It’s Back

Just when I thought I could start planning my life again, it came back.

My latest scan shows a small spot on my lower right lung. I am trying to look at the positives instead of drowning myself everyday in the negatives.

Positives;

  • It is located on my “good” lung (only one operation)
  • It is not on my liver
  • It is small and easily accessible
  • Surgery is an option

Negatives;

  • I still have cancer

 

But I guess I’ve always known that. It is the message I have been trying to communicate for months now. To all of the hopefuls who exclaimed, “You beat it!” – this is why I was still sad. With stage four cancer, you never really “beat it”. I knew there was a very high chance it would return, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be this fast. So once again I am putting my future life on hold and go back to living one day at a time. Now, it feels like I am just going through the motions. Living in this purgatory state with no direction, just a “see you in April” from my surgeons. If that scan shows minimal growth and no new friends, then operation number seven will take place this summer. There are a million different scenarios that can come into play, but like I said I am taking it day by day. I can and will drive myself crazy if I constantly think of all of the “what ifs”. I have no control over the scan, what I do have control over is my mind and diet. As long as I stick to a clean diet, and try to keep a healthy mind, I am hopeful that I can prevail.

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Scan Results

What is beginning to become fascinating to me is watching the way different people react to the same news. What is the news you ask? My latest scan reveals that the little shit on my lung decided to camp out for the winter. He’s small and insignificant (like most men – right ladies) – but still sticking around. The rest of the organs however are all clear – even the liver. That’s right, after removing over 30 tumours from my liver I am lucky enough to say that none of them have grown back. (Yet? I feel like I can’t finish that sentence with such a strong point. It is as if I am daring them to resurface. I’ll knock on wood.)

The plan now is for me to finish up the chemo (last day is April 1st – Aprils Fools Day – how fitting), and then surgically remove the last remaining morsel of my cancer in May. By end of May my surgeon has stated, “I am looking forward to giving you the news that you are cancer free”.

The scan results have caused a multitude of reactions – which I will now break down the most common:

Criers – People who cannot believe that my liver is clear and I am almost cancer free. They stare into my eyes with amazement as to why I am also not crying and smiling from ear to ear.

Skeptics – People who think the “cancer free” statement is a little too soon. Let’s just hold off throwing around that term until there is actually a clear scan.

Questioners – People who after every statement I give them follow up with a “And how do you feel about that?”. These conversations are the longest.

Neutrals – People who stay in the safe zone. They gage their reaction based off on the way I am speaking. What ever emotion I display, they mirror.

Drumroll for what category I feel I fit in to…….

All of the above. Well I haven’t cried, but I can understand why some have.

My perspective? Going in to the appointment it never crossed my mind that my surgeon could say, “Your scan is horrible and you are covered with tumours.” Did I know that was a possibility – yes. We had discussed that was a major risk from my back to back surgeries. I guess I was so focused on my lung results that I did not focus my energy on to thinking the absolute worst case scenario. So now my thoughts on the appointment are – Ok, five more bloody rounds of chemo and then another stupid surgery. Yes I know it is less invasive than my other two (you are not the first person to point that out) – I am not concerned about that. If you recall in the Fall I even asked my surgeon to just operate so I could stop worrying about that sucker. This “go get’m” attitude shifted when my surgeon dropped the words – chest tube. To take precautions after my surgery to ensure my lung is inflating on its own, I require a chest tube for a day or two. No thank you. I feel like that should be up for negotiation – which I made clear to my new chest surgeon. He does not understand my personality yet so he just stood there dumbfounded that I was even trying to make this into a debate. My liver surgeon stood by his side, leaning up against the table with his arms crossed. Body language to me, from him, was reading – Yep, typical Jamie. Always trying to negotiate her way out of everything.

You’re damn right. My last statement to my new chest surgeon was – “This chest tube thing. That will be up for discussion at our April appointment.” I will probably lose.

Lung Tumour

It is hard sometimes to sleep when your brain will not shut off. Since I am such a planner with life, it has been hard to sit back and let things just play out. Two days after my last operation I had a chest CT to check on the progress of my liver regeneration. During this CT they discovered a small tumour on the upper side of my left lung. My doctors then went back in my scans and discovered there was a small glimpse of it on my original scans from April. At first I was annoyed of course. How was this missed? Then I came to terms with the fact that they were so overwhelmed by what my liver was showing, they were not looking any place else. They did however give me another CT in May for the sole purpose to check if I had cancer any where else. I already had two treatments of chemo under my belt at this point, and my surgeon let me know I was clear. Conclusion? My lung tumour shrunk enough after two treatments that it disappeared from the scan. Sounds amazing right? Well to me, not so much. From when they decided I was going to have my first surgery, to when I was able to go back on chemo after my second surgery, three months had passed. Three whole months without chemo. That little tumour was persistent and came right on back after the poison was out of my system. This is what worried me. What happens if after six scans the tumour is shrunk enough that they do not feel the need to operate? At this point I feel like I am a pro when it comes to surgery. I would rather have them get in there and remove the sucker with good margins, then leave it and hope that it just never comes back. With my mind racing around this topic I knew I needed to have a phone call with my surgeon. I explained my thoughts towards everything and here is what he had to say:

“I know this must be tough for you. You have been through so much and I understand why you would want the piece of mind. However, the tumour on your lung is very small and does not worry me. What does worry me is all the other cancer cells I think are in your body. Those microscope cells are what we need to focus on. If we have surgery now, you will be off chemo for 6 weeks, then we would operate, then you have to recover for another 6 weeks. That is too long to be off treatment again. I have asked you to trust me many times, and so far your trust in me has paid off. So I ask for you to continue with that trust. In January we will have another scan and reassess your lung tumour. Until then stay strong and fight through the chemo. With your liver being much weaker than before, I am not surprised this is taking a bigger tole on you. Do not worry and keep going.”

That is obviously not word for word, but pretty much bang on to what he had to say. A quick 5 minute phone call instantly calmed me down. Yes, the cancer that we cannot see in my body scares me. Yes, every chemo treatment so far has sucked, and I am sure will continue to suck. But the fight must continue. I have to trust in my doctors that they know what is best for me. I’ve gone from inoperable to operable in less than 6 months, so I am becoming more and more positive that I can truly beat this.

Before

Dealing with my pain daily has become normal for me. Who ever thought I would say that? I feel like I have not been myself since July 20th, the day before my first surgery. All of the shit I went through during my hospital stays and all the days in-between really changed me. Obviously I will never be the exact same person I was back in early April 2014, but I would like to at least get back to the person on July 20th. Before I knew how scary life really can be. Before I knew what death looked like. Before I became used to being stabbed with a needle multiple times a day. Before I became comfortable just lifting up my gown to whoever came in that resembled a health practitioner. Before I knew what withdrawal feels like coming off of a pain medication. Before I knew how many days my body could go without eating.

My surgeon is amazed by how “well” I am doing. He says my fallen appetite is normal and most patients of liver surgery lose up to 25% of their body weight – so my 10-15 pounds is nothing. My first surgery was invasive, but he let me know my second was 500x more invasive, and I should lower my expectations on recovery. That is easier said than done. The way I feel in my head does not match the way my body is responding. “How bad do I really have to pee?” – I question this about every hour. That involves sitting up, walking to the washroom, and trying my best to sit on something not even close to comfortable. You try sitting on a toilet without using your abs. Near impossible.

Chemo is starting again in 2 weeks. A new friend appeared on my upper left lung that I now have to tackle. My body is not as strong as it was the first time I was on chemo, but my blood work looks good so back into the stadium I go. Bottoms up to the chemo cocktail.