152. Without Fear: Preliminary Findings of the CT Scan

The scan shows no new masses, no return of old masses. Good news. It also shows that the lymph nodes are active. That could mean that they are chasing cancer or creating it.

  1. What I noticed most about the call from the doctor was my lack of fear.

We were driving toward Ocean Shores for a strategically placed family vacation. I say that because chemo is coming. Planning and timing are more difficult and less predictable within the pattern of treatment, so I was trying to squeeze something in between the wound appointment schedule and the future addition of chemotherapy visits.

When the phone rang in the car radio, it displayed the familiar 261 prefix. I do not answer calls from unknown numbers, but that prefix comes from Bellevue Kaiser. It was Doctor Wilfong’s voice. I felt nothing. No adrenaline. No anticipation. Nothing.

I was supposed to get results from the test in two weeks.

Cover of When Fear Falls Away: The Story of a Sudden Awakening.
When Fear Falls Away by Jan Frazier was our book club selection more than a decade ago.

DeeDee is going to think that my recognition of lack of fear is hilarious. We were in a book club where we read Jan Frazier’s title, When Fear Falls Away. The book is significant. But there is this main crescendo moment for Jan. She does not feel fear when facing the results of a cancer test. I still think she unveils moments that are far more poignant in the book. And I find the results of her clear cancer screening less than important. But that “lack of fear” was one of her moments of enlightenment.

Why would Dr. Wilfong call early? What was so important?

I am also reminded of a phone call that luckily went to the message machine. It echoed in that tinny old way. “This is Officer Gonzalez. I have Shante…” It was 2am. Shante and Michael were standing in the kitchen, telling the story, when I hit the button. I would have otherwise crumbled at the word Shante, car collision, death, peril, flashing through my mind faster than the next word came from the recorder.

She was fine. I am fine. That moment where fear takes over, where fight or flight activates adrenaline, is generally unnecessary (and often counterproductive).

The scan shows no new masses, no return of old masses. Good news. It also shows that the lymph nodes are active. That could mean that they are chasing cancer or creating it. (It could mean I have an open wound. That is my thought. No medical confirmation.) Everyone at the office is tired of waiting for the wound to heal.

Dr. Wilfong called so that I would not be surprised by a phone call from the desk to schedule the chemo appointment. I would not have been surprised. I expected it. I am at the ocean because I expected it.

Fear has fallen away.

91. First CT Scan

Shining the light back there, the news could be extraordinarily miraculous. “There is no site of cancer in your body”. The news could be extraordinarily perplexing. “There is so much cancer. We don’t know how you are still alive.”

It’s not the first.  It’s the first CT scan after major surgery.  The time line relates to the initial plan… but the surgery was a surprise.  It has been long enough for six cycles of chemo, and I did three before the lower colon decided to exit the building. And since that time, the focus has been healing from the surgery, and not chemotherapy.  No chemotherapy.

The New Normal

I feel “good” overall.  Things in life are returning to a “new normal”. 

New normal is all that anyone gets these days, as we phase through a tumultuous world. Covid 19 is more of a secondary challenge for most, where the top layer (the cheese) is losing their home, dying grandparents, financial difficulties, and a large variety of other personal layers.

The CT Scan

The scan was NOT a challenge.  It didn’t even rank as an herb in the Challenge Lasagna.  The Radiology department was running early.  I walked in to a brand new recliner and a Pina colada.  Well, the drink for the contrast was pineapple flavored anyway, not quite up to the standards of the beverage it mimics.

White CT Scan machine
CTScan Machine

The machine was the narrow doughnut shaped experience.  “Take a deep breath and hold it, 9,8,7,… Breath normally.”  The bed slid through one direction, moved back.  Then the dye was injected.  

Flushing the Port

Good news – the port was accessed for the dye.  Two birds with one stone.  A person with a port has to have it flushed every two or three months. It happens far more frequently in chemo.  But anytime the port is used, it has to be cleaned.  Cat scan and port flush, all in one go.

To vomit or not to vomit

The dye is so strange.  It courses through the veins, creating heat and waves of strange sensation.  Decades ago, when they didn’t have it worked out in quite the same way, I told the man behind the glass, “I’m going to vomit”.  He thought that was a really bad idea (it was), and told me I was not.  Luckily, after an argument, he was correct! 

Now, the person behind the machine says, “You may feel like you are urinating.  You are not.”  This has been my game three times in four months, nothing new.  The dye goes in, and the process of going through the machine repeats twice.  Painless experience, and with wonderful, healing people.

The results are immediate in the Urgent Care.  But they take time in the real world of medicine.  And so I am waiting.  

Waiting for the results

I have been talking about fear, and this is hiding in the shadows of my mind.  Shining the light back there, the news could be extraordinarily miraculous. “There is no site of cancer in your body”.  The news could be extraordinarily perplexing.  “There is so much cancer.  We don’t know how you are still alive.”  Equally miraculous.  Somewhere in between:  highly likely.

But there is an emotion connected to the result either way.  Fear.  Do I want to know?  It does not change anything.  It does not help in any way to keep the results a secret.  

Emotions can have many names.  Fear can be renamed.  It could be anticipation, resolution, excitement…  

It might be the sauce in each layer of the lasagna.  Can we make Challenge Lasagna without fear, without the sauce?  

59. Urgent Care

Shout out for Kaiser Urgent Care in Bellevue. They have it all. Kind people. Quick response. Every testing machine a person could ever wish to be tested on. I don’t think I’d choose another location

Shout out for Kaiser Urgent Care in Bellevue.  They have it all. Kind people. Quick response. Every testing machine a person could ever wish to be tested on.  I don’t think I’d choose another location.  I am forever biased.

And here, Covid 19 pops into the equation yet again, because this is not your mother’s Buick kids, this is a whole new medical world.  Overall, it has worked to my current advantage.  Saturday, it meant that Kwami “left me at the curb”, a moment that would spread out and encompass nearly a week of moments.  

Emotional separation.  Unknowing.  Visual barriering.  Uncertainty.  

But I digress.  Next a CT scan, the obvious choice.  And the forever direct information:  “The colon has perforated.  We will take you to surgery.  Now.”

There is an odd twist in what happened there.  The cancer has its own thing going on, and perforation, or holes, could well have occurred because the chemo is working well, shrinking the masses, pulling the tissue apart.  

Also, surgery was originally not an option, because there was no chance of removing all of the radicals hiding in every corner, and no point to an uncertain or non existing recovery. 

Without an option, there were now options.  I talked to the surgeon.  The lower colon would go.  The colon mass would go.  I gave him the green light to remove whatever he wished, and to hold no guilt for bumping the pesky lymph system as it was an already active culprit in my demise, long done.