My Oncologist has a Big But

Friends and Family,

We returned from another trip to San Diego, and got the results of my latest CT scan. Here’s one word that you don’t want to hear from your oncologist:


As in, “Your CT scan showed no growth in the cancer, but…”

Is this the beginning of one of those good news/bad news jokes?

It turns out the “but” was, “but the scan showed a blockage in the carotid artery in your neck.” As in, the artery that goes to my brain?

It could be a blood clot, or it could be an error in the test, or it could be something else. Neither Genevieve nor I asked what “something else” would be, since this just didn’t make any sense. We both decided on the spot that we were not going to give this any attention until we had more info. Even though several otherwise-healthy people that I know with lung cancer have gotten blood clots, it didn’t make sense for me, because I’m too physically active.

Can you hear my brain cranking out denial scenarios?

de Nile 

de Nile 

But here’s the thing about trying to keep this out of our minds: We can tell ourselves that the likelihood of a real problem is low, BUT (there’s that word again), if it is a real problem, it is going to be a whopper. Fortunately, the clinic was able to squeeze me into a last-minute opening for an ultrasound of my neck, which dovetailed perfectly with our return plane trip to Portland. We wouldn’t have to wait and ruminate any longer than necessary.

The next morning, the nurse called (always a good sign), and said that the ultrasound revealed no problems. The CT scan results were an error. Just like that, and we’re back to no problems.

I know that saying “no problems” sounds odd, since I still have lung cancer, but that’s different. Genevieve and I have been living with that risk of death for ten years, and have developed differing degrees of acceptance for what may happen. If I were exposed to a different kind of risk, like skydiving or bungie jumping, or a stroke from a blood clot ready to take the highway to my brain, my fear level is going to skyrocket. Totally different. 

Disclosure: Tushi in this picture is representative only. Actual tushi may vary in age.

Disclosure: Tushi in this picture is representative only. Actual tushi may vary in age.

So that’s what I learned about myself this time around: Fear is situational. We risk our lives every day in a car, but have no fear. For many of us, that’s very different than the statistically lower risk of dying in an airplane crash, yet more people fear airplanes.

So I’m calling this trip another success, with nothing new to fear, and the old fear kept at bay, for at least another six weeks. The weather in Portland is beautiful right now, and life goes on.

Love and peace to you.