Friday, June 1, 2012

Yes, I scan, scan...

Greetings all ye followers of this blog.  I hope this entry finds you all well and happy.  I would like to update you on some goings on in my life.  During my last appointment, my oncologist told me that I had put off another CT scan long enough.  I had been just about a year since my last one, and relying on blood test wasn't going to fly with modern medicine.  As some of you know, I have a distrust of the radiation inherent in such imaging technology.  But I also understand that a clear view into the inner working of the human body is a valuable tool.    So on a cloudy Monday morning a couple of weeks or so ago, there I was, at 7:10am in the imposing medical building, signing forms and being issued a large bottle of clear fluid that I must drink in the next hour.  It is a contrast solution for the scan, and one must finish consuming it 1/2 hour before the scan commences. It does not taste good.  It also messes with your bowels for a couple of days or so.  But it is part of the process, so drink it I did.  Then you are escorted to another inner chamber of medical mischief for an IV line.  Not just any IV, but the biggest line they can give you, sort of like getting a garden hose installed in your arm.  Finally, one is led into the scanning room, where the medical tech makes the best of the situation with pillows and blankets as you lie down on the sliding cot that is your entry into the scan zone.  The IV line is hooked up and after one pass, the IV is unleashed.  An immediate bad, metallic taste come into your mouth and a strange warm sensation comes over your torso and legs, leading some to think that one has urinated on themselves!  But ever so quickly, no more than 2-3 minutes, and the process is over. Two hours or so of prep and 2 minutes of actual scanning.  We were home by 10am.

I tried to put the mornings activities behind me and get on with my day, and just rack up the experience to the totality of cancer survivor-ship. But later that afternoon, just before I was about to leave to teach my Monday evening Intro to Yoga class, I received a call from my oncologist.  He had already received the report on the CT scan and now was telling me he wanted to see me at the earliest available appointment.
It is hard to describe what went through my mind at that point. The sinking feeling of being pulled back into the maelstrom of intensive cancer treatment tugged at me.  I demanded the good doctor tell me more right there on the phone. Understandable, he said.  There was no "mass" he said, but it seems there was some lymph nodes that were enlarged and a couple of small spots on my lower lungs.  The doctor ordered more tests. 

It was a week before I could get an appointment, and I must say, that was a stressful week of waiting and wondering.  My poor wife Amy was beside herself, and I felt so guilty putting her through more of this.  I felt like a dragging anchor on my family, and wanted to somehow free them from the burden that is me and these health challenges, but I felt so powerless.  Her wisdom reminded me that we were going to enjoy our time this week no matter what the outcome of the tests, and we did, to the best of our abilities. One tends to retreat into a very interior space during such times, so if I have seemed out of touch, I hope you understand.
I really had to take a hard look at my mental state, and I realized just how much I have been struggling with the realities of my situation.  

Interestingly, during this time, I read an article about this:

This set me off on an internet journey researching the psychological aspects of life after cancer treatment, something that until recently had been largely ignored.  It seems that depression and anxiety are always lurking in the weeds, and the fear of the cancer returning is a constant presence, which I can attest.  Some researchers liken the condition to something akin to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  It is funny, formerly I didn't fully understand the nature of soldiers returning with PTSD; it seemed like I wanted to say to them, "You're safe now, relax"  but I knew it wasn't nearly that simple. Now I understand.  It seems as thought I was caught or suspended between two separate worlds: the world of cancer and the large and impersonal medical-industrial establishment and then the real world of everyday people going about their everyday business. I felt like I had only a tenuous connection to either world, and would find myself lost in thought (or maybe, non-thought) and would have trouble concentrating for very long.  I assume something similar happens to soldiers after combat. Such levels of stress actually change the very structure of your brain.  And as I am fond of saying, my brain is my second favorite organ! But in all seriousness, I am thankful for the mindfulness training and yogic techniques (breath exercises,etc) that I have experienced.  Without them, this difficult time could or would have been much worse.

Finally, the day of the appointment came, and as Amy and I waited in the little exam room, finally a calm came over me.  I could only wait.  Yet, when the nurse walked in with the results of the cancer marker tests in her hand, I literally (and rudely) grabbed them from her. Leafing through I looked for the important CA1-99 test results and to my (and I suppose, everyone else's) relief, it was unchanged.  Perhaps this was all a false alarm.  The doctor was not far behind, and the upshot of the appointment was that the lymph nodes could very well be lymphedema, a not uncommon occurrence when lymph nodes are removed, and I had 26 of them taken out during surgery.  Breast cancer patients are particularly familiar with this.  The spots on my lungs are more problematic, but could still be nothing but a slight infection or even nothing at all.  They are too small to biopsy, thank goodness, because the thought of someone sticking a needle into the lower lobe of each lung is not a pleasant thought.  We agreed to another CT scan in 3 months to compare. If there was a phrase to describe the outcome, I would say "cautiously optimistic".

Interestingly, the activities that seemed to provide the most relief from the anxiety and lurking depression is doing what I have done for many years: working in the garden and working with my clients, both with bodywork and teaching yoga. So if you want to be part of Swami bruce's mental health program, simply book a massage appointment or get your butt into yoga class.  That's what I call a classic "win-win"!!  
(" Call today, operators are standing by!")  It really seems that in helping each other and the earth we are ourselves helped and healed. 

Thanks for listening to my latest chapter in this ongoing saga. I don't like to burden people with my drama, but it does feel good to get some of this off my chest. 
I would also like to note that today is my lovely and amazing  daughter Carmen's birthday!  Happy birthday to one beautiful and smart young lady.  May there be many, many more.

As always, I wish you peace and health and happiness.
Until we meet again,
Swami bruce

1 comment:

  1. "Yes I scan scan. . . " I hear the Pointer Sisters. Every day is a gift . . . sometimes I make the mistake of taking that for granted. As you collar the truth and encourage it to take front center, you remind the rest of us that every breath is sweet. Thanks for sharing. Happy Birthday Carmen. You selected great parents, an awesome family. Forward!