Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Lit Up

Today I embark on the next stage of my cancer cure journey.

Though maybe I don't want to use the words "next stage" in regard to cancer, since it implies things getting worse, not better.  Which, God willing, is not the case.

I'm presently sitting in the waiting room of the radiation oncology department of my local hospital, slurping iodine water to light me up for my baseline CT scan. 

Now that my chemotherapy's over, I get the exquisite pleasure (!) of going in for a CT scan every three months for two years to make sure the cancer zombies aren't coming back.  Then once every six months for three years after that.  The baseline scan today should-- no, blast it, will establish that I'm free of all abdominal and pelvic masses, tumors, lumps, bumps, and other execrences that could even vaguely be construed as cancer.

Coincidentally, yesterday my friend Ruth* (also a cancer survivor) sent me a link to an NPR feature about an oncologist who has just published a book called The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.   In it he writes about the manifestations of cancer throughout human history, coupled with his own experience treating patients suffering from it today.  The excerpt seemed well-written and compelling.  I may read the book when the subject becomes less . . . personal.

But at the bottom of the book article were links to other NPR items, including a rather alarming one about increased risk of secondary cancers from both diagnostic and follow-up CT scans and other radiology techniques.  There is a particular danger, it said, for women in my age group who undergo repeated scans.  The author says that the amount of radiation varies from hospital to hospital, machine to machine, but in some the dosage is as high as what the survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered . . . and we know what happened to them later in life.

Oh, joy.  Isn't this just designed to inspire confidence!  But as I understand it, I have to have these tests, because if despite everything the ovarian cancer manages to come back, it has to be found as soon as possible.  So a few minutes ago, when the nurse brought out the iodine water and the clipboard with the form to fill out, I mentioned the radiation risk.  And happily, she agreed that in my case, with the repeated scans scheduled, they should assuredly put me in the low-dose machine.  And happily again, that turns out to be the one they used on me last March.

So here we go.  God grant that I will now and hereafter be dancing with NED (No Evidence of Disease) and all this will be strictly routine.

No comments: