Spoiler alert. This story does have a happy ending.
This year is the 25-year anniversary of my Stage IV cancer experience as I wrote about previously. Just a couple of weeks after this previous post, I learned I had a small melanoma on my face which was removed with an all-clear, nothing to worry about prognosis. However, given my history with cancer and my family history, the oncologist recommended a PET scan out of an abundance of caution. This was a full body scan fancy procedure.
Test results are now shared with the patient at the same time they are sent over to the Dr. I got the ping on my phone and then opened the e-mail to read:
IMPRESSION: 1. Multiple small hypermetabolic mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes,while not definitive, are suspicious for metastatic disease. CHEST: Multiple (10-20) intensely and moderately hypermetabolic, minimally enlarged mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes are suspicious for metastatic disease.
Cancer has returned to my lymph nodes?
My mind immediately went through multiple scenarios imagining a new future with cancer. I remember clearly what it was like before. The surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, the fear. To add to the pile, my area of work is headed to a layoff soon so that too was part of the swirl.
How will I cover medical if laid off?
Why come back now? I just reached 25 years of cancer-free life. And selfishly, I do not have time for this, I am on vacation next week.
I called the doctor’s office immediately and was able to speak with his nurse later in the day. The recommendation was for a bronchoscopy ASAP to insert a camera through my throat to take samples of the suspicious nodes and evaluate them for cancer.
This was Thursday and we were scheduled to leave for an Alaskan Cruise on Saturday. The Dr was very understanding and scheduled the procedure for the Tuesday following the return home.
We stepped onto the cruise ship with many unknowns to float along with us. We could have let this situation ruin the trip with a mind full of what-ifs or we could let the situation make the adventure even better with a mind full of gratitude.
When in doubt, always choose gratitude for the win
During our week of vacation, my heart was full of joy as I thought deeply about our lives together these last 30 years and the 25 years since I felt the lump. There were no feelings of regret about things I had not accomplished or done. Instead, I found a wonderful sense of peace in the life I have lived. A simple life, a quiet life. A good life.
So here I am 0500 Tuesday
Vacation behind us and now it is time for the procedure which took just a few hours of hospital time. The Dr. told me when I awoke that the results would be available on Thursday.
Thursday? Over and over in my head…
Multiple (10-20) intensely and moderately hypermetabolic, minimally enlarged mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes are suspicious for metastatic disease.
And now all I can do is wait for the phone call. Wait and wait.
As the day unfolded, there was an unsettling absence of phone calls. Later in the afternoon, I anxiously reached out to both the pulmonologist and the oncologist, but unfortunately, I could not get through to either of them. The day ended with no call and no results.
Late in the day Friday the results came through. No cancer was found and the doctor could not explain why so many lymph nodes showed on the scan. I was advised to do the scan again in a few months to see if there are any measurable changes.
What a relief!
Back to the ol’ gratitude thing. I am very thankful, really, for this whole experience. My reflections during the time of the unknown were an incredible gift of grounding into a reminder
of the WHYs behind so many of the choices we have made these last 25 years. Choices to live our lives with intentionality and to see things ever so slightly different from many.
Now I await the results of my latest layoff experience. The great news is that the thought of losing my job is quite small in comparison to cancer returning. I am prepared for whatever may come my way and I am thankful.