Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Verdict

I’m writing a two-part blog entry today. It’s Thursday 20th July. On Tuesday, I had another PET scan of my whole body to evaluate the progress, or otherwise, of the beast now that it’s been zapped from all sides by radiation and poisoned, along with the rest of me, by chemicals. I will get the verdict this afternoon when I consult with the ologists. So I thought I’d write a two-parter – a pre-verdict episode and a post-verdict episode.


I finished work on Tuesday at 11:00 and set off for the hospital for the PET scan. PET means Positron Emission Tomography. Another machine invented by the Klingons I guess. It’s been a good few days since I was doing this run into Boston every day. I’m pretty used to it now and reached there in good time. (One day while on treatment I got pulled over for speeding but was let off with a warning. And no, I didn’t plead sickness and treatments; it must be my winning personality!! It’s funny how I slow down now just on that stretch of road – as if that’s the only place the cops will be!). Once there, I’m called in and injected with – well, who knows. Something that will make the tumor and any cancer cells that have spread out to other organs shine like a beacon under the scan. I also have to drink a large bottle of barium fluid. As I said in a previous entry, it’s like drinking spackle (polyfilla). The bottle is labeled “Berry smoothie” and has a tiny picture of a blackberry on it among all the medical hieroglyphs. They’re not fooling me, it’s disgusting. Still, down it goes in four or five gulps over an hour.

I am very apprehensive about the results of this scan. I’m not usually a worrier but this is getting to me a bit; I’ve been wound up for a couple of days. I read a couple of internet mailing lists these days for sufferers and caregivers of esophageal cancer. Most of the messages make very sad reading. People go into enormous detail about their condition, the spread of the disease, what they are doing to fight it. Usually the saddest messages are the smallest – “Would you remove me from this list please? My husband passed away last month and I don’t want to keep getting these emails”. However, every now and again there’s a whoop of joy as someone receives good news from a scan either during treatment or afterwards when going back for a six-monthly check-up and finding no evidence of disease (NED, as this is known to the cognoscenti). So there’s three basic states and I’ve seen plenty of evidence of all of them – it’s shrunk, it’s completely gone (as far as they can tell), or it's spread.

So, I’m thoroughly nervous about this test. I am of course hoping for option two – completely gone (as far as they can tell). I’ll accept option one – shrunk. I’ll not address option three – spread, unless I need to. I’ve been grumpy for a couple of days. “So what’s new” is the rousing cry from the assembled readership, led by my loving wife. Well, grumpier than usual then, if you must get picky.

The scan takes about a half hour. It involves lying on a table and being inserted into a large cylinder which whirrs and pulses like a washing machine while the table slowly moves you through the area normally occupied by soapy water and wet underwear. The worst part of it would seem the most innocuous – you have to lie with your arms above your head. That’s no problem until 20 minutes have passed, but then your shoulder muscles start to scream and you begin to wriggle to relieve them, try as you might to lie still.

Well, how odd. Now it’s over, I know absolutely nothing more than I did just before the scan, but all my apprehension has gone completely. It’s back to the “It is what it is” attitude that I seem to have had most of the time. (Closely related, I’m sure, to that long river in Egypt – denial.). The nuclear medicine technician that did the scan saw me out of the treatment area with a cheery “Good luck on Thursday”. No trace of inflection in his voice as to what he may have seen on my scan images. So, here we are, it is indeed what it is. I just need to find out what, exactly, it is.


OK, I lied. Sue me. All that nonsense about not being apprehensive any more. By the time we got to the hospital for the consult, I was like a coiled spring. It didn’t help that we had a two o’clock appointment and we didn’t get into see anyone until three! Kath came in with me to take notes so she can remind me about what they said later on. Anyway, the chemo doc finally came bouncing in with a big smile on his face and said that it’s at least an option one. Whoop of joy. The tumor has shrunk substantially, by at least 50%, and is likely to be still shrinking from the treatments for a further one or two weeks. It’s also killed (we hope) the spread to the single lymph node that was contaminated. It now does not glow any more. So good news all round. So it’s now full speed ahead for the sawbones. He came in and sat down with us today and went into great detail regarding the operation, its statistics, the probabilities of complications, and so on. Rather sobering some of it. But I just want to get it done now. We’re off on vacation to Savannah for a week tomorrow, then when we return I will be having the cardiac consult and lots of pre-op tests on August 1st. The operation itself is scheduled for Tuesday August 8th. The surgeryologist wants me to go on a clear liquid diet from SATURDAY. SATURDAY. That’s THREE DAYS CLEAR LIQUID DIET. I’m not sure I’ll actually make it to the operation after all.


At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


FANTASMOGOLOGISTIC!!!!! (Just made that word up). Enjoy Savannah. Onward and upward. Love, Monica

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Robin Tunsley said...

Well Roger - that is simply great and the best news you could pass on to your avid readers and followers.
There is only one thing left to be said now......keep at it and be your ever positive self.

Pat and Robin

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Gill & Chris said...

Well done on your fight with the Beast. Goes to prove that you did learn Beast beating skills during your time with HM, and the Spectrum Hobbit adventure. Enjoy your holiday, as we Brits call it. Hope to see you in the fall, as you yanks call it!!
Love and best wishes,
Gill and Chris.


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