Cycle three of Chemo has come and gone.
I can't say it hasn't been without it's ups and downs.
Yikes, we have had some downsides this time.
It all started with the fever I developed. Not that it was a big fever. It lasted all of a day and wasn't even very high. Let me tell you- that little fever got itself some attention though. Doctors don't like fevers when you are on chemo.
The fever spiked at a high of 101.4 at (of course!) around 4pm the Thursday after my Monday chemo. The covering oncologist felt it would be best if I headed to the Emergency Room rather than wait for the next day, in case there was an infection working in my system. They sent me off to the largest emergency room in our area.
As luck would have it- every one else in this area decided to visit this particular ER on the same evening as I did...or so it seemed. The wait times were excruciating. We eventually were taken back to an examination room where blood and urine samples were obtained for testing. Chest X-Ray was taken. I was eventually taken for a CT scan with contrast. My oncologist was pulling the imaginary strings and directing the orchestra from afar, ordering each test and directing each step.
At the end of a 10 1/2 hour Odyssey, each blood test was negative for infection, there was no sign of pneumonia and they had no idea why I had a fever. Cultures would take a few days, but we had to wait that out. My blood pressure was low (96/47) and pulse was high (~112) for which they gave me some IV fluids.
OH and by the way, we see some nodules on your lung and liver on the CT scan. No need to assume it's a spread of your cancer, but talk to your oncologist about it. WHAT?!!? uh... no, of course I won't worry...why would I WORRY? sigh....
I did not bother calling the oncologist on Friday, figuring he wouldn't have the report by then and I had blood work scheduled for the following Monday. I planned to see if he could make time for me that day.
The fever left on its own Friday morning as mysteriously as it had appeared.
Sunday afternoon, the hospital called to say the urine culture came back positive for two separate bacteria (ewww...) so they would call in an antibiotic. COOL! Mystery solved!
Monday morning came and I headed to the oncology office for my normal bloodwork. While there, I mentioned my ER visit and asked about the blood cultures and mentioned the CT scan. They asked me to wait while they pulled up the results.
Can I just mention that my oncologist is the best doctor EVER? His staff is responsive and he is warm, caring and never makes me feel like I am imposing or asking a stupid question. That is so important when you are facing a major illness. This was no exception.
They pulled up all my results, he made a spot in his schedule *that did not exist* and went over each and every test that was run- and there were many. He review the CT scan in detail, since that was the test of greatest concern. He even took me in his office and showed me every image on his computer so I could see what they were seeing.
It turned out there was more than the ER doctor told me. There were spots on my lung, liver and spleen as well as a thickening of my esophagus. To break them down:
The lung spots were calcified, so not of concern, likely remnants of previous pneumonia.
The thickening of the esophagus is likely due to the chemo itself. Apparently this happens.
The spots on the liver and spleen were considered 'hypodense'. These types of spots can be many different things, from a spread of the cancer to malformed blood vessels. There was no way to differentiate on the CT scan. Further studies would be needed.
Logical next step would be an MRI, but I am not allowed to have an MRI due to the tissue expanders I have in place. On to a PET scan. According to the doctor, this is a more accurate and clear test for their purposes anyway.
The test was scheduled for Thursday to give them two days to handled the precertification.
I received a call saying it wouldn't be covered by insurance, but that was quickly corrected by reminding the precert area why I can't have an MRI. The test was on!
The PET scan itself was pretty easy.
They inject a radioactive sugar via IV and ask you to wait about 45 minutes for your body to process the sugar. Apparently cancer cells process sugar at a different rate than non-cancerous cells do, which is what allows the scan to see them.
After 45 minutes, it is really very similar to a CT scan, although in my case it was a CT scan of everything between my chin and my thighs, so it takes a bit longer than the average CT.
Once that is done, they send you on your way with strict warnings to avoid small children and pregnant women for 4-6 hours. In my case, I am also avoiding small animals since they think my lap is the best place to sleep. I am radioactive. LOL
Now for the biggest upside of all!
Amazingly enough, my oncologist office has already called with the results. No Metastatic Disease! PHEW!!!!!
I have to admit. Through all of this, this is the first time I have truly been afraid. I am glad this one is over.
What did I learn from this?
Scans are scary. Scans will be scary. They will continue to be scary for a long time I think.
This is my new normal.
Time to get used to it.