The PET scan was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Thursday. My friend Liz and her husband Barry have, God bless them, opened their home to us for whenever we have doctor appointments. I have several other generous friends who also have offered as well. I'm constantly amazed by the kindness most people have shown me in the last two weeks. Grant, my 15 year-old Godson, even sacrificed his bedroom last night. As Jeff slept beside me in Grant’s room, I stared at the photo on his dresser and remembered the day Liz took it. He was about 5 or 6 months old and sitting on my lap. He was all chunky thighs and cheesy grin. I thought about my own babies and how they’d be waiting for me at the oncologist’s office in the morning. I looked over at my completely exhausted husband. What a saint. He’s obviously scared but trying to be brave and optimistic for me. I knew I had to do whatever I could to fight this insidious disease.
Like my friend Johnny Weber said, “the PET scan was a cake walk”. They injected me with a glucose solution and since sugar loves cancer, it rushes to the cancer cells. If that’s not enough to make me pass on a hot fudge sundae, I’m not sure what would do it. I had to lie in a dark room, in a lazy boy recliner with a warm blanket from the toaster. He wanted me to sit quietly for an entire hour while the solution circulated throughout my body. Under any other circumstances, I would have been pretty content. I had brought a prayer book given to me by a co-worker who said it comforted her through a very dark time in her life. If ever I needed that book, it was now. The room was dark, and it was important for me to relax, so I couldn’t get up to turn on the light. I stumbled while saying my own desperate plea to God and decided I knew a few prayer warriors who seemed to have the fast track to heaven. I grabbed my phone and messaged them for some last minute prayers. The technician came in and asked if I was ready. I took a deep breath and headed for the big machine that would soon determine my fate. It only took 30 minutes but I had to remain completely still. I had tears streaming into my ears and couldn’t wipe them away. Then...it was over. He said I could finally go eat breakfast and head to Dr. Moss’s office for the results. It wasn’t until I walked out that I realized I didn’t even ask the technician his name or thank him for his kindness. After an hour with a stranger, I usually know their names, the names of their children, where they’re from and where they went to school. Give me two hours and I’ll find out a bit of juicy gossip or perhaps what they REALLY want to do when they grow up. I was obviously not myself.
Dr. Moss enters the same conference room with my same entourage with the same chart. Only this time it had my results and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. “The PET scan shows that there’s no metastatic cancer.” It hadn’t spread! Liz and I cried, I thanked God, Jeff hugged me, Lauren flashed the biggest smile ever, and Jordan gave me a palm-reddening high five. I have to let my sister Gail know the good news. Whew. Ok. Now what? The tumor still measures 2 ½ cm and the “suspicious” lymph node is about 1 cm. The tumor is HER 2 negative (for all you oncology nurses and breast cancer patients and survivors). She drew blood to test for the BRCA gene. This is the gene which prompted Angelina Jolie to have a bi-lateral (double) mastectomy. They test all young women (under 50) and here’s why: If you test positive (and Angelina did) for the BRCA gene, there is an 85-90% chance that the cancer could reoccur in the other breast. Given what I know now, I totally understand her decision to remove both breasts. Now, there’s only a 5-7% chance of any woman testing positive for the BRCA gene AND it takes approximately three weeks to get the results. I don’t want to have a lumpectomy and then find out afterwards that I tested positive and THEN have to have a total bilateral (double) mastectomy. Two breast surgeries in a few months? How much can a girl take? Dr. Moss used an analogy explaining that we needed to worry about the tiger in the room and not the mosquito flying around. The closet pessimist in me kept imagining malaria. I get it. Odds are, I don’t have it. But odds were one in 12.5 that I would get breast cancer. Yep. That’s the math. One in 8 women =12.5%. I guess it’s unfortunate that KLC employees can’t play the lottery.
Ok…back to Dr. Moss. She recommended a very aggressive and highly toxic 16 week chemo treatment for me. She thinks that since I’m young and healthy, I can handle it. I’m sure that I can. If it means I won’t have to deal with this again, I’ll bite the bullet. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. I can’t help but flash back to 1994, when we first moved to eastern Kentucky. We took the kids to McDonald’s in Prestonsburg. Jordan, who was around three years old, had to go to the bathroom. Jeff took him in the men’s room and they both used their own urinal (each separated by a wall). While washing their hands, Jeff noticed Jordan chewing on something. He said, “What’s that in your mouth?” He opened his mouth to show a piece of gum. Jeff said, “Where did you get that?” He pointed to the urinal. Jeff, horrified, washed his mouth, tried not to puke, and then got revenge by telling this story more times than any of us can count. We were all convinced he would contract some horrible disease from the incident. Thank God, it never happened. I know that with time, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, my body can recover from this disease and Dr. Moss’s poison-of-choice for me. It takes years to recover from chemo. But, hey…. Thanks to the many prayers you've said for me, I’ve got time.