Denial has a good purpose. Denial is considered the first phase of grief. But sometimes, it is the best. It helps with functionality. It helps push depression away. It has its place.
Tuesday, I had an MRI come back…unclean. There is something that has emerged where the previous tumor had resided. It could be scar tissue or other damage from the Radiation therapy, or it could be the budding of a new tumor. I received the call just as Paco’s baseball game was starting. Steve was walking down the street (he is an umpire) and knew from my mannerisms (more than a block away) that it was The Call. He asked, without words, “thumbs up or thumbs down?” I gave him a thumb on its side. That is the bad news.
The good news is I sent a message, shortly after the MRI scan, to half of the primary doctors in my world. Actually, just to 2 (the primary neuro-oncologist and the radio-oncologist) to start off. The MRI was completed at 10:45AM, e-mails were sent from the car via my iPhone. By 4:45 the NeuroOncologist Scott Peak had called to deliver the news. He was pushing forward to have the Radio-Oncologist, Allen Chen, take a look. Chen emailed me by 6PM, saying he would like to chat with me on Wednesday. Shannon stepped up and took the kids away, and Steve sailed from work to meet me in Rancho Cordova. Chen had ensured a NeuroRadiologist had looked at it to confirm and they had discussed what to do next. The general consensus was a MR Spect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vivo_magnetic_resonance_spectroscopy) to try to determine the content that showed in the MRI. There is also a chance of surgery to figure out what is there. I also could have the choice of waiting a few weeks and take a new MRI to see if anything grew. There were these little tiny modules (Chen and La Radiólogo Mágica both mentioned them). I asked Chen if that was a sign that the tumor was returning under the construction of a traditional tumor with spiders and such. (I need to confirm this with Steve), but I believe he confirmed the possibility.
I was scheduled for the MRSpect right away and it was conducted today. I was warned by the MRI receptionist that it would be a 90-minute scan. It turns out that is a traditional MRI plus the MRSpect. But the technician said that it would be about 45 minutes. It was quieter than a regular MRI, the settings were different. It was simply easier.
Chen had also put in the order for a PET scan. This, I will have done on Saturday.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a mess. I am crying about 15 minutes per every four hours. I want to check into a Westin (I love the sheets) or a Ritz Carlton (never stayed in one) and watch all the sad tumor TV shows, sit around and drink vodka and cry. Steve is trying everything not to be a mess. He is setting aside everything to be with me. He is going to work late (and making sure I am ok) and leaving early, trying to juggle work issues from here. And poor Paco, he knows something is going on in my head. tried to explain that the first scan just was not complete enough, but he has had two breakdowns in as many days. There is no passing over anything with that kid.
Side Note: Anyone who knows Paco, going to Michigan over the summer, let me know. I was thinking of sending him to his grandparents to get a break of the cancer chaos. But he is not ready to fly alone.
I was in a gloomy place this morning. I walked with Lemon to Trader Joe’s. One of my usual buddies was there today. It turns out I had never told her about the tumor. I spoke with her and another cool person in the freezer section. They turned my humor around in a matter of minutes. As I was checking out, another clerk came up to me with a bouquet of flowers. Just like that.
Over the last year, I have used my 20$ budget on Starbucks or Peet’s coffee cards. Simply for people whom I see do one polite thing. The economy and modern technology has effected us all so much. A lack of civility. Today, the bouquet of flowers just astounded me. I started to choke up as I pushed Lemon out of the store. And just like that, my crappy, negative mood was gone.
Between this experience, the huge volume of kissing Lemon’s belly and hearing the corresponding laugh and having an easy MRI, my attitude has turned.
There is no way in hell that tumor will come back with out being loved to death. That stupid tumor had given me friends, deepened my marriage and made my life true. The tumor gave me the gift of consults from multiple specialists within Kaiser. Then (thanks to Steve), I will run the whole thing by Dr. Clarke at UCSF.
So yes, people can complain about any medical program. But Steve understands why I won’t leave it. We have paid COBRA for three years. (Two different programs). I just cost the Kaiser over $11,000.00. This is not counting the PET scan (between $3,000.00-6,0000.00). In three days. No questions. No denials.
Chen had a good list of future treatments. I asked him to be frank about the future, if what we saw were a fast-growing tumor, I wanted to know what that meant. If it had been closer to the brain stem, three weeks. Mine is as far away from that as can be. He then listed again, all the drugs and treatments that are available. And I said, so I have a deep arsenal. And he nodded.
We won’t know much more until next week. But for today I feel like a fighter. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I think I restarted the series. I am in the Anger phase. In this stage, it is the appropriate emotion to use to scare the heck out of the evil cells.