As I was lying on the PET scan table on Monday, I thought about how much time I have spent in diagnostic machines since being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in April 2008. Every three or four months, I spend 20 minutes on the table trying to distract myself by living in the moment and trusting God that all is in divine order. Well, most of the time.
My propensity to mix up my calendar dates served as an advantage as I awaited this scan, however – a Hanukkah gift, if you will. I thought my scan was next week and by the time I figured it out, it was just a couple of days away. I decided I was going to anticipate good news instead of going down the dark road my mind typically takes me. I have been enjoying a long run with my current treatment, Afinitor — almost a year — and my last two scans showed shrinkage.
What I didn’t anticipate is the absolute fear and dread I felt during the short drive to pick up my scan results yesterday. My heart was beating fast and I had to take a few deep breaths and say some affirmations just to calm myself down. All the fear I had been avoiding came rushing in. What if cancer has spread to other parts of my body? What will I do if my treatment stops working? When in the hell are they going to come up with a new targeted drug for ER positive breast cancer?
Shaking, I opened the envelope. First, a feeling of relief. There were no new lesions and the tumor in my armpit, which seems to have been there since the beginning of time, was absolutely gone. Then I read on: the mass on my peritoneal area did not change in size, but there was an increase in standard uptake value (SUV). Although it sounds like the type of car driven by suburban soccer moms, SUV is actually another way of determining cancer activity. It’s not always accurate though, and can be influenced by things like exercising 48 hours prior to the scan (which I found out yesterday on the Internet, not from my scan place).
So Dr. Tami is stating that this is a stable scan. I will meet with my local oncologist on Monday and my consulting oncologist at Ohio State in a couple of weeks, but I think they will say to stay the course. I feel like a Death Row inmate waiting for a reprieve. Living with stage IV cancer is like that. You hang around until another new treatment comes along. Before Afinitor was approved the summer before last, my choices were reduced to hit-or-miss chemo regimens that aren’t targeted to my type of cancer. I am hopeful because I see a lot of great drugs in the pipeline. A good place to find trials, I’ve found is BCtrials.org. I am looking forward to hearing what comes from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium next week.
Until then, I will continue to count my blessings, enjoy the holidays with my wonderful family, and thank God for every day. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and Hanukkah (for those of you who celebrate). Until next time!
Some cool news: Miracle Survivors has been chosen to be included in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) online archive of Web content as part of its mission to collect, preserve, and make available to the public materials that provide information in medicine and public health, and document their histories. The library, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, will make the content available to researchers. Very exciting stuff!