June 28, 2018
Today is PET Scan Day. It took an act of Congress to get this scan scheduled. Ideally, this would have been done before I started radiation. Unfortunately, the schedule for the machine/technicians was loaded through today. I’m a little nervous to find out my remaining nodes’ status. I want them to be clear.
I’ve been without caffeine since last week. I have been without sugar/carbohydrates in any form since Sunday. Getting back off the caffeine wasn’t as bad as it was last fall. I was extra tired for a couple of days, but no headaches or other withdrawal symptoms other than it’s contributing to my generally crabby mood. Sugar’s something I haven’t had that much of since starting chemo because almost all sweet goodies taste either nasty or so sweet that they’re sickening. The sweet stuff I’ve had more of lately is in the form of fruit and a couple of other snacks that don’t make me gag. The test also requires me to stop eating carbs like pasta and any veggies that aren’t green. Naturally, as soon as I stopped eating anything containing sugar or carbs for this test, that’s all I wanted. I was dreaming about noodles. LOL
One of the encouraging things to me is that there are cancer survivors with stories everywhere you go. Ladies in my neighborhood, or at the mall, the grocery store, Target, or Kohl’s. All survivors or related to breast cancer survivors. All of them tell me that all this agony is worth it. I believe them. The lady I sat next to in the Radiology waiting room was a cancer survivor waiting for her friend. I didn’t realize that she, too, was a survivor until they were about to leave. She asked where I lived, and when I told her, she said she has a yoga studio not far from where I live. She asked for a hug. I obliged. She held onto me tightly and started taking slow, deep breaths. She knows what it’s like sitting in this room waiting. She was helping to calm me down for my scan. I am grateful to her and those 3 slow deep breaths that helped re-center me this morning.
Apparently, no one had prepped the radiology tech to deal with my port. She had to call the IV Therapy team to come down and access the port. In all honesty, she’d have needed them to put in a regular IV, too. I have no veins. To make things more interesting, my port isn’t delivering blood return today. The first phlebotomist stuck the needle in the port twice. It hurt both times despite the lidocaine. She had to call for a backup person, who also stuck it twice. They could get saline in, but no blood back. So they left it in, put the radioactive agent in through the port, and blessed me ready for the scan.
One of the things I like about the PET is that someone went out of their way to poke holes in the ceiling tiles and put white Christmas lights that twinkle in the holes. It’s like having a little bit of night sky while you’re in the machine. They’ve also got music and an interesting slide show of pictures that you can watch for a while during the scan. It’s a little relaxing while being distracting. The technicians that run these machines are really nice, too. I had asked to see the scan when we were done. They were nice enough to accommodate me. I was happy to see that the 2 nodes that I’d prayed would be gone weren’t there. What I didn’t pray for was a clear scan, and I, of course, didn’t get one. There’s still a node in my armpit. I didn’t expect this, but it’s not the end of the world.
Because my port wasn’t playing nicely, the Radiology folks decided they needed to walk me down to the OIC to have someone figure out what to do about the port and de-access it before I could leave. The nurse down there also put the needle in twice to make sure she had it in correctly and also couldn’t get blood return. She talked to a couple of colleagues and then ordered a clearing agent. She injected that into the port, removed the needle and sent me on my way.
After 40 minutes to get the port addressed, I was now not in any way shape or form going to make it to my radiation appointment anywhere near on time. Traffic on a Thursday in Seattle sucks to start with, then add that it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and there’s just an acceptance that you’re not going anywhere on time much less in a hurry. The line to get to I-5 from the hospital was not moving. When I finally got down to the bridge over I-5, there were a bunch of squad cars and a fire truck in the middle of the street across from the on-ramp. Ah. Rubberneckers. Once I got on the interstate, there was just a lot of traffic and it was hard to move through the wolf packs. I ended up getting boxed in by a bunch of delivery trucks all the way to the exit for the airport. I got a call from the radiation technicians asking if I was still intending to make my appointment. I reminded them that I’d just been at the hospital downtown and would be there as I could manage with traffic. Once I got on to the highway that goes to the other hospital for radiation, there was another big backup due to an accident on that road, and the exit was backed up for half a mile. I had just gotten to the top of the exit, which was backed up from the signal a couple of blocks ahead. I finally got on the radiation table at 4:00 pm.
Today was also an appointment with the doctor after the treatment. When we got into the exam room and sat down, she asked something like how I was. I had to be honest and tell her that I was extra crabby because I hadn’t had anything to eat all day because of the scan and racing to get there. After offering me something out of the vending machine, she started talking through the results of the PET that I’d just left. I was surprised to find that she’d have any results so fast. Like I’d seen, there is still an axillary node (in my armpit) that the RO thinks is possibly an inflammatory node due to the surgery. It’s already in the field of radiation, so just in case it’s not, she’ll be adding an extra plan for a boost to that area. There’s also a new spot that we need to get some additional opinions about before figuring out how to proceed. This one looks like it’s near where my trachea splits between my lungs. So the RO will take my case to tomorrow’s Tumor Board meeting and get some input from Radiology and the Pulmonary team. If they think it’s something to look at, there will be a bronchoscope with a possible biopsy. If it’s positive, she’ll have to re-work the treatment plans because this area is not at all within the current radiation fields.
I’m not feeling freaked out by this yet. I’m on maintenance chemo. It should respond if it’s not already. The other spot may or may not be something to worry about. There was a also a weird artifact that appeared to be on my skin that didn’t make sense. We’ll know more next week.