Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final"
— Rainer Maria Rilke
My body betrays me over and over again. 123/83. My blood pressure is not its normal, and it matches my rapid heartbeat. My feet tap, tap, tap, the floor as my mind wildly chases thoughts stumbling over each other, "What if? How much? How come? What if...?" Lorazepam is no match for my trembling knees, and fidgeting hands. Its called scanxiety, or scan anxiety and I have it bad as I sit waiting for Dr. Panwalkar yesterday morning.
He mentions my higher than normal blood pressure and smiles when I tell him I am nervous. My labs are within in the normal range with the exception of my white blood count, but that is to be expected. He thumps down my spine waiting for me to tell him if I feel any pain. He makes it all the way down my back without me stopping him or flinching at all. My breaths are deep and clear. I have no dizziness, no blurred vision. I am eating and sleeping well. He tells me he will call me during my infusion the next day and give me the report of my CT scan. He then smiles and says "you're okay." "I think you are okay."
I arrive in the afternoon for my CT scan. I drink the contrast solution in the liter bottle over the course of the next two hours. With a few swallows left to go, they call my name. They insert an iv in my vein and walk me to the scanner. I pass by the open door the MRI scanner and shiver as I quickly scoot past the door to the next room. The CT Scanner is wide and open at both ends. I lay on the table and they take some measurements. A voice then commands me to hold my breath. The table slides in and out. They insert the dye in my iv and I feel a stinging sensation as warmth radiates through my arm, down my body and into my legs. I slide in and out a few more times and suddenly they announce I am done. As I stand up from the table, I breathe deeply for the first time that day.
This time Lorazepam kicks in nicely and I sleep deeply all night long.
I awake this morning with more resolve and am less nervous. Its infusion day. I have questionnaires to fill out for the study. I also have to fill out a new consent form as the verbiage has changed some. Another 10 tubes of blood need to be taken today and the nurse sets to work getting the right label matched to the right tube.
Kathy, my research nurse comes in. She closes the door and comes to sit by me. She has the results of my CT scan. She is serious looking and I notice I am holding my breath. She gets right down to business.
"There were three "spots" on your liver. Two of those spots are no longer detectable. The third one has gone unchanged and therefor they are concluding its a cyst. Your liver is clear."
"The spot in your spine was 18 mm and is now 13mm."
"The mass in your breast has shown a slight decline of .2 cm."
"No new lesions or masses were seen on the scan."
I realize I am searching her face to discern if this means what I think it means... She smiles as I realize it does...the treatment is working. TDM1, the "super herceptin", or the miracle drug... is working miracles in me so far. At any time, it may stop working, or the tumor can build up a resistance to it. But for today, its working.
A few moments later Dr. Panwalkar calls me as promised. He carefully repeats each bit, line by line as I let it sink in further. When he gets to the part about the mass in my breast he says with confidence in his voice, "well that, we'll just cut out if it continues to stay there. That is not a big concern to me." Then he repeats his parting words to me of yesterday, "You're okay, he says, "you're okay."
I hang up from talking with him as sweet tears of relief slide down my cheek. I am cautiously believing him. I know I still have a long road to travel, but for today, I rest in the knowledge I am okay.
"Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle."
— Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)