…until I can hopefully close the chapter on what has far and away been the worst year of my life.
*Spoiler alert* I think everything is going to be fine now, but let me tell you about my day.
As many of you know, today was the day of my TACE procedure. Trans catheter arterial chemoembolization. A fancy way of saying they are going to deposit chemo beads directly into the arteries supplying blood flow to my mysterious liver lesion, hopefully cutting off the supply and killing it. Whatever it is.
Mom and I were listening to Christmas music and joking and laughing all the way (see what I did there?) This was supposed to be my last step. An extra precaution since none of the liver biopsies showed evidence of cancer. I was going to skate through this final procedure and get back on my not so merry way trying to give my kids a fun Christmas season while struggling against my grief like the relentless waves that would knock me down when Brian forced me to swim in the ocean.
Everything was going as planned. I was in the procedure room, I had some good medicine, and my nurse was an old friend from my oncology days. They cathed me and did a spin of the CT machine to make sure they could visualize all the vessels. And then they went in the other room. For a long time. And I was pretty chill because of the meds. But then the doctor came in and said they saw multiple lesions that were not there two months ago at my last scan. He used the word “concerning.” I did not want to hear this. So he canceled the TACE until further evaluation. I was trying so hard to keep it together because I knew as soon as I started crying that would be it. But try as I might to quiet my mind, I was immediately flooded with worst case scenarios and they leaked right out of my eyes.
I went back to recovery and my mom came back and she was crying too. So then I cried even more. And it was pretty much like that the rest of the entire day so just assume if you are reading any part of this, everyone was crying. All of the nurses, all of the MRI techs, I heard even the doctor was getting choked up. All because we were all pretty sure I was going to die. Because it turns out “multiple lesions” meant over a dozen. Just all over my liver, none of which were seen before. It also turns out that kidney cancer is the “good cancer” when you are 74 years old when you get it. It is usually slow growing, but for whatever reason when you get it young its more aggressive. In spite of all this, my ever dwindling glimmer of hope was three-fold.
1. Kidney cancer rarely mets to the liver, something like 5-10% of the time.
2. When I had my kidney removed, the margins around all three tumors were clear.Mets don’t make sense.
3. Initial liver biopsy did not show cancer. It wasn’t diagnostic for what the mass is, but it wasn’t cancer.
Also, by the grace of God, we ran into Dr. Rashid on the way out, I told him what was going on and he said he was going to talk to Dr. King and get me back in with Dr. MacVicar this week. He is such a great doctor and a wonderful person.
It looked impossible to get an MRI today because the hospital was 40 deep, but with some hard work from the nurses I was able to get in at the Center for Health. I got to be the second person scanned in a brand new MRI machine, yippy. There are ambient lights to choose from, and Pandora radio is pumped into the headphones. There is a calming forest scene on the ceiling tiles. But *nerd alert* in my current state of mind, it was a little too reminiscent of the euthanasia scene from Charlton Heston’s 1973 dystopian sci-fi thriller, Soylent Green.
I thought of how Brian would have appreciated classical music during his awful brain scans where his mind must have been so troubled and yep, more crying.
We came home and Joe brought me a conciliatory horseshoe. Not an hour after getting home, I got a call from the radiologist that nothing showed up on the MRI leading him to believe that the CT was picking up arterial shunting. I am not sure what that means. Obviously I know about acquired shunts, but the only congenital shunting I’m somewhat familiar with is like with congenital heart disease. I guess some people have arterial shunting in the liver, but maybe one or two areas, not a dozen, which is why that was so alarming and suspect especially considering my history.
Anyway, that was the best news I could have hoped for. Also, the known liver lesion hasn’t changed at all since the last scan so that’s another plus. And the TACE is back on? I think I am still going to do it. I’m just so ready to get off of this roller coaster from hell.
Over the last week its becoming increasingly difficult to stay upbeat and cheery. I think its because slowly but surely, the world continues to turn and I am powerless to stop it. Life is getting normal. Its a normal I hate, but I’m working hard to find our place in it. I put on the bravest face for my children, but that gets exhausting. Anguish is an emotion I am becoming too well acquainted with of late and I felt myself succumbing to despair when I got that news this morning.
While I am so grateful to get the better news this afternoon, its hard for me to relax and trust that all will be well. When Brian was sick, we lived in the middle of a train tunnel and we could see the light of that train coming toward us for six years. We knew that we were set for a devastating collision. I can’t shake the feeling that the future is still reaching out to get me. My fears of getting cancer of my own are vindicated. And I just feel like once cancer gets a grip on you it never lets go until it kills you. That was Brian’s reality, and its one we shared. How can I have a happy life when I feel like I’m forever waiting for the other shoe to drop?