Thursday, September 3, 2009

Scans and Plans

Hello all! I had a "PET" Scan on Monday and yesterday I received the results. First, what exactly is a PET Scan? Its formal name is Positron Emission Tomography and its purpose is to determine the presence and severity of cancers, neurological conditions, and cardiovascular disease. It is currently the most effective way to check for cancer recurrences, and it offers significant advantages over other forms of imaging such as CT or MRI scans in detecting disease in many patients. The risks associated with a PET scan are very minimal as the quantity of radiation is low and the FDG (-Deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-Glucose) degrades quickly so that its usually out of the body before a patient leaves the area.

It was painless, and I owe a beer to the Tech, my new friend, James, who was able to get my vein on the first try....a rarity these days. He put in an IV and then came out with a needle encased in a heavy lead tube!! My eyes about popped out of my head, but James explained that it is to protect him. I completely understand because in order for him to be helpful as part of my "team", he must deal with this radioactive material daily.

My results were negative. What this means is that THERE IS NO CANCER ANYWHERE in my body!!! Oh my, thank you, thank you, Jesus!!! You cannot even begin to imagine my joy at hearing the nurse's words. This was such incredibly good news for my long term recovery. The next milestone is two years. If I go two years without incident, things look good. The next milestone is five years. If nothing at the point, I can expect a good healthy rest of my life.

My chemo and doctors will be changing once again. I have decided to stay under the VA's care for multiple reasons. The first, Dr. Pooja Randham, Oncologist. Her decisions on the type and length of treatment, and my understanding of "why" is clearly acceptable to me. She will treat me with the "TC" version of chemotherapy - and only with four rounds of it. TC is less damaging to my heart and is not known to cause leukemia, as does the AC. If I were to get this particular type of leukemia from taking the AC, it is very bad and would likely be lethal. Check. Next, only four rounds - that means in three months (not six) - by CHRISTMAS - I should be getting my life back, with the exception of the rest of the breast reconstruction. Check, check. Lastly, costs. I had no idea that the costs involved. If I remain in the civilian sector for care, the cost will/can rise to over $100,000, of which 20% (or $20,000) I would be responsible for. If I stay with the VA, it is free to me.....check, check, check. Decision made. My priorities in life have been steadily changing and I want to LIVE my life more than ever and I don't want to live to work to pay this back....I want to be able to help others.

Pooja said it is imperative to begin my chemo treatments immediately - because of that dang triple negative feature. Soooooo, next week on Wednesday, Sep 9th, I will receive my first treatment. After that, only three more to go (every 21 days). They have delayed my return to work until the 14th to give my body a chance to process the first treatment. When I return to work, it will be on the second week - the week I am most susceptible to illness due to my WBC (white blood cell count) so I beg that anyone with a cold or sniffles please keep distance from me. Your colds CAN kill me. But, I would love to visit with you during the third week. ;)

Now, I need to rant for a moment with the last bit of this I'm struggling with. I will still lose the rest of my hair and I know it. I saw a woman yesterday, her hair was maybe 1/4 inch long - and I almost cried right there. My heart dropped to my toes. I am really having a hard time with this part. I still want to be in control and just cut it off, but I know that I am going to look so dreadful that it just takes my breath away. I KNOW it is temporary, and I KNOW I have to do this, and even though I pray hard about it, I'm just sort of stuck in my tracks today. I feel like it is the last bit of my girlishness that I have to hold onto and it really sucks. There, 'nuff said.

But, I guess it is time, so I will ask my friend Kathy if she will cut it for me....not all of it, but most of it. That way, if I cry, she will really "get it". Kathy's sister went through her own experience with breast cancer and Kathy even walked Tampa's 60-mile breast cancer awareness/challenge a couple years ago......Seemed like every week, she was driving north to spend that critical time with her sister.

Anyway, to the right, please note my new friends and team members. I would like to publicly applaud them for their kind, caring, professional demeanor's. My sister and I were having a conversation on the way to Tampa about how I really liked everyone involved in my care, and how lucky I feel to have them. I believe that there are two types of doctors; the ones that are genuinely concerned about the care and wellness of the patient (and it is reflected in how they interact with the patient), and those that are indifferent and matter of factly with little or no "personal" interactions. Well, I can tell you, for me, this IS personal so I want docs who are willing to be personally involved with me. And I know how blessed I have been to have just that kind of care. Well, lo and behold, Sherry and I were getting on an elevator in the VA and noticed a man in a wheelchair with one arm was trying his best to get out of the elevator. We actually had to put our arms out to keep it from closing on him because two residents in training (students) on the elevator would not even look at him, they kept right on with their conversation! THAT is the difference I am talking about. Shame, shame on them. Neither of us could believe it.

OK, time to buy a wig and some scarves.....have a wonderful week and a beautiful Labor Day weekend.

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