Then the phone rang …

By | Fri May 31, 2019

The phone rang and woke me up. It was the call I had been waiting for, but also dreading. When I talked to my oncologist the week before vacation, he told me that I’d get the results the day after the PET/CT. If the results were clear, then the would be released for my viewing in the patient portal. It there was a concern, I’d get a phone call.

Then the phone rang.

It was my oncologists nurse. She asked me if I wanted the results of the PET/CT. Of course I did. I had delayed the test until after vacation, so the concerning symptoms had been reminding me constantly that the cancer might be back. For weeks I had tried to put it out of my mind – to forget about it. My oncologist said he was only a little bit worried – that if he was really worried he would have pushed me to do the PET/CT before vacation. This was a test because I had some symptoms, but he wasn’t too concerned. I tried to reminded myself of that everything my back ached which was pretty much constantly for the last month. I tried to remind myself every time I felt queasy – a feeling I had associated with liver enzyme issues. I had too many signs that the cancer had spread. I tried to not think about what it would mean if the cancer was back – how that might change my priorities and how my life might change – and yet, I didn’t have a diagnosis, so I also tried to put it out of my mind and forget about it – enjoy vacation. Escape from all the pressures of work and school.

Then the phone rang.

She told me that the PET/CT was clear. There were no signs of cancer. There was some inflammation consistent with flap reconstruction, and some degeneration in my back (consistent with arthritis). But no cancer. The cancer was not back.

I took a deep breath.

I didn’t cry. I had expected that I’d feel this great sense of relief – a sense that had happened with every other scare I had. This time, I was so convinced about it. I’m still processing the letting go – processing the idea that no, I don’t have cancer.

Now I am working on decompressing from that added stress. I’m also having to figure out what might be causing the symptoms that got me to this state in the first place. My back pain did not suddenly get better with the phone call. It is still debilitating. However, now that I know it is not cancer, I can look to treatment options. I’m going to do another injection in my back that might help relieve some of the pain. I’m going to consult with a couple of neuro surgeons. I cannot live with this pain. It has prevented me from hiking. It limits the cooking / baking I can do. It limits the amount of walking I can do. And so, I’m now looking at ways I treat the pain, and hopefully have it resolved.

I’ve had varying opinions on the heightened liver enzyme – from it is nothing, to chat with the gastroentronologist about it – as the queasiness might not actually be related, but might be a sign of something else.

Either way, it is not cancer. I did not receive a death sentence with the phone call.

The nurse said that she only calls for good news. If the news wasn’t so good, then it would have been the oncologist that made the call. I’m glad that I did not hear his voice when the phone rang.

So now I take a deep breath. I try to decompress, but then I also need to get caught up on all the work that I have missed over the last month while I was working hard trying to convince myself that I’d be OK, but also struggling not to make plans for the rest of my shortened lifespan. It causes you to take stock in what you want to do with your time – and yet, I know from my initial diagnosis that what I think I might want is likely not the same before diagnosis as afterwards. After diagnosis, your whole perspective changes. I remind myself that “in the absence of a diagnosis I am healthy”, but also that in the absence of a diagnosis there is no point in “planning” because my perspective won’t be the same.

I remind myself, the scans are clear. It is not cancer. Hopefully soon I will believe it.

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