Sometimes I start to think that I could be an oncologist, making a huge six figure income and treating patients with Lymphoma. Sometimes I feel like I have learned so much about this disease that I could be treating other people. But just when I feel really confident in my knowledge of what has happened and what I can expect to happen, a day like today comes along and I find myself suddenly scratching my head, looking confused and saying, “Huh?”
Monday morning, 8:00 appointment…the clinic was packed. For any of you who are taking this week off in preparation for the holiday, consider yourself lucky because the cancer shop was rocking like Best Buy on a Black Friday. It took a little over an hour and a half to finally see my doctor and the news was…she still doesn’t know if I have cancer or not. Talk about a let down. I was completely on edge. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t concentrate, I had a stomach full of butterflies, but I was prepared to here either of the answers I was expecting. Like I wrote last night, I was fully expecting a pass or a fail rating. Nope, I got neither. I got, “It’s still a little to early to tell exactly what is going on.”
Here are the technical specifics. There are two primary measurements taken in a PET Scan. The first is the SUV (don’t ask me what that stands for), which is the heat or activity level of the tumor. A dead tumor (remission) would have no measurable activity. My last PET scan in June after two rounds of salvage chemotherapy had an SUV measurement of 9.4. The measurement taken on Friday was 5.5.
The second measurement is the size of the tumor. My previous measured size was 8.4 cm x 2.6 cm, and today’s measurement is 7.1 cm x 2.1 cm. The doctor explained that she is happy to see the measurements declining, and she also suggested that the activity could likely be caused or increased by the radiation treatments I received in July. For anyone who has followed the saga of my mediastinal mass (tumor) for more than a year, you might remember this is exactly where we were one year ago. Exactly one year ago. The tumor had shrunk, it had slowed down its activity, but the doctors could not officially declare it in remission because it was still active. They told me then, that the activity could have been cancer, or it could be scar tissue from the biopsy surgery. We learned 5 months later that it was living, breathing and thriving cancer.
The plan is to visit Emory Winship again in February and just have a checkup. And then re-scan sometime in April to see if this trend continues or reverses or turns into a wild Gruffalo. So, the pessimist could look at this and say that my condition has made no improvement since 12 months ago, with a whole lot of suffering along the way. But the optimist says that these past 8 months were the first full crack at treating me the Emory team has had and the scan results are going in the right direction so I am on my way to being cured…it’s just going to take some time.