Moving Toward Dormancy
After a wonderful month off from traveling to Houston and being able to celebrate the Christmas holiday with family and friends, Jody and I were off again to Texas for my first restaging check. My nerves were high and I was certain I had felt a new lymph node in my neck. I went into the CT trying to keep a level head.
The CT with contrast (dye) of my body and neck always causes anxiety. The first step is being called back from the public waiting room, where all the caregivers and family members are to the inner waiting room, where it is just the ones needing scanned. The inner sanctum is sterile, with six chairs lined on either side of the room, numbers above them and people in all different stages of cancer waiting their turn for the scan. Hoping for the best, dreading the worst. The room is almost always silent.
Once you are lead to your assigned chair a nurse comes over to discuss starting an IV; this is either intravenous or through a port. I have a port and it is accessed. Once the IV is placed, the wait begins. I nearly always find myself asking a cell-mate, "what are you in for?" as if we are waiting to go to jail.
Once called back to the CT room, it is time to find my calm. It is not the scan tube that causes my anxiety, I am no more claustrophobic than the next guy. It is the dye that gives me angst. During my first scan I was told that the dye might feel slightly warm in my neck and may feel like I peed my pants. Seriously?! Both of these statements are accurate, only in my case, the "slightly warm" in my neck sensation was more like a fight or flight burning in my throat. It is my contention that was the cancer reacting to the dye.
During this recent scan, I was anticipating the "pee your pants" sensation and dreading the burn in my throat. The technician had to remind me not to move as I kept shifting my feet back and forth. While in the scan, the canned, monotone computer voice comes over the speakers, "Don't breath." The table moves into the tube, and then the voice says, "Breath," and I do. The technician then tells me he is going to push the dye and the dread comes. Yes, the pee your pants sensation came but the fight or flight did not. My throat was warm but tolerable. Different this time, and then it was over.
Several hours later we saw Dr. Wang and he had the results of my scans: No lymphadenopathy (lymph node enlargement) in the chest, abdomen or pelvis. No progressive cervical adenopathy and the hypodense appearance of the thyroid was "no longer demonstrated." (May be why the CT scan felt different this time.) Essentially, I was heading toward dormancy; the treatment was working.
As my head was spinning and tears came, I had to ask the question, "Does this mean remission?" I was told that the following month would be a PET scan to confirm whether or not I was in remission. That test would be followed by a bone marrow biopsy the month after and a colonoscopy/endoscopy the month after that. I would then start the "big chemo" following these tests, if they were all clear.
I have been reminded that remission for me does not mean a cure as there is none with Mantle Cell. Remission simply means the disappearance of signs or symptoms of cancer.
The past week since being given my fantastic news, has been surprisingly emotional for me. I have had to process this before sharing and have had many up and down feelings. I feel partially guilty that I have so quickly responded to my treatment while others have not. I feel uneasy about doing cartwheels over this news for fear of falling back into "signs and symptoms" and I feel a little selfish asking for all your prayers; I hope I didn't ask for them too early instead of "saving" those requests for when I reallyneeded them. All of this seems so illogical but I still can't release those feelings, at least not yet.
Suffice to say, however, that I am grateful beyond words. Grateful for the Blessings of my Houston team for their knowledge and courage to move forward with a trial; grateful for my Boise team for encouraging me to seek an opinion and treatment elsewhere; grateful to my husband and family for their continued, unwavering support and love; grateful to my friends for listening to me continually talk about my health; grateful to my employer for his understanding and patience and most of all grateful for the prayers from each of you. I truly believe that God heard your prayers and I am humbled and forever thankful. Thank you! I love you all!