My regular doctor thought my symptoms were being caused by asthma. He never sent me for a chest x-ray, though. I later learned that's typically standard procedure for asthma diagnostics. He just prescribed me an inhaler, prednisone, and a Z pack and sent me on my way. It wasn't until my breathing got so bad I went to the emergency room that an x-ray was even done. That's when the tumor was found. It was so enormous that it had probably been growing for quite some time.
Fortunately after 5 months of chemo, the cancer was dead. This diagnosis was made thanks to a pet scan in April 2015, about a month after I finished some brutal rounds of chemo. I've always meant to write about that experience, but that's for another time. I prefer not to talk about it just yet.
I will say that it was highly recommended by my doctors out there that I have invasive surgery to remove the remaining tumor mass. But it was as involved as open heart surgery, and the risks were too great for me to consider it. There was a 30 or so percent chance that I could end up on a respirator for the rest of my life as result of the surgery. The tumor is in a really bad place.
While I went through the motions of the surgery consultation and pre-op testing, I ultimately had to reject the surgery. My family backed me up one hundred percent in the matter. So my doctors reluctantly let me go into what I call observation mode. That means a CT scan every 3 months, with an additional PET scan every 6 months. They do the PET among with a CT scan, so it's not all that bad.
I wrote more about going into "observation mode" back in May 2015.
It was rather fortunate for me that I happened to move out to Aurora, Colorado. Here they have one of if not the best cancer care centers in America at University Hospital. After having all sorts of issues getting scheduled at first, due to transitioning health insurance, I finally got in, and the little care I've had there so far has been excellent. None of the long waiting room waits that I had back in Boston.
I had my first CT scan in Colorado in august 2015 as a follow up. There was no sign of growth from the remaining dead tumor. I was supposed to have a PET scan in November, but it kept being put off for a wide variety of reasons.
As it turned out, that wasn't a huge issue. My doctor here was on maternity leave and wasn't going to be available until April anyway. The other doctors covering for her were booked solid. So I would have had a test and no follow-up until now anyway, which would have made no sense. On March 21st I had my first pet scan in almost a year. Unlike my one in 2015, I did not have to go on a high protein diet 24 hours before which was very helpful in not having to plan special meals. Apparently, some facilities still do this but only when there is concern for the patient's blood sugar level. mine was perfectly fine so they saw no reason for it.
The test went smoothly and I was out fairly quickly. This is because they were able to fit me in right at my appointment time. I was particularly happy that i didn't bleed all over the place this time when the iv was put in. This only happened the first CT scan I had in Colorado. My veins were obviously still recovering from the chemotherapy at that point. In any case, uneventful appointments are always good ones when it comes to cancer.
The PET Results & What I'm Doing to Prevent It Coming Back
When I didn’t hear back about my PET test results until my appointment with my doctor in mid-April, I had to assume that nothing terrible was found. Turns out, the tumor is still not doing anything, although there is a spot they are watching. It's probably just the thymus gland, though. They will just keep watching it. Also my left lung is functioning better now, although we don't know if my lung capacity is still diminished. In any case I should be much better off now than I was a year ago. I’ll be going back in July.
One thing I continue to deal with is severe bouts of fatigue. I dealt with them before the chemo when the cancer was growing. But they have continued. They are a lot less severe than before since I cut out meat. Since my partner and I started having fruit smoothies at least once a day recently, my fatigue has subsided to a noticeable degree, as well.
My partner and I cut all meat from our diets in September of 2015. This was more so for her, as meat upsets her digestive system. It was also to save money. But I've done just fine without meat, although I still get cravings for chicken and shrimp from time to time. We're actually slowly transitioning to a raw vegan diet, but cutting dairy will be very difficult.
So I'm trying to shun more processed foods - even if they are technically vegan - as I can't really function with the level of fatigue i sometimes experience. I just know my diet is improving it. That means I must be on the right track. But it's extremely difficult to be vegan in a house full of meat eaters. I've still prepared meat on occasion for my stepkids. It's hard for me now that I’m completely turned off to it. I still eat meat substitutes on occasion which are pretty good, but difficult to purchase regularly on our tight food budget.
Also, I probably don't talk about my experience with cancer enough. During the ordeal, I kept saying I'd write enough about it to make a book. That never happened. I didn't keep keep a journal as I had initially planned. Other priorities in life sort of made it too convenient to just forget about it. That's why I get so nerve wracked and stressed by even a simple CT scan. It forces me to think about it. But I know that the further I get from it, and the healthier I am in my lifestyle, I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t come back anytime soon.