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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cancer: Diagnosis Part II

Waiting is the worst. Then the results are the worst.  As warned, my MRI showed a lot of little marks.  Cysts here, cysts there, blebs all over the place. (I have no idea what a bleb is, but the pathology report says I have them.)  It noted the scoliosis in my lower spine which I have long known about and showed -- woot! -- minimal degenerative changes; it showed some old scarring in my right lung.  And then, because life wasn’t complicated enough, it showed two nodules in my lung, nodules where no nodules should be.

I completely freaked.  The nurse who should have reported the findings to me was away for the day, and the woman who I spoke to left me with the idea that these nodules (even after I cleared up my confusion that nodules weren't the same as nodes as in lymph nodes -- and what would they be doing in my lungs, anyway?  I was distressed and confused.), those nodules could be cancerous. 
               
“But it has nothing to do with the cancer in your breast.”

Oh, thanks, lady, thanks a lot.  Like it’s comforting knowing that my lung cancer isn't related to the cancer in my breast.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!  From there it didn't matter that she told me the scarring was nothing and the nodules were probably inflammation.  Nothing mattered except that lung cancer is very, very bad indeed.

 I knew better than to go trolling on the internet, but that didn't stop me.  I can be as much of an idiot as the next person, and I was.  After about half an hour, I realized that reading about how awful lung cancer is was not helpful, and I set off for quilting workshop.   Normal, yes, normal is what I needed, and what could be more normal, more apple pie, than quilting.  I lasted an hour.

When I returned home, my husband and my wonderful friend had researched the Cleveland Clinic and Web MD -- you know, decent, informed web sites -- and reported that there was a lower than 4% chance that I had lung cancer.   They read that something like 90% of stuff (I’m using the scientific term here) in the lungs showed up when people were imaged for something else, like I was.  To put it even more clearly, a lot of you are walking around with little medical things in your body that you should be glad you don’t know about.

The mean lady (or, more accurately, the clueless lady) from the doctor’s office (and she is the only bad experience I've had so far) said the surgeon wanted me to schedule a CT scan of my chest for a better look at those nodules.  Just, you know, to be sure.  My appointment was 48 hours later.  (See?  Dire medical issue = fast medical attention.)

But, hey, that left a whole 24 hours in between.  No need to be bored.  I had a consultation with my radiologist.

My radiologist, what can I tell you?  He has a big intellect and puppy dog eyes.  Who wouldn't love that combo?  To top it off, he likes gin and tonic, a thing perhaps not discussed in all radiological consults, but, hey, that’s the way I roll.  He reassured me that the size of the lung nodules made them almost certainly insignificant and promised me the short, 3 1/2 week course of radiation.  I was to line up a preparatory simulation three weeks post-surgery, and he’d see me then.

The rules for the CT scan were firm:  nothing to eat drink, chew or swallow from midnight the night before.  No gum, no meds, no nothin’.   I asked if the scan was going to be with contrast, explaining my vein issue.  The scheduler didn't know but, bless her, suggested I drink two glasses of water before going to bed which I did.  The next morning, the needle slid in like silk.

The technician warned me that the dye, as it infused, made patients to feel like they’d wet their pants.  What kind of weird side effect is that?

Since the CT scan is a three dimensional picture, you can lay on your back.  Your arms are placed just so, and into the machine you slide.  A female voice orders, “Breathe in.  Hold your breath.  Relax.”    And do you know what this proved to me?  Forget science fiction:  the robot revolution has already taken place, and the robots won.  You think you’d resist?  You would not; you do exactly as the robot says. 

Half way through the scan, I felt warm liquid seep down my urethra, and I would have guaranteed you, I WET MY PANTS!  I mean, it felt like I was laying there with warm, wet pants.  Did I move?  Did I protest?  I did not!  The robot was ordering me to breathe and hold, and in case I was tempted to resist, the female robot took a break only to be replaced by what psychologist probably determined was more a authoritative male robot voice.

“Breathe in.  Hold your breath.  Relax.”  The stakes are high, and you are not going to blow it by disobeying your Robot Overlord.   

The scan was over.  I had not, in fact, wet my pants.  The nodes were reported as inflammation, probably left from a bronchial infection (ah, that time I had walking pneumonia).  The test would be repeated in six months for safety and to ensure my aggravation factor did not drop below the requisite level. 

I called the surgeon and scheduled my surgery.

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