Thursday, November 1, 2007

Last Chemo Before Scan

Today was chemo # 9, with the last of the side effect drugs gone (Zofran for nausea), AND with the white blood cell booster shot immediately after, instead of 24 hours later. So far, no nausea. A slight fever and achy legs, but the aches are from the G-CSF (blood cell booster) shot and the fever is from my kids. Josie and Toby have both had fevers this week so I assume I’ve got whatever they had.

This completes three cycles of chemotherapy and now we see if it’s done anything to the tumors. I’ll have a PET-CT scan next week to find out. That’s the test where they inject you with a radioactive glucose solution, then put you through a tunnel machine. And you have to lie perfectly still for an hour or so while the machine takes pictures of your body from head to toes. The bits that light up are the places where the cancer cells are most active because they feed on sugar and metabolize sugar much faster than healthy cells.

This PET-CT scan is about the most accurate test available, but apparently, no scan can pick up a tumor smaller than a pea. Also, this scan’s not that great for finding cancer in the brain, which is a real worry for me since, in my case, that’s the most likely part of the body for my cancer to travel to.

One of my Dragon Boat teammates died recently of Deep Vein Thrombosis after being diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer for the third time – in her lungs and liver. Her death had nothing to do with cancer. But the autopsy showed that she had a 3-centimeter wide tumor in her brain. The PET-CT she had just two weeks earlier had not picked that up.

So I could have a golf ball-sized tumor in my head and this high-tech, radioactive, $3,000 test won’t even detect it. If I really want to know what’s going on in my brain, I’ll have to get a brain MRI in addition to the PET-CT. That’s more money. And I’d probably have to do this every three months for the rest of my life – a life that could be shortened by all the radiation exposure from these tests! What a Catch-22!

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