If you are my Facebook friend you probably saw my message Tuesday indicating the scans from the MRI were positive! YAY! Believe it or not, you all have now helped cheer me to victory against cancer three times. So now it´s time to look ahead to the future, until, of course, the next time…
Tuesday began with my regular treatment at Oncologia Ambulatoria. I signed up for the earliest hour, 8 oclock, because I wanted to be done with the treatment before I had my meeting about the MRI with Dr. M. I showed up around 8:10 knowing full well the nurses would not be ready at eight. (This is South America, after all.) However, I didn´t expect them to take so long to admit me, considering I was the only patient in the waiting room. It wasn´t until a little past nine that I was hooked up to the machine and the drugs started dripping into my veins. My treatment, if the nurses feel like there is a time constraint can be as short as 3 ½ hours. Otherwise it takes around 4- 4 and a half. So I let them know about my meeting with the doctor across the Oncology floor at 12:30.
Well, 12:15 rolled around and I was not done with my Herceptin drip, nor the saline solution that they always finish with to clean out my veins. I told one of the nurses my problem and she assured me it would be okay and she would expedite my treatment. She called my doctor´s secretary and told her I would be done shortly. She turned around and gave me a thumbs-up, which I guess meant that everything was fine. Jon showed up from school and I sat there for another 30 minutes until my drip finished. Another nurse came to hook me up with the saline solution and I was panicking because I was already 20 minutes late to my appointment. The other nurse let me know I could take my portable IV with me across the hall to see Dr. M. Thanks-this information would have come in handy earlier so I wouldn´t have been late for my meeting! Anyway, I really didn´t want to drag my portable IV through two waiting rooms and to my super important appointment, but I really had no choice.
Dr. M began the meeting by asking if he should start with the good news or the bad news. I squirmed in my seat a bit. The first thing he said, though, was about him and I can´t publish it all over the internet until it is for sure. So even though I can´t tell you the news now, it had absolutely nothing to do with my MRI. “Is that the bad news or the good news?” Jon and I asked each other under our breath as the doctor began to examine my scan information. He asked me how I felt and kept repeating that I looked good and healthy. “Just tell me what the scan said!” I wanted to shout. Then the doctor attempted to translate the difficult Spanish medical terms into English ones. He was not so successful. It took us about three times reading and translating to figure out what the analysis of the scan actually said. Basically, what the scan indicating was that my lesions have shrunk. I still have the same number of lesions but they are much smaller. Also, since I had an MRI and not a Pet Scan, the magnetic images couldn´t determine if the lesions were live cells or dead cells. The lesions could just be scars at this point, which is my fervent hope. Dr. M also said they noticed a tiny blip in a different part of my brain that was so small that the doctors couldn´t determine whether it was a lesion or not. Dr. M said we´d keep track of it by doing regular scans.
Upon processing this information Jon and I did not jump out of our seats and start whooping and hollering as we did the other times. I was not shocked by the information because I´ve been feeling pretty good recently, and I didn´t expect the news to be 100% positive anyway. The dizziness, although diminished, is not completely gone. Also the back of my head is really sore when I lie down on certain types of pillows. The scan revealed that I still have some edema, or swelling, on the lower left side of my brain. Dr. M said that with the large dose of radiation I received, this is to be expected. I´m only feeling some pain now because my dosage of steroids is so low. Don´t worry though- the pain is pretty minor and I´d rather have a little pain than the bloat and puffiness of the steroids.
As we rode home in the car, Jon and I weren´t as excited as we had been the other two times we received important scan results. It didn´t really seem like there was anything to celebrate other than the treatment is working for now. The first time I was diagnosed and survived I was declared to be a “milagro” 0r miracle. I went from stage IV cancer to complete and total remission in less than 6 months. This was completely unheard of and definitely a shock to the doctors and a shock to me. It was certainly a result worth celebrating. The scan result last summer when the cancer had re- metastasized in the brain was also pretty exciting. I had survived brain cancer.
This third diagnosis though brought us back to reality. For this scan result, Jon and I were a little more realistic. I have metastatic breast cancer, which means it is here to stay. We know that now. No doctor will probably ever again tell me I´m cancer free, unless the doctors and researchers come up with a cure soon. Until then I will have to be content with controlling the cancer and doing what it takes to keep it stable enough so that I can live my life as best as I possibly can.
However, I don´t want to leave you readers in a gloomy place, because the scan results were, indeed, positive. The good thing about this scan result is now I know for certain that I have more time to spend with Jon and my friends, and my family. I can travel to more places. I will be healthy enough to enjoy my sister´s wedding in Costa Rica. No one ever knows when their life will end, and in that regard I am just like everybody else.
One of my friends is also dealing with MBC (metastatic breast cancer) and she currently has re-metastasis in her liver. She, too, had important scans last week. I was reading her blog and I found what she had to say quite astute. In the United States they are more scan-happy than in Chile. Pet Scans are usually given every three months. In fact, in the six years that she´s been dealing with this disease, she has had so many scans that her file now warns doctors to be cautious if administering more radiation because she´s already been exposed to so much. This is a scary reality because, from here on out, we will need to monitor my cancer through scans, which means that as long as I keep on surviving, I´ll probably have to have more radiation. Of course I will always keep my feelings of positivity and hope as much as possible, but I also know that I will be living my life from scan to scan. It´s so hard on me and Jon to keep adjusting our plans and our vision of the future, time after time. But that´s what we have to do. So here we go, time to wipe the motherboard clean, reboot, and reconfigure Eli, version 4.0.