So remember last June when I went to get my CT scan results at the hospital only to be told they hadn’t been completed yet? And that the saving grace of that whole debacle was being driven to the hospital in Spain’s ONLY Jaguar taxi??? Well, it happened again today. The Jaguar bit. The test results were all there today.
I mean, what are the odds? I didn’t even notice I was back in the Jag until I slid into the back seat (the driver held the door open for me) and saw THAT LOGO on the dashboard. And then I got all fan girl again, asking Pedro if he was still the only Jaguar taxi in Spain (he is) and also asking if I could get a card from him this time (which is how I know his name now). And then I thought… maybe this is a good sign, that everything is going to be alright.
Well, after waiting over an hour in Oncology I got to see my doctor, and she told me that I appear to be cancer free. Good news, right? Except I am still processing all this.
Since the PET scan a year ago that set off alarm bells, when the “area of inflammation” that has been showing up on my PET scans since 2008 had increased dramatically (previously it had been slowly shrinking), I have undergone a whack of testing: colonoscopy, endoscopy, several blood tests and 3 CT scans (latest CT was in November). And now, apparently, I am fine.
Well, that’s good! Glad to hear it, and all that. But now what? I mean, really, now what? My oncologist told me today that after ten years “cancer free” patients are given the “alta” (not sure what this is called in English) and regular scans and check ups are no longer required. I was told that if I experience pain or other symptoms, that they will check me again. Otherwise… nuthin’?
I don’t know. I mean, I am obviously happy that they have decided I am cancer-free after all this time. But, you know, I had fucking stage-4 colon cancer with metastisis to my liver and peritoneum and, to this day, none of my doctors understand why I am still here. I also know that by the time you feel pain caused by cancer you are already pretty much a goner. It’s the preventative testing that saves lives. So why am I getting kicked out of this option?
Okay, I wasn’t totally being shown the door. Because when I asked the doctor what sort of “control testing” they would be doing with me from this point on… well, she caved and said that they could do an abdominal ultrasound with blood tests in six months. And okay fine… I’ll take it.
I mean, I get it. CT scans are expensive, and PET scans even more so. In comparison an ultrasound is nothing. But once you’ve been through all I have gone through, and have talked with so many doctors, and never feeling like you are getting the whole story… it’s hard to believe you’re being told the whole truth. But for now, this is what I have.
This photo of a floppy – almost boneless! – Luna shows how happy and relieved I am that my dear friend Ann got through her surgery yesterday without a hitch. It also shows how she is feeling right now, now back at home and ready to heal. Sending strong thoughts to you darling and hope to tapeo again with you soon. xx
After having my oncology appointment postponed a couple of times, I finally got in to see my doctor. And the news was kind of the same as the last time. The good news is that the inflamed area is a bit smaller than it was in March, so that seems hopeful. The “bad” news isn’t actually bad. But they still want to keep a watch on this, so another CT scan is scheduled for November, at which time they will probably also do another endoscopy. Meanwhile I am to get in touch if any of the scary symptoms return (abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss).
Anyhow, after leaving the hospital we stopped in at Las Teresas for a celebratory glass of cava with jamón. So until November… am really going to try to just get on with things, but it is difficult for me to just relax about all this. Still, very glad that it wasn’t actually bad news.
This has been a strange week for me. Exactly ten years ago I went to the Feria de Jerez and spent a fun day there with friends. And on the way back to get the train I saw this graffiti (Tengo Cancer – I Have Cancer) on the wall beside a bar next to the station, and something about it moved me to take a photo. There was something poignant yet hopeful yet… I dunno… about it. Whatever. I took the photo.
The very next day I doubled over in extreme pain and thus began two of the most profound years of my life. Not going to go over the whole ordeal again here – if you’re interested you can check out this link. Suffice it to say I somehow survived stage 4 colon cancer with metastasis to the liver and peritoneum, including 3 major abdominal surgeries and being on chemo twice (first 2 months, then 5 months). The chemo was diabolical, but apparently got rid of all the nasty cancer. At what cost to the rest of my body cells? Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I just don’t ever want to go back on chemo again. It was then that I (badly) photoshopped the graffiti photo thusly…
Fast forward to January 2018 and another routine PET scan. Except instead of being given the usual – everything looks fine, see you next year! – I was told there was concern about an area of inflammation that had grown significantly since the previous PET scan. This led to me having several tests done, including a colonoscopy, endoscopy and a CT scan. With a second CT coming up in June, so they can check the progress (or decline) of the “area of concern”. Worried? Well, hell yeah! Because that’s basically all I ever do. Not just about health issues. I worry about EVERYTHING. All. The. Time. It’s exhausting, but I can’t seem to help it.
Anyhoodle… getting back to my initial story. This week marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the whole cancer thing, which in my mind is always connected with the Feria de Jerez. And so today I had to go. Nothing morbid or weird, it was more like touching base. Because back then was when all that started, and ten years later I am still here and able to go back and enjoy my favourite feria in Spain. So I did. And it was lovely (nice feria pics coming soon – promise!).
Except this year I am not sure if I “have or have not”… tengo o no tengo. Still waiting to find out. And these days this is what is left of that poignant graffiti. Looks a bit ghostly. Like they tried to paint over it but couldn’t quite get rid of it. I’ve often wondered who this person was, and whether they got better. I sincerely hope so. Just like I hope I will continue to be okay too. So… bit of an emotional day.