 2021. But now my cancer journey continues. I know I’m in good hands. I’ll keep you posted.

Fate keeps on happening. —Anita Loos