Bottom Line: MRI Results Are Great!
The short version: the MRI last week showed that there is no new visible growth of the tumor. Hooray!
The long version is slightly more complicated.
It took a day longer to get to that result than I expected. Expectations are often such impediments to the happiness of the moment. If I could better let go of my expectations I think I would be happier as I deal with what is actually happening. I was told that I would get the MRI in the morning, the radiologist would read it, and we’d have the results by the time I met with my surgeon in the afternoon. So that was my expectation.
It didn’t happen that way.
I got the MRI in the morning (three cheers for my fantastic nurses, Kelly and Pam: lots of caring, one stick for the IV, and I didn’t faint!). But when I went to meet with my surgeon, the radiologist hadn’t yet written the report. So the surgeon looked at the MRI pictures and compared them to the ones from three months ago and said “it doesn’t look like anything is growing in there to me.” And the pictures did look, to my untrained eye, very clear.
But it wasn’t the definitive answer I’d expected.
While I absolutely love my surgeon and appreciate everything he’s done for me – and overall he seems like a pretty upbeat and funny kind of guy – he took the opportunity to remind me that it’s really not a question of “if” but “when” the tumor comes back. It’s not like I don’t know this, but when the MRI looks happy and clear, it’s not really something I want to hear more about. I guess if you’re a hammer, things often look like nails. Do, despite thinking we probably were dealing with very good news, Marshall and I went home feeling kind of down. Not hugely down, but enough to be a little nervous.
The next day I had an appointment with my oncologist, who is an absolute dear. He had the radiologist’s report, which stated – officially this time – that there was no visible regrowth of the tumor. Hooray! He was very happy, and so were we. Because we’d been worried, we told him about the “not if, but when” conversation we’d had with the surgeon the day before, and the oncologist said it could be many, many years before the tumor came back.
But right now, all is good!
The Buildup To, and the Let Down After, the MRI.
I am finding it takes a lot to gather my energy and myself together to face each follow-up MRI; to grapple emotionally with the fears that come up as I wait for the test day to arrive. What if the tumor has grown back? Will I need chemo or radiation? Will I need to have another surgery? Will life suddenly change again, just when it seems to be on the verge of settling down?
This time, I actually started feeling worried a whole month before the procedure. I thought about it for about four or five days straight and was, frankly, anxious. I thought the anxiety would continue to build up until the time of the MRI, but it didn’t. I renewed my efforts of meditation/centering prayer daily and I stopped thinking about it completely. Even right before the MRI I didn’t get too worked up.
The meditation/centering prayer really does help, but I need to do it consistently. In summer when Hannah is out of school, it’s harder for me to find quiet time. But now that school is back in session, it should be easier, I just need to be disciplined – not always my strong suit! The help is so tangible, though, I hope finding a way to be disciplined will not be too difficult as I move forward. I definitely need to find my way through this “scanxiety” maze. I don’t want to spend my time worrying – it’s not fun, but perhaps more important, it’s not healthy for me physically. The more I can stay in the moment I am actually in, the better off I will be.
There is also a “let down” period as I process the MRI information. Understanding doesn’t happen immediately – it takes a while of sitting with the information and experiencing it, processing it, and allowing it to sink in before I can more fully comprehend its meaning and implications. I feel bad for not posting the results here right away, but oftentimes I just can’t. I don’t know what to say for awhile. Instead, I bound up the steps of our house welling with gratitude, giddy with the feeling of being alive, amazed at how my body is working.
People have told me that they assume when I don’t post immediately that the news is good. Even though the news was very good this time, there really is no assuming anything with cancer. Good news or bad, there is so much to process, so much to get one’s mind around. As my surgeon said, it’s a matter of when. But that is not how I choose to look at it. I think of it more as a matter of now.
Right now, the MRI is clear. Right now, I don’t have to have further treatment or another surgery. Right now, I feel pretty dang good. Right now, I am getting ready to take my husband and daughter to NYC for a kick-butt kind of time as a family!
Right now, let’s celebrate!