the checks and balances of a scan

I had a scan today. Scan #7 of this ordeal, fourth PET-CT. I’ve been on another three rounds of the pills since the last scan, and I am feeling relatively good and relatively without symptoms. Which might mean that I don’t have to worry this time. I rarely allow myself to contemplate the possible outcomes anyway and i’m pretty sure my parents have a monopoly on worrying about the negative outcomes. But it’s impossible not to worry or think about it a little. After all, a year ago I was just a normal, healthy 25-year-old who started throwing up a lot and the scan then showed that I had cancer. So I don’t really trust how I feel to be indicative of the reality. The scan, apparently, knows more. And how do I know that random aches and pains I feel aren’t the beginning of something a lot worse? The doctor assured me that the heartburn I randomly started experiencing over 6 months before I was diagnosed was just normal heartburn. A lot of people get heartburn. But it wasn’t. You see how having cancer can bring out the hypochondriac in you.

So, while I was laying there for 45 minutes today, waiting for the radioactive sugars to travel around my body, I wondered and tried not to wonder whether they were traveling disproportionately to my liver. I felt pain in the general area of my liver–or maybe I imagined it. My mind raced faster. How could it not? Each new scan is a new chapter in the ever-evolving story of my treatment plan. The doctors always say, “Come and see me after the next scan. If that goes well, then we can talk about what we’re doing next. If it doesn’t go well, I have a couple other ideas up my sleeve.” I’m not actually confident that the results of this scan will determine anything–it wouldn’t be the first time. But I have been told that my surgeon might determine whether i’m a good candidate for a liver transplant or more liver surgery–the only “cure.” So it feels like a lot is riding on the results of this scan.

But it’s really very narrow-minded of me to put so much into the results of this one scan. I trust my doctors. And if I step back and look at the bigger picture, no matter if the results are the best thing possible (tumor shrinkage) or the worst thing possible (growth outside the liver), I still have cancer. It’s not fun either way. A liver transplant doesn’t sound like a lot of fun (if my scan goes well) and neither do the chemo alternatives (if my scan doesn’t go well). It’s the difference between being sicker later or being sicker now.

My first scan last fall was just a plain CT, a few days before I was diagnosed officially. I went into that one bewildered that such a fancy test was necessary for something that my doctor and the radiologist who looked at my original abdominal ultrasound thought wasn’t cancer. I quickly had a PET-CT, followed by another one in February after I had somewhat recovered from the surgery, followed by another one in June after a rocky couple months on one type of chemo and two rounds on the chemo i’m currently on. My oncologist threatened to outsource me if that scan didn’t show good things, so June was particularly stressful. But the scan was good–no growth and inactivity. So I went back to looking ahead toward the next scan with apprehension. Or whatever.

Now, the long wait til Monday when I see my oncologist and get the results.

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