Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Probably Not Enough Information

Today I had a brain MRI and met with Dr Jason after. My brain continues to improve—we were able to see the last scan and today's scan side by side, and even I, with my totally untrained eye, could tell that most of the spots looked better, none looked worse, and a couple were maybe staying the same, maybe very slightly better. There is still some concern about the lesion at the base of my cerebellum, simply because of its location and the fact that it hasn't gone away completely. But it, too, is smaller. My neurological tests were, as usual, easy to pass (although I could only walk five steps in a perfect row heel-to-toe and then I veered off a bit).

It occurred to me that I really had no idea what to expect about my brain mets—were they behaving the way they were supposed to? I mean, how long does it typically take for them to go away, if they are? So I asked Dr Jason where I stood on the statistical scale—knowing, of course, that the statistics meant nothing about me individually. He said that my response was better than average, taking into account the continuing regular shrinking.

We will test again in 2 to 2 ½ months—if, at some point, it becomes clear that the lesions aren't shrinking anymore, we want to know that as soon as possible because then the gamma knife might be a good thing to choose. But as long as things go as they are, we'll stay the course.

The thing that I probably don't have enough information about is this: since I've had a bunch of tests done in the last week, Dr Jason's resident checked out those scans as well as this morning's MRI, so that he could get a full picture of where I'm at. He said the CT looked good, looked "stable", I think, but I don't really know what that means. Things didn't start growing again, but they didn't shrink either? Because if that's the case, I'd rather not have "stable". Also, he said there was a new spot that showed up on my bone scan, on the low spine. Now, for about two weeks I've been having some left-side pelvis and low-back issues—a little bit of pain and stiffness, particularly when I first stand up, or after I've been walking around for a bit. It seems to have been improving over the last couple days, but it's still there.

We asked Dr Jason if he could elaborate—does it ever happen that lesions appear during treatment, on the way to complete disappearance? He hadn't looked at the scans, but suggested that the spot could be arthritis, and said that, when my next tumor-marker blood tests are available, that would help give us more information. If they're up from last time, that's not a good sign. If they're down again, though, it's likely the spot is something other than a new lesion. The part of the spine affected is the part, I believe, that I smashed a little tiny bit when I was thrown against the wall in a riding lesson several years ago—there is some possibility that it's showing up on a bone scan not because a new tumor has started up there, but because there's some remnant injury that was exacerbated by my recent activity. Anyway, Dr. Specht is the one who knows best, and I'll see her tomorrow afternoon.

One thought: If I were going to die from this cancer this time, wouldn't it have been much easier to do me in last summer? Certainly much more likely, statistically speaking.

On a lighter note, at a surreal confluence of sales (mark-down, additional percentage off in stores, additional percentage off that with a card sent to me in the mail) I bought four this-season items at J Crew today that would've been $193.05 but that I got for $42.31. Crazy.

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