The news received Thursday morning brought me another “wake up and smell the coffee” moment, making me feel my personal deadline more intensely.
Joan and I met with Dr. Chang, my thoracic surgeon, to get his read of my last scans (CT and PET), what he thought the glowing meant (cancer or merely effects of radiation treatments), and whether they’d ever opt to operate.
The verdict: can’t really tell anything except there are no new spots of cancer. Cancer seems to be shrinking, but hard to see how much. Can’t presently tell whether the FDG (glowing Fludeoxyglucose) activity in lung obscured by radiation damage is cancer or merely pneumonitis. Even if cancer appeared dead on scans, making surgery an option, they’d only do if a biopsy proved the cancer ousted from lymph nodes. Downside: after radiation, lung tissue is damaged enough to impact healing. So, what would have been a six week recovery time, pre-radiation, would be longer and recovery dicey. Bottom line: would I want the surgery even if the situation were go? Hell, no!
We asked whether the second tumor (which had blocked airway to middle lobe) is really gone. Dr. Chang whipped out his ballpoint and drew us a diagram on the examining room table showing what he thinks happened: the blockage was probably from a lymph node adjacent to the bronchus, not within the lung. Radiation had either eliminated it completely, or shrunk it down so far that the airway is now wide open. Is the cancer still there in the lymph node? No way to tell without biopsy.
We left Dr. Chang’s office strangely relieved. We don’t really know exactly what’s going on in Joyce Croker’s right lung, but we have a better idea of what MIGHT be going on, and how to proceed. Plan of action: complete the chemo and prednisone treatments, wait a while for pneumonitis to subside, then another PET scan. Then…we’ll see.
Meanwhile, I’m taking full advantage of the elevated adrenaline levels the prednisone affords. Most mornings I’m up (way too early), zipping around getting stuff done like some hairless version of the Energizer Bunny. Those yawner tasks I’ve shoved into a closet for years are being ticked off my list, the house is becoming more organized, and I’m tackling issues at work (mostly people and personalities) I’ve long hidden from. Life, while more sharply felt, is sweet and available RIGHT NOW to be grabbed by great big handfuls. Just being able to breathe without pain makes my day. Even the mundane, the day to day, has become a comforting ritual. Is this all related to being hopped up on prednisone? Don’t think so, my friends. I believe I’m back on deadline.
And Joyce loves her deadlines.