Friday, April 3, 2009

12th Floor - Oncology... did ya miss me?

I had my 6 month (from end of chemo) check-up today.

While I was waiting, I saw the head nurse Julie head over to the elevators. I had wondered if she was there because I wanted to stop in and say 'hi' to her, so I went over and asked her if she remembered me. She had to take a look, but then said "Oh yeah! Your hair is longer and you have glasses! You look great, how are you..." and gave me a big hug. Her elevator came and went and she stayed and talked to me for a bit... saying it was good to see me back and doing so well. It's not always the case with some of her patients. I could only imagine how hard that would be. She gave me another hug before she said goodbye.

I don't miss chemo, but it was very strange being there all the time for six months and then all of a sudden - not. I felt like I was surrounded by some very compassionate people who really cared about me, and it kind of didn't make sense to just remove myself from that. I know, that probably doesn't make sense as I write it... in my head it does.

Dr Azar said I am doing great and that my test results were all good. The biopsy from the mass found in my exam came out benign. CT scan, clear. Oh yeah, I forgot to do my bloodwork lab. Oops. I did stop by and do that before I left and she'll let me know if there is anything to be concerned about.

I asked her a couple of questions -
  • What would be a call for gene testing? Two out of my three brothers had polyps during their colonoscopies and I think my sister did too. She is noting it and I guess there is a wait but I might be called in July or August to fill out paperwork for that to see if I qualify (not sure if that's the right word) for the testing.
  • Since I was told that I would be considered "cured" if the cancer doesn't metastasize in five years, is that from my surgery date or my end of chemo date? She asked me "Why, are you planning a party?" "Heck Yeah!!" But really, I just want to know. She said that it would be from my surgery date. And it's likely that if it will, it will probably happen within three years. It's very unlikely that it would happen after 5 years. The thing is, (she told me very frankly) - it could happen. I could also get "new" cancer.
  • What would be the word to describe me in terms of cancer? She said, "I really hate to use the term cancer-free. You're never going to be able to donate blood. You're never going to be able to stop having colonoscopies. This is always something you are going to have to keep in check. You're in remission. We hope we killed all of those bad cells with the chemo, that's why we were so aggressive, but we just don't know yet. And if you have that mindset (cancer-free/cured), and it does metastasize - you'll be pretty pissed thinking you were cancer-free." Honestly, I can deal with the term remission. And honestly, I don't care what you call me right now, if it comes back - I think I'll be pissed.
  • Will I ever have a PET scan? I have heard this term in regard to cancer a lot and have also been asked. My prep for this appointment was a colonoscopy and a CT Scan. To tell you the truth, I don't know the difference between a CT, a PET or an MRI. I trust that Dr. Azar is recommending the tests that she thinks will best suit my health needs. She said that she doesn't think that a PET scan is necessarily better, but it gets a lot of talk up in cancer circles. Each scan will detect masses, which is the point. As far as we know, all of the cancer was removed during surgery and since there was no evidence of it affecting any other organs, and there was nothing on my scan from last month - there is no change.... no growth. So as of right now, no PET scans. And the clinical trial I am on will cover the cost of my CT scans every 6 months.
What else? She told me that I should have my next CT in 6 months for my next checkup. And she assured me that I can call her or Tracey (my clinical trial nurse) anytime if I had any questions. She was happy with how I'm doing so far. So am I.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness Tommy, our stories are SO similar!
I know that they HATE to tell us that we are cancer-free. We will NEVER be told that, in fact. It would make them liable if it did come back. I also know that we are 50% more likely to develop a NEW primary. Personally, I don't believe you and I ever will :)
I have had the PET, CT and MRI. Now I have had so much radiation, that they are reluctant to scan me. But I liked my PET scan - that is the one I personally trusted the most. My doctors have NEVER said that it was better, it is just my personal sense of comofort.

Hugs to you. So happy that you have found each other.

Claudia said...

No matter what you call it, you're a SUPER STAR! What a good visit. I am so glad to know you and to get to share in your life. We will certainly continue to pray for you! -czm :)