Last week, I reported for duty to MD Anderson for a 6 month check up. I had one in November 2015, just days after my last chemo. At a check, I have a CT scan, some blood work, and a doctor appointment or two. The CT lets them look for any suspicious growths and the bloodwork watches all the numbers for signs that the liver might be in trouble or that a tumour might be growing somewhere. They monitor my CEA levels, which means "Carcinoembryonic Antigen" which may be a sign of cancer growing. Even when I had my primary tumor, this number was low and remains low to this day.
The next day (Wednesday), I had an appointment with my medical oncologist at the leisurely hour of 11 am. I did NOT set an alarm for the first time in a long while and slept in until 8. Ahhhhh. I then went for a sticky morning run, which is de riguer for all my trips to Houston. It makes me feel in control and like I'm flipping the bird to cancer. I always make sure I run by the main clinic building with my patient arm band too. Take that, cancer. Mom & I met with the doc for an unremarkable appt, but radiology was still behind, so my scans had not been read yet. That's OK, I told the doc. I still had another appt the next day with my surgeon, Dr. Rodriguez-Bigas. He scheduled me for 10:30 am, which meant I still had time for another run before. This time around Rice University, which was very nice. Humid, yes, but nice just the same. As an aside, I sweat if I lift a finger. If I run in Houston humidity, I look like I just climbed out of the pool, which makes people think I've been working really hard. It's kind of fun. Dr. RB popped in before my appt to say hello, we talked about Italy, and he told me about a couple of must see places in Rome. Then he popped out. Then he popped back in with a written list with the locations. Then he popped back out. Finally, he popped back in for the actual appointment. We talked a bit about my recovery, and how I was doing with the new gut system (pretty well!). Then he very casually mentioned that radiology STILL hadn't read my scans, but he took a look himself. Then he said the 4 words,
"You have a spot."
We flew home that evening, amazingly enough. I say amazingly enough because that was a day of tornadoes from TX to KS, including one that went right by our ranch and did some damage in Wamego and another that was spotted near the airport by a pilot landing a plane. But we made it in (it was a bit bumpy) then drove home in pouring rain the entire way from KC. I got into bed about 2:30 am. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. We were up at 6am the next morning for a big, timed AI project (that's a cow artificial insemination project for my non-cow friends). I don't remember much about it. Gee, I can't imaging why.
That weekend, I managed to forget all about it for the most part, probably because we were so busy. We had cow work again on Saturday, fencing and cows on Sunday, including a heifer rescue from a deep creek in the dark. We finished that at 10:30.
When I got home later that afternoon, the first thing I did was log on to MyMDAnderson.org and pull up the radiology report. And I think that's when it finally hit home.
Chest: Interval 3.5 mm probable metastasis right upper lobe...
"Probable metastasis" hit me like a ton of bricks. Probable. My brain cued right in on "probable." Not "maybe." Not "a chance of." They said "probable." They think it's most likely metastasis. I thought I'd cry, but I didn't. I'm so... hmmm, not shocked. That's not the right word. I'm so I-don't-know-what that I'm not able to even find the right reaction. Numb isn't it either, but it's closer so we'll go with numb. My brain is still functioning, but my emotions are on vacation apparently. The emotions are like Scarlett O'Hara apparently.
Anyway, back to "probable metastisis." My original diagnosis was rectal cancer, and its favorite travel destinations are the liver and the lungs, and here we are with a growth in the lungs. So I did the most reasonable thing I could think of under the circumstances - I took a nap. I was so tired, physically and emotionally. I slept hard too. It was great. What I would give to be a toddler and have scheduled nap times again. And snacks. I like snacks.
I like to think I know you all, even if that sounds a bit presumptuous. I imagine the first reaction is, "Oh, Barb. It won't be cancer. You'll go down to Houston in August and it'll be gone. I just know it." Well, I know that's a possibility too. But I'm a planner, so I'll plan for that worst so I can be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be the best. I also think a lot of you are shocked right now. I know from your comments you all think I'm strong and that if anyone could whip this thing, it'd be me. To find out maybe not might shake you a bit. When my Dad died last month, the thing that got me the most was watching the strongest man I'd ever known brought to his knees. It may sound self-centered, but when someone you think of as strong is taken down, it makes you feel all the more vulnerable. I hope all of the preceding reads right. I thought about deleting, but I'm leaving it for now. It may disappear yet, it may not. I'm not wordsmithing at my best right now, so please give me the benefit of the doubt.
And that's enough of the serious crap. We're going on with life. I feel just great, seriously. I have completely forgotten I'm a cancer patient. In fact, I've been trying to get back to running regularly. I think a spot on the lung may be just what I need to really get this running thing cranked up again. What better way to take care of myself now than to make sure I have all the lung capacity I can muster? Plus, it feels deliciously defiant.
Thanks for being here, my friends and family. I will need you more than ever. Next real update is the end of August. I report to MD Anderson Tuesday, August 30 for the next round. Until then, there's naught to be done but wait. Live, love, run, and wait. God Bless.