Column: "Scanticipation"

When I get CT-Scanned on Wednesday, November 27th, it will be nearly four months since my last diagnostic scan. That occurred during my hospital "staycation" during the first week of August, when I was admitted due to the extremely abnormal fluid buildup in my left lung. The surgery to drain the fluid went well, as you regular readers know, but as a consequence of this procedure/hospital stay – and its recovery, my subsequent chemotherapy infusions were delayed for about a month and naturally the follow-up scans were as well. This meant/now means that my every-three-month scan has become at least for this particular set of time circumstances, a four-month interval, the longest such interval in my full-time cancer career since I was first diagnosed with stage IV, non-small-cell lung cancer back in February, 2009.

I’m not nervous about the outcome this time, however, as I have written about in previous columns: "Scanxiety," "Scanning the Horizon" and "Scantastic." These are all examples of the emotional roller coaster a cancer patient rides when scans are in the offing. Regarding (you’ll note I didn’t use "concerning,") this upcoming scan, I feel more curious and calm than I have felt before. Aside from being more experienced with this process/cycle, and continuing as well to be relatively asymptomatic, my most recent lab work has been encouraging or at least not discouraging in that certain results/levels are improving. Now I don’t know if these improved results (specifically my creatinine and bilirubin levels as well as my GFR/glomular filtration rate) have any effect on the metastatic tumors in my left lung, but the improving levels do mean that my body is tolerating the every-three-week chemotherapy infusions that I’ve been receiving since September 20th. And "tolerating" is about as good as it gets, considering there are few drugs still available that my oncologist would feel are suitable for my condition. More to the point, when I asked my oncologist how do I really know (other than the lab results) that I’m tolerating the drug, he said, "You wouldn’t be a very happy camper if you weren’t." To which I replied, happily: "Well, I’m a long way from that." And not that the camping reference was lost on me, but I’ve been camping very few times in my life, and on those few occasions, I was happiest when I was leaving the campsite heading home.

Camping experiences aside – and not misunderstood, I am looking forward to the results of this next scan and really not stressing about it, either. Nor am I anxious. If anything, I’ll admit to being naive. Moreover, I won’t admit to being positive, since there’s so much about the human body that I don’t understand and after five years of having cancer-type symptoms and/or feelings, or not having cancer-type symptoms and/or feelings, with varying outcomes, I never know what to make of any of it. What I am positive about is how mysterious it all is and how few guarantees there are in any of it. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for a definite maybe; I can live with that, as I have been.

Time will tell, soon enough. Although, a long Thanksgiving weekend might slow down the e-mail which my oncologist will send with the results. But I can’t worry about that either. I feel good. My labs were good. My reaction to yesterday’s chemotherapy was good. The Red Sox just won the World Series for the third time in 10 years; that’s all good, great in fact. For a terminal cancer patient from Boston five years post-diagnosis who wants to live and loves his hometown team, it doesn’t get much better, realistically speaking.