Ok, so here’s the scoop. The MRI on my brain was cancelled because the machine broke. Bummer. I was rescheduled for today, Good Friday, and have just returned home with a lot of plasters on my arms but scan not completed. They need to inject a contrast dye half way through the process to get more detail on the scan, but two nurses failed to get a cannula in my veins after seven botched attempts. Seven. Apparently I’m “a tricky patient”. Charming. Blame the veins.
Meanwhile, my CT scan results are in. These show what’s happening in my chest and abdomen. For those of you who haven’t read Sshh! Progress, which reports on my scans three months ago, it’s worth mentioning that the degree of tumour shrinkage at that point was very significant. My response to treatment was better than even my doctors expected, especially in my lymph nodes and brain.
So I wasn’t expecting anything of that scale this time around and told my husband I would be happy if my cancer is ‘stable’, as they say in the profession. Which makes me laugh. Sounds like it’s in danger of a psychotic episode or nervous breakdown.
I am very relieved to report that stable it is. No spread. No growth of tumours. In fact, further shrinkage and improvement in some areas. The primary tumour in my lung has shrunk another 6 x 7mm (yay). Two lymph nodes have halved in size (almost normal size now) and no sign of cancer in other nodes apart from scarring (yay again). The tumour on my T6 vertebra is unchanged, but the report doesn’t mention my shoulder blade or rib which suggests nothing was visible at all (whoppa-yay).
This is all rather thrilling! In essence, I don’t yet know about my brain (which I am especially fond of and keen to know about ASAP) and still have cancer in my lungs and spine, but some tumours have disappeared and the rest are shrinking. This is epically good news.
I also went to see my oncologist in London this week. I normally see a consultant (radiotherapist) in Kent so hadn’t seen the one in London since November. I wanted to keep myself on his radar screen because he’s a big cheese in lung cancer and close to the medical cutting edge. I also like him very much. He is warm, ebullient, calls me ‘darling’ and doesn’t do that dry, cautious, stick-to-the-facts thing that most physicians seem to do. Instead, he gushes enthusiastically, which I love.
At first he had only read the reports and, being rigorous as well as gushing, and as keen on details as I am, he said he wanted precise measurements of the original tumours to compare to their sizes now so he could assess how much progress had really been made. It wasn’t deemed necessary to measure them at the beginning. They were too big and blatant and undeniable. But at this stage in the game every millimetre is a victory and a blessing so I agreed to his suggestion in the hope that we might now show a bit more enthusiasm please.
At which point I watched him load the scans on his system, compare the originals to my most recent ones and exclaim ‘wow’ seven times as he reviewed each image.
“Spectacular”, he finally concluded. “Superb.”
That was what I was waiting for! But lest I get carried away by his acclamations and forget I am going to die (see Sshh! Progress) I was quick to ask him what we do when my cancer resists the drug I’m on, which I’ve been told it invariably does. To which he responded,
“It doesn’t have to resist, Sophie. In some cases it doesn’t.”
“Really?!” I asked, leaning towards him as if to plant a big wet kiss on his cheek. “How many?”
“Not many,” he said, “but a few. Just a few.”
Well I’ll take that, thank you. A door just opened, ever so slightly, and sunlight found its way in. I sat there, dappled with it, taking aim at a new target: “Just a few.”