Surgery is tentatively scheduled for 2 weeks from tomorrow. The surgeon needs new diagnostic scans to make sure that the surgical plan we discussed back in November is still valid – meaning there is no new cancer and checking on the size(s) of the tumor(s). They wait until chemo is finished or nearly so before scheduling these new scans.
This morning, I had a new mammogram, ultrasound and MRI. I was hoping this was going to be easy. Of course it couldn’t be. Interestingly enough, the mammogram was for just the side with the mass. I’d have thought if we were looking for new cancer, we’d look in both breasts. Nope.
After the technician got me all situated in the machine, she told me to hold my breath. It was a funny moment. Right then I realized I’d been holding my breath for 5 months already. I will probably hold it for at least 2 or 3 more before I make any attempts to exhale. I am surprised that I haven’t turned blue yet.
She does the handful of scans we need. I asked to see them. I am not happy with what’s on the screen. Between the oncologist and my own hand, it felt like the tumor was gone. What I see is still a big blob in the middle of my breast. It’s not lit up as brightly as before and it’s not quite as big, but it’s definitely still big and still there. What the hell?
I went back to the waiting room to wait for the ultrasound. I’m sitting there thinking about what I saw. How can it still be that big? The mammo tech comes out and asks me back in. We have to do another set of views. Turns out they saw another new set of calcifications. Great. They look like skin calcifications, but we have to prove that’s what they are. Right. I get it. Bzzt. Scan done. Back to the waiting room I go.
Now I’m thinking about what happens if there is new cancer. Even if it’s just new calcifications that aren’t even a tumor yet, what happens next? Were the last 5 months a waste of time? Where does my bucket list start? I wonder how fast this will grow. I will absolutely not do any more chemo to “stop” this new thing. There isn’t really a space that exists in actively being on chemo and living out your bucket list. Not with the stuff I’ve been on anyway. It sinks in that if this is new, this damned cancer really is intent on killing me.
And she calls me back again. Now we need to make sure I have no deodorant or anything on my skin. I am hoping that they have something to do with the moles and skin tags I have on my chest. I have to wash myself again and we do another set of tangential views. I ask her if I can look again. I’d like to see the before and after. She has both the previous and the current scans on the screen. She tells me that she’s not a radiologist. I know this. I just want to understand better what I saw before. She points out that it is a little smaller than before. Maybe by half. And it is a lot less dense. Okay. So maybe the shell is there but sort of empty like the oncologist said sometimes happens. Why does it feel like it’s gone when it’s clearly still there?
Finally, the ultrasound tech calls me in. Thank God we don’t have to do more mammograms. Now I just want to get out of there. She measures the breast mass and one lymph node in my armpit. She seems to be having a hard time finding the others. I’m not sure. She isn’t really saying anything. When I had the original scan, the 3 lymph nodes seemed pretty obvious to the tech and radiologist in Denver. This tech seems to be digging for them. When she’s finished, the radiologist comes and and tells me that they are definitely skin calcifications. Completely benign. Nothing to worry about. Good!
Next, it’s across the street to the MRI. 20 minutes of thinking about how I could write a percussion composition using the rhythm of the MRI with the sorta jazzy music from Pandora in my headphones in the background and I’m done. There isn’t much the tech can show me. She has other patients’ records on the screen and another patient waiting, so I have to go. I did find out that I can request the imagery – they didn’t just give it to me before. So now that’s done. This will satisfy my inner need to see it for myself. I know I am no radiologist or surgeon. I was a declared pre-med major and I do still own a copy of Grey’s Anatomy, so there.
Now to wait til Friday to see what the experts have to say.