By Tanya Dodd-Hise
It is Wednesday morning, May 1st. I am scheduled to have a PET scan this morning. Nothing to eat since midnight the night before. They are going to see if the cancer has spread.
I arrive at Texas Oncology in Plano, which is HUGE compared to the office that I go to in Carrollton. There were SO many people of all ages, and it made me very sad as I sat among them in the waiting area. Cancer is absolutely a demon of a beast, and it is random, nor is it discriminate in whom it chooses to challenge. Soon, a sweet tech by the name of James came out to get me, using humor to ease my anxiety. I spent an hour in a quiet room, sipping clear contrast liquids and reading Facebook on my phone. Then James gathered me up again and moved me into the room with the giant, intimidating scan machine. He basically strapped me to the table, and explained that it would take a while, but he would be coming in to check on me several times. While listening to all of the whirring noises of the massive machine, I tried to think about anything else – my wife, my babies, upcoming chemo, my friends, any plans that we have. I almost thought that I might possibly be able to take a little nap, if I meditated myself into a relaxed enough state, but then James came in and said that I was all done. Within minutes I was on my way out the door and in search of food, with promises that the results would be in Dr. Perez’s hands before my appointment two days later.
It’s Friday now. I have an appointment this afternoon with Dr. Perez, my Oncologist, to go over my PET scan results and plan for chemo. Erikka leaves work early to meet me for lunch before my appointment, and then we are on our way over to the hospital. We are taken back almost immediately, and put into a room to wait for the doc. When he walks in, with papers in his hand, he shakes mine and asks how I am. “Well,” I respond, “I guess that will depend on those test results in your hand.” He laughs and gives me a warm grin and says, “We need to talk.” Well SHIT. That is NOT what I want to hear, obviously. He sits down, Erikka reaches over and takes my hand, and tells me that the cancer has spread. There are lymph nodes all over our bodies, as we all know; and under the chest wall in the middle of our chests are intramammary lymph nodes. It is here that the PET scan lit up with spots of cancer cells. Just before I was going to ask if that meant more surgery, for Dr. Garner to remove these lymph nodes as well, the doctor proceeded to explain that these lymph nodes are NOT usually removed in surgery, as they are difficult to reach. Well SHIT. So what does this mean? He tells me that it means that they will need to add radiation on to my cancer-fighting regimen. THIS is what makes me cry. Having chemo didn’t make me cry, but radiation? Now THAT was what upset me! I was thrilled when I was told initially that I wouldn’t have to do radiation, so it was a huge disappointment that I was now going to be facing that as well. But I have to see the good in the situation – there always has to be something good to focus on, right?
Dr. Perez told me that it had NOT spread to any organs, or to my bones – a HUGE good. He takes a moment and goes to call Dr. Ilahi – one of his colleagues who is the Radiation Oncologist that I will consult with regarding my radiation. When he returns, he says that they consulted on my case, and they believe the best results would be to start chemo right away and do four weeks of radiation after chemo was finished. I felt stupid that this made me cry, but it is what it is.
A few minutes later, we were all done, with plans for chemo to begin on Monday, May 13th. We were originally going to schedule the first treatment for Friday, May 10th, but decided against it so that I could have the weekend enjoying my family and Mother’s Day.
Cancer may be taking some things away from me, but it can’t take everything. I’m not willing to let it have any more than it has already taken. I can kick chemo AND radiation in the ass, no matter what.