As I wrote about a week ago, the end of my radiation therapy was less of a celebratory time than it might have been. Upon investigating my personal observation, my doctors agreed that my sarcoma appears to be growing and not shrinking.
I have joked about getting what one pays for with free healthcare, but I must hand it to my team at Tom Baker Cancer Centre. That simple check certainly spun wheels into motion. Their sense of urgency across the board immediately shifted to my sense of urgency.
My lead oncologist jammed me in to his about-to-leave-for-holidays schedule on Monday. While his words were characteristically optimistic that this was no big deal, the tests he ordered and sternness with which he instructed the staff about timeliness indicated that he wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
I was immediately walked over to the front of the line on a biopsy, where they jammed a scooping needle into the mass to pull out cells. The location where it was, freezing wasn’t practical. Good thing needles don’t phase me.
Tuesday morning I was woken at 7 a.m. with phone call from the hospital letting me know that my CT scan originally scheduled for mid-December had to happen that day. I rushed the kid lunch-making process, trusting them to get out the door for school on-time, and took my seemingly-daily trek to Foothills. The night before, I had work prepped for my absence as it felt like this would be a week of needed flexibility.
Unfortunately, when I arrived, the scanning department was surprised to see me. Apparently my rush appointment was at a facility across town, and such a detail had not sunk in to my pre-coffee brain. (Though I stubbornly contend that no location was given to me, since this unprovable claim allows me more dignity.) However, the nurse flashed me my paperwork which had a big “Urgent” stamped on it, so she just put me in the queue where I was. This is not the best way to earn VIP treatment.
The CT scan is the one with a table that slides back and forth through a big suspended ring. There is no enclosure, so claustrophobia doesn’t kick in. Of course, there was a radioactive dye injected in to me… because it had clearly been a few days since I glowed in the dark. Going back and forth, I couldn’t help but think of Homer Simpson being teased by an out-of-reach larger-than-life donut.
This particular scan is more general and had two purposes. The first was to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else it’s not supposed to. The second, and cooler, purpose was to look to see if I have any vestigial tendons in my body. Apparently, some of us are less evolved and have extras around. This is precautionary in case they need to remove any tendons from my hand when they are cutting out my cancer.
But the worst news of all was the ordering of a new MRI scan. Being a man of severe enclosure-based panic attacks, I had sworn that I’d rather just die of the cancer than be entrapped in the tomb of an MRI machine. Now I’d need to live through a second. Long-story short, I took the sedatives offered, fought through the attacks that came regardless, absorbed more radioactive material and lived through it even though the loss of an entire day was my result.
And so now I wait for results of all these tests. If any of them come back as concerning, I will hit surgery quite quickly. (The surgical team involved is quite large, so I am at the mercy of multiple schedules.)
I went through all the pre-op prep on Thursday and have to live my foreseeable future on surgery protocol. The protocol is strange… no aspirin or Advil (to avoid blood thinning), no vitamin supplements, no herbal supplements, no green tea. Once I get the call, no alcohol… until then, something has to take the place of my vitamin D pills, right?
I was originally scheduled for post-Christmas surgery due to my body’s need to recover from radiation and also due to limited staff availability in that time. I’m completely fine with having it sooner, but I must confess… if life-saving surgery means missing out on my Star Wars: The Force Awakens tickets, I might have a difficult decision to make.