Okay, maybe not that kind of pet. But nobody online can resist a cute kitten photo so I expect my hits to jump exponentially.
It had been a nerve-wracking week, so to ease my anxiety I tried to get a glimpse of my future the best way I knew how - a Chinese meal with a fortune cookie dessert. Take-out Chinese is a two-fer: I get out of cooking, and I get a hint at what the future holds. After I finished my Szechuan Chicken, I cracked open the cookie. The fortune inside read, "Stay close to your inner self. You will benefit in many ways."
Why, it's like that cookie was made for me! I am not only close to my inner self, I get to see it on a regular basis. And, it is your lucky day - I will share the benefits of that inner view with you!
A quick recap: in preparation for my four month follow-up visit with Dr. SuperSurgeon, who did my liver resection, I had to have a CT scan. The CT scan came back showing something suspicious on my liver, so my oncologist recommended a PET scan to see if it's cancer. They moved the paperwork through the system quickly so I could bring all the information to Dr. SuperSurgeon. The CT was already on a CD, collecting dust and crumbs in my purse, ready to take to San Francisco. On Monday, I added the PET.
I hadn't looked at the CT because I know I can't interpret it - they kind of look like a film noir murder scene; one gray organ gently blurring into the other. Besides, I'd read the radiology report which had already scared the crap out of me. But, I was curious to see the PET scan, both to see if I could find cancer and just to see my insides in color. I loaded it on my computer.
Because I know that every single time you peeps sit down to your computer and load But Doctor, I Hate Pink, you say to yourself, "I sure hope Ann posts a picture of her liver today," I am finally going to grant your wish (you will need to click to see it all):
There is cancer terminology you may not be aware of, and that is the phrase "light up" when referring to something on your PET scan. We all say our scans "lit up like a Christmas tree" when they show a lot of cancer. Where the correlation between Christmas and cancer comes in, I can't say. Personally, if I'd invented the simile, I would have said "lit up like a suicide bomber" or "lit up like cigarette lighters at a meth house" or something a little less festive than Christmas trees. But, I don't make the rules, I just follow them.
So, I am happily sitting down, snacking on pretzels, when I open my PET scan. The above is a still image but when you see the PET in real life, it is interactive. The gross little skeleton on the right rotates around like a Russian dancer, and you can move the green bulls-eye thing to focus in on specific areas - if you can catch it, that is, the rotation is fast. There is also a magnifying glass that highlights any interesting spot you desire for close-up view. As I bit into my pretzel, I was horrified to see that in the area of my liver, right where that growth had been seen, was a very bright light. As you can see, circled above, it definitely looks like a Christmas bulb or cigarette lighter that somehow got stuck in my liver.
Well, shoot. Cancer really is back, and only a few months after surgery.
I spent the next few days trying not to be disappointed, yet mentally planning my last ever birthday party, telling myself I really should finish at least one scrapbook (but not actually doing it), and eating extra coconut popsicles and Sees candy because - well, why not? I also felt bad that I could not provide a good statistic for any future women with limited mets who might want surgery. It's a big burden to know you let down the surgical future of breast cancer treatment. I was also really upset at the thought that I wouldn't be around to see my son graduate from high school. That kid is a hard worker and I wanted to see him off to college. I also just know that without me, my husband is going to pick out some hideous dorm decorations for the boy, and will probably forget meaningless stuff, like sheets.
I forgot one teeny little thing: I am not a radiologist.
CDs in hand, my husband and I drove to San Francisco. Once in the exam room, I spoke to Dr. SuperSurgeon's doctor-trainees-assistants about my medical history since the surgery, which consisted of my horrifying c-diff tale. That generated a lot of questions, but I also managed to mention that I expected that my cancer had returned. I handed them the CDs, they left the room, and my husband and I awaited the confirmation of bad news.
Dr. SuperSurgeon came in, and I prepared myself. He looked at me and said something disappointing: he was not able to open the CD the PET came on. Apparently, all that skeleton rotation and magnifying glass stuff is caused by a proprietary program that conflicted with other programs on their computer system, so they couldn't see it.
But then, he said something wonderful. Based on the CT (which he could open) he would never have even ordered the PET. He saw normal surgical changes and nothing concerning at all. He also said that sometimes a PET scan can show uptake (doctor-lingo for "Christmas tree lights") after resection and sometimes radiologists didn't recognize normal ablation changes on CTs and PETs.
Of course, to be sure, he, along with a radiologist, will go over the PET, (presumably after they get tech services in there to open it). They will call me when they know for sure. But for now, they believe I am fine.
I have one concern: if radiologists are always going to interpret my surgical changes as suspicious growth, then how am I ever going to get accurate news? I can't run to San Francisco every time I have a scan, and I don't want a PET scan every time I have a CT scan either. Somebody is going to have to figure out how to read my scans.
If you have enjoyed my blog and want to donate but are afraid that I'm going to spend the money on political campaigns or plastic surgery, let me assuage your fears. Any donation made will go towards my son's college education. Be warned, there is no tax deduction here, consider it like buying a book, a continually updated but unedited book. A small percentage of what I receive yearly will go to StandUp2Cancer. Consider it entirely voluntary, I love you whether you donate or not. Now click.
I live with metastatic breast cancer. .
I was diagnosed 2009 with Stage 2 Her2+ breast cancer. Mastectomy followed, 6 rounds of chemo and a year of herceptin. A few months after I finished, cancer was found in my liver-incurable. I've done chemo after chemo, has my liver partially removed and did cyber knife radiation. Like all metsters, I'll be on treatment until I die.
I'm a former High School Secretary, wife, and mother of two great sons.
To read my entire cancer story, go to www.butdoctorihatepink.com and find the post called "What the heck is that?" on September 2, 2009, or look at the top of the blog and click on "chronological posts". (Some issues with the feed on that but it will get you started). If you are a blogger who can give me a link, I'd appreciate it very much. To email me, click on my profile and you'll find a email addy. I answer every email from a cancer patient. Also like my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Facebook. I'm butdoctorihatepink on Instagram and @butdocihatepink on Twitter. Like me while you can!