Two weeks may not seem like very long, but when you’re waiting for information about how serious your cancer is, it can feel like an eternity. I have been waiting just over two weeks now to find out what stage my cancer is at and whether or not my health is in serious jeopardy.
The more I talk to people about cancer, the more I realize how insidious it is. As I said in part 1 of this series, I had always believed that the diagnosis process was fairly simple: find lump, have biopsy, have scans, get diagnosis, get treatment. Difficult to manage everything, of course, and recovery uncertain, but knowable and understandable.
It’s not. So many types of cancer, I’m learning, can go undetected for a long time, with folks presenting with minor symptoms that could be anything. As a fat person, if I went to my doctor complaining of fatigue and gastrointestinal issues, I would be told to lose weight and improve my diet. I might be sent to an allergist or naturopath to have tests for food sensitivities. My doctor would never automatically assume that I might have cancer.
(Have I mentioned how grateful I am that I contracted a serious virus and wound up being admitted to hospital and then they found my cancer by accident? That’s okay, it bears repeating)
A friend of my mother’s was recently diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He’ll be dead in a few months and has felt well enough to continue working and living a normal life up until recently. A friend’s father had some back pain that would be within a normal arthritic range for a person his age. He was diagnosed with bone cancer and died 6 weeks later.
When you don’t have much information about your cancer, these types of stories are horrifying and, believe me, you spend a good amount of time turning them over in your head repeatedly. This has been unbelievably painful for me, emotionally, and I know that it has been having a tremendous effect on my close friends, family, and my partner as well.
I sincerely hope that we’ve caught everything early enough that my prognosis will be good, but the unknown is terrifying. Even if the news is bad, if it is known it can be grieved and dealt with. When you have no idea what’s happening, you have nothing to grieve other than the days when your life was simpler you didn’t have so much to worry about. Unfortunately, all that isn’t concrete enough to provide you with much relief.
Yesterday I had my PET scan. I was lucky enough to get in on a cancellation — my original scan was scheduled for December 23rd. The test itself was easy enough. I was a little worried about it because you have to be injected with radioactive glucose intravenously and I have a lot of trouble with IVs. The needle gauge was tiny, so that went smoothly and I mostly just spent a bunch of time waiting around.
A PET scan records the way your body is currently metabolizing glucose (the sugar that is our body’s basic energy source). Cancer cells are resource hogs and tend to gobble up sugars faster than normal cells. When you go for the scan, they inject you with a cocktail of glucose and something radioactive, which allows the scanner to take images of the metabolic activity. You wait 45 minutes after the injection and then lay on the scanner bed for 30 minutes while the images are taken.
Overall, it’s a painless process. Where I live, the scanners are located at the provincial cancer agency, so the techs are respectful and kind and do their best to make sure you feel safe and comfortable. I was especially grateful for that bit.
Now that that’s over, I have to wait again. It’s not too long, just until next Tuesday, but I know that it will be difficult. I’ve been trying to play video games and watch TV series and do other things I enjoy, but my ability to focus right now is shitty at best right now.
Fingers crossed I’ll get the information I need on Tuesday, so that I can grieve and move forward with treatment.