The Party is Over

Friends and Family,

Thank you to everyone for the great support while I have been waiting to find out what is happening with my cancer. You have helped make the wait for some understanding of what is going on much more bearable. And now, the wait is over.

I got an email from my doctor’s office this afternoon. It’s everything I hoped to hear! The gastroenterologist said that this mushy-ness in my pancreas has only a small chance of ever turning into cancer, or of being life-limiting. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

The funny thing is, over the past two or three days, I was already starting to feel less worried about it. This seems to happen every time there is bad news, or even the threat of bad news. My first response is to dive head-first into panic, gloom and doom. Give it some time, and I remember that I know how to do this. After all, I have enough experience by now. :-)  

Pity Party is Over.png

So, what’s in that toolbox of coping skills? Here are a few that I used this time:

*         Taking in all the love and support, from you, and from Genevieve. It makes all the difference in the world.

*        Acceptance: If it happens, it happens. This was the hardest tool to develop when I first started on this journey, but it keeps getting easier with practice.

*         Perspective: We’re all going to die, so all we are talking about is when. Of course later would be better, but I can’t control that. I have to let go.

*         Gratitude: I have been extremely fortunate to live more than eleven years (!) since I was first diagnosed, and more than six years since I was re-diagnosed. This is extraordinary, and one of the reasons that I feel blessed every day.

*         More Gratitude: The love you have shared has not only been one of the main reasons that I am still alive, it has also been life-changing.  Thank you for this incredible gift!

*         Logic: When we are in panic mode, every random thought takes us into a new and even more scary direction. Once I got past that, I started thinking about a few things: 1) The pancreas is not a place that lung cancer usually spreads to, at least not first. 2) When the cancer starts to spread, it seems to always spread more in the lungs before looking for new territory. 3) It makes no sense at all that I would randomly get pancreatic cancer that didn’t spread from my lungs, since my chances are no higher than the general public. The odds against it are great.

Thanks again for being there. It makes a world of difference.



Latest Scan Results: Don't Get Mushy on Me.

Friends and Family,

We flew to San Diego last Tuesday to see my oncologist. Thirty seconds after we sat down, he popped his head  through the door and said, “Your scans look great. Nothing to worry about! Back in a minute.”

You would think that would be the end of it, wouldn’t you?

When he came back into the room, the conversation took a different turn. While my lungs are stable, Dr. Patel said that a “hypodensity” showed up on my pancreas. “A hypodensity,” he said, “is a mushy spot.”

One of the many bonuses in being a cancer survivor is that I’m getting a medical education at no extra charge. Hypodensity = mushy. I must find a way to make use of this.

Just to set the record straight, I already have a few hypodensity spots, and most of them are pretty hard to miss. I’ve never once had a doctor ask me about any of them, and Genevieve has been kind enough not to point them out. So what makes this one different?

“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said, with a concerned look on his face.

This had me squirming just a bit, so I asked more questions. “What might it be?”

He talked a lot, without ever answering the question, all while telling me again not to worry about it. Again, I’m wriggling. I decided that the answer I was getting was a hypodensity. (Sorry.)

So, I got blunt. “Could it be cancer?” Pancreatic cancer is already a hot button for me. This is how my mother died. The possibility that it could hit me opens old wounds, and not a small amount of fear. I have one cancer under control. If this is a different kind…

Dr. Patel was emphatic in telling me that there are contradictory opinions about the link between hypodensities and cancer amongst doctors, and no conclusive proof, so don’t think about it that way.

All this reaction from the doctor, while he’s telling me there’s nothing that should cause a reaction. I may be a little clueless at times, but being tone deaf does not even make the top ten in my list of medical problems. Something doesn’t fit.

How do I put these conflicting pieces together? As a last resort, I got practical, and asked what we do next.

The next step is to get a MRI. He was suggesting doing this in another three months, but after reviewing my old scan reports, I found that Mister Hypodensity has been hanging around since at least April. I convinced him to request it now. If nothing else, getting an answer will keep the stress from killing me over the next three months.

The MRI will be done tomorrow, and I should get the results on Friday.

This is one of those times when I would like to say that I am having reasonable concerns, but no fear. Perhaps that would be true if I was more brave, but I am not. In the past week, I have gone from denial, to full-fledged fear, to letting all the feelings in and then  letting them pass through me, to staying in the present. Sometimes this week at work it has been hard to make a phone call if there is the least bit of challenge involved in it, so I have put a few things off. Some days I’m leaving work early, too worn out to be productive. All of this is OK with me. Having ups and downs just means I’m in touch with what is real. It will all pass, and we will deal with whatever comes. After all, Dr. Patel says there’s nothing to worry about.

Just one request: Don’t go getting mushy on me.