Column: Something New – or Old, to Consider

Column: Something New – or Old, to Consider

And therein lies the anxiety. Although, all things considered – and as you regular readers know, I like, maybe even need, to consider all things – the medical assessment of the most recent CT scan of my upper torso and thorax/lungs showed a new object in my left lung, “approximately the size of a silver dollar,” according to my oncologist. What this object is, exactly, cannot be determined at this juncture; technology prevents such clarity, unfortunately. Nevertheless, its appearance and location are possibly cause for concern, possibly not.

The context for this confusion is that the chemotherapy drug, Alimta, with which I’ve been infused every three weeks since last September, seems to be working. The main tumor we’ve been tracking has shrunk, as has the fluid level (which as you may recall is what landed me in the hospital for a week last August); both of which are positive and exciting developments, and news, as I’m fond of saying, with which I can live. And live I shall, unencumbered emotionally by this as-yet-to-be-determined growth for the next two months until my next CT scan, when the tomography will provide another assessment – and comparison to the scan just completed.

The considerations, according to my oncologist, are as follows: the chemotherapy drug I’m taking is having the desired effect – shrinkage of both tumor and fluid. Moreover, my recurring, every-three-week lab work is good, indicating my body continues to tolerate the drug; ergo, treatment can continue. Secondly, because the largest tumor in my lung is smaller and the fluid build-up has reduced, more of the lung is visible, for lack of a better description. Combined with the not-perfect technology, there may be more to see now than ever before, and/or more to see from a different angle. Sort of like the warning printed on side view mirrors, except in this case, objects are not closer than they appear; rather they’re seen where they were never seen before. And since the object has never been seen before, my oncologist doesn’t know if the growth is new – and possibly malignant, or old, and smaller even than it was because the Alimta is shrinking it, too. In summary, it’s a definite maybe. Cause for concern? Sure. Cause for alarm? Not by me. And since my attitude is “it’s nothing until it’s something,” for the moment, for the next two months, I intend to live my life as per usual.

My oncologist is not ignoring this new finding, nor is he overreacting to it however, and stopping treatment which seems to be working. He wants me to return for a follow-up CT scan one month ahead of my normal three-month interval, and of course, see him the following week to discuss the results. After that next scan, at that next appointment, we’ll know more definitively how best to proceed. At present, I continue to be asymptomatic and relatively pain-free; yet another good sign, and circumstances for which I am extremely grateful. Nothing is forever in the cancer world, though. Things can change, and their significance can change. Still, I don’t want to be naive; cancer is a killer, especially lung cancer. But I’ve survived five-plus years now since my diagnosis, balancing the known with the unknown. I see no reason to stop now.