Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Suck Up and Take Your Medicine
My long-awaited scan results came back last Friday. I tried not to be too attached to any outcomes. I, of course, wanted the scans to be crystal clear, but based on the tumor markers from a few weeks ago, I knew it was highly unlikely. My husband and I waited for the nurse practitioner to join us in the exam room to give us the news, but neither one of us was quite certain what we were going to hear. I was pretty confident that everything had shrunk a lot, I just didn't know how much.
My nurse clearly has done this a lot because she didn't keep us guessing. She came in right away saying "I have really good news to share with you!" My echocardiogram, as expected, came back totally normal, which is great. That means I can keep getting the Herceptin and Perjeta drugs without worrying about my heart function. Although they can cause some cardiac toxicity, these are the key drugs for keeping the kind of cancer I have at bay, and it would have been a serious blow if I were not able to continue with them.
The real question, however, was what the PET scan showed. The PET scans show how much of the radioactive glucose (FDG) was absorbed by the tumors. They call this FDG Avidity and they measure it by a scale called Standard Uptake Value (SUV). You didn't know you would get a PET scan lesson today, did you? Basically, the larger and more active the tumor is, the brighter it glows.
The scans no longer show uptake in the lymph node by my thyroid. They show that the lesions on the bones are almost gone. They show the liver lesions are almost gone, with only one liver lesion that is still somewhat active with an SUV of 10.6, but it was previously 16 and the lesion is half the size it was before. They show the lung tumors are almost gone, with only one that had any real FDG Avidity, but again, it is half the size it was and has reduced in activity by about 75% from an SUV of 15.4 down to 2.7.
This is all really good. Really, really good. The nurse called it a "wonderful" report. She thought I might even be able to quit the Taxol going forward. The nurse gave me a big hug and told me I was doing a great job. It was a very good day, and a very good weekend.
I learned yesterday morning, as I was driving to work, that I don't get to quit the Taxol just yet. My doctor wants me to do at least two more infusions. I wasn't thrilled about that. This news happened to coincide with my low point post treatment and I was extremely tired, my fingers and toes were numb, and I was feeling pretty down. And then I heard the song in the video above. I have a big playlist of songs on my phone that inspire me, that make me happy, or that just make me want to sing. I hook it up to my car stereo and let it play at random. Just at that moment when I was starting to feel sorry for myself, Take Your Medicine began to play.
You can take it in stride, or you can take it right between the eyes.
Suck up, suck up and take your medicine.
It's a good day, it's a good day to face the hard things.
Pulled my fist from my mouth.
I beat myself for a quarter century.
Remind, remind that it's bigger than me.
Dissolve, dissolve into evergreens.
It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. It's easy to be positive when I feel great. It's not as easy when I've been hit by the Taxol truck. It's awfully tempting to fall prey to the siren song of self-pity, but I know it doesn't do anybody any good, least of all me. The song reminded me that it's all temporary. Everything dissolves away eventually, even the hard things. The Taxol truck may have hit me hard, but it is also making it possible for me to travel farther down the road to remission. I just need to suck it up for just a little bit longer. Nobody likes the hard things. But I think the hard things make us stronger in the long run.