My back has been hurting like hell lately. It always hurts worse during chemo treatments and then tends to slowly get better once I’m off the drug. But since last month (it’s been about exactly a month) my back has gotten progressively worse. It’s a combo of nerve pain from where the tumor is either growing and pushing on my nerves more (or where the inflammation surrounding the tumor is what’s pressing) and muscle pain caused by my back just being jacked up in general. Hence the reason I’m writing a blog at 3:45am. I’ve upped my Vicodin and my steroids in small increments to no avail at this point. The fear is that this is indicative of more rapid tumor growth…hopefully it’s just back pain right?
Today I go in for a CaT scan of my lungs. The hope is that there are no remaining complications from my pulmonary embolism (blood clots in my lungs) that I suffered back in July/August and that I can then be freed of my daily blood thinning medications. My last CAT scan was two months ago and showed that there were still some chunks remaining (my word, not theirs). The good news about having this test done is that I get to have steaming gravy poured down my body.
Oh, I absolutely love the contrast that they rapidly force in your IV before imaging ’cause it literally feels like hot chocolate is being poured through the insides of your body (in a good way, not in a burning way) to the point that you often feel like you’ve wet your pants. Some find it disconcerting…I find it delicious.
On Tuesday I will go in for my next set of MRI scans. These will be the most extensive scans I have had since post surgery. Usually they skip my neck area and only sometimes do my lower back. But due to the emergence of two new tumors in my last scans they decided it prudent to scan everything in case of the emergence of even more new spots.
The good news is that I will not have to wait long for any of these results because the monthly Vancouver tumor board is on Wednesday and we’ll meet with my oncologist immediately following that board gathering. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we lead up to that Wednesday morning appointment. Most of the MRI results have, in reality, been very ambiguous. There are really only three options that would tell us anything legitimate:
- Tumor shrinkage. If the tumors are smaller this would be epic and would be something to hold onto
- Massive tumor growth. If the tumors have grown in massive ways this would clearly be bad news.
- New tumor growth. If there are any new spots that did not previously exist this would be clearly bad news.
What, as it turns out, is not necessarily bad or good news is continued slight tumor growth (as has been the case in virtually every scan). One can assume that the tumors will be larger because either a.) they’re growing slightly because they’re a high level tumor that will never stop growing. Or b.) they’re growing slightly because there’s inflammation due to the fact that they’re successfully being attacked by chemotherapy drugs. So slight growth would be the result of either likely option and one cannot tell the difference between the two. In this instance we would just wait another two months for more clarity and continue to live in the constant ambiguity of not knowing.
Honestly at times I seriously wish that I’d know one way or the other. Do I have six months, six years, or sixty years. It would almost be refreshing in a way to know that I only had six months left because then it would give me a framework for how I should be functioning right now in life. At this stage in our journey I think both Jess and I would agree that the hardest thing is the constant and utterly crippling ambiguity. As nice as it might sound in a movie you cannot functionally live every day as your last. If I did I’d stop paying my school loan, I’d eat more greasy food, and I’d sacrifice time with others in order to be with my family (in my mind family includes both the biological and relational). Not knowing is horribly difficult and requires much…but that is what where we’ve been invited to live: in the mystery of the unknown.
Living in the mystery of not knowing is probably more of a gift than I am right now ready to accept. In six months I’ll probably write a blog about how we all live in this ambiguity–though we try to pretend otherwise…
But for now I’d love some answers!
Let you know on Wednesday.