At first, I didn't want to tell you about my lungs. I am ready to now.
One June 19th (my father's birthday), I had a chest CT scan at Memorial Sloan Kettering. A week later I was told that I had several small, bilateral lung nodules that were too small to biopsy.
A few days later I met with Dr. Karyn Goodman, the top rectal radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, who mapped out their plan for me - four months of chemo, aimed at treating my lungs, followed by six weeks of chemo and external radiation to treat my wrecked-tail.
I told her no thank you - that I wasn't interested in treating something that might be. I also didn't want to walk into surgery with a compromised immune system from months of chemotherapy.
Johns Hopkins reviewed the same CT scan and said that ultimately, the decision was mine. That the findings could be metastasized cancer, or not - at this point there was no way of knowing for sure.
My gut was confused. My heart was begging for mercy. My spirit was broken.
Dr. Munster, my dreamy radiology oncologist at Johns Hopkins, needed to confirm my decision to treat my wrecked-tail first, before I submitted to the pre-radiation, MRI torture chamber, where I had the mental breakdown I wrote about a few posts back.
As he prodded for clarification, I could see the truth painted plainly on his face - layers of uncertainty and concern.
The black and white of my prognosis isn't pretty. If, after surgery, the surrounding lymph nodes come back clean (free of cancer), then I am awarded 10+ years to live. If it's in my lymph nodes, I'm given 5 years. And if it's metastasized, then I only have 12 to 14 months to live and I imagine it won't be a pleasant year.
Lying there, alone in the tube, with a vessel up my ass, all I could think was, I'm fucked - royally fucked.
I tried my best to focus on the positive, knowing my son would be waiting for me. But I'm not ready to leave yet. I need to laugh, learn, and love more.
Besides, I am certain I can't finish my book in a year. At this point, I'm having a difficult time just sitting in a chair.
Even so, the side effects of the internal radiation are tolerable mainly because this is MY treatment of choice. Instead of a bevy of undesirable secondary effects of standardized treatment that range from incontinence to vaginal stenosis (a "common problem experienced by women undergoing pelvic external radiation"), where my vagina permanently closes itself off, every morning I suffer through hours of what I describe as intense labor in an attempt to deliver yesterdays meal.
But my energy level is good, and my attitude is good. My agonizing morning birth is helping me to accept and welcome my imminent colostomy bag.
I've been out and about. I went to a concert in Central Park last week with my husband, daughter and friends. It rained hard and I lifted my head to greet it - drank it right in.
Later in the week I visited my mother in Vermont. I'm convinced that if we had more time together, she alone could heal me. There is nothing more comforting than a mother's love.
Afterwards friends joined my husband and me in Saratoga Springs, New York and we played the ponies at the racetrack.
In the third race I bet on Mass Destruction to win and he came in dead last. For my final bet, I let it all ride on Palace Malice and he won.
My strategy has always been to watch the horses head out of the paddock and wait for the impending winner to reveal himself to me with a nod, a wink, a flick of the ears, or a buck. But this time, their only gesture was to gaze knowingly at me. One calmly weeped. I didn't bet on him because his tears confirmed he wasn't betting on me.
Last Wednesday, a month after my initial chest CT scan, I had another at my local hospital and the results are promising. This time, only one small (5mm), smooth, nodule was noted in the right lower lobe, representing nonspecific findings. Based on my history, follow up is recommended but if a cancer free person received these results, their medical professional would expect it to be of no concern.
This invites calmness and a great sense of hope. Today, I'm betting it all on me.
For a complete list of my ridiculous journey through cancer see CATSTIR