From my very first diagnosis in Hong Kong, I knew that my cancer had “spread.” But the doctors never did a PET scan (full body scan that looks for cancer anywhere in your body) to see exactly where it had spread to. Instead, they did CT scans, X-rays and MRI’s on different body parts. I think insurance company restrictions were the reason for this piece-meal approach.
I always wondered if they had checked everything thoroughly enough though.
The doctors in America seemed satisfied that the cancer had only spread a few perilous inches into the danger zone, all in my neck, rather than spread throughout my entire body.
The question mark remained in my mind though. Every cough and every stomach pain made me wonder if I should get checked.
I went to visit the expat oncologist in Shanghai when I got back overseas. He, an Israeli, was shocked to hear I’d never had a PET scan with my type of diagnosis. (He’s worked in America before, but apparently he’s forgotten the joys of working within the parameters of American health insurance.)
So he sent me to the best Chinese-run hospital in the city to get a PET scan. Those machines are expensive, so not every little place can own one. The cost of doing this in Asia is still much, much cheaper than in the U.S. though.
The day of the scan
On the day of the PET scan, I had to get up early. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. I took my e-bike to the subway, rode the subway to the train station, waited a bit, rode the train to Shanghai, waited in line for a taxi, and ended up at the expat doctor’s office. Then the English-speaking Chinese nurse accompanied me to the Chinese hospital across town by taxi.
I get car sick easily, so on an empty stomach, I was feeling pretty queasy by the time we arrived and had a migraine headache (no coffee that morning).
They gave me an injection of radioactive isotopes (radioactive liquid sugar, basically), then made me down 7 cups of water in a short period of time, on a queasy stomach with a splitting headache.
I made it to the ladies’ room to throw up the first 4 cups of water.
I was in the PET scan room when I threw up the next round of water. And when they asked me to roll over on the bed I threw up everything else. At least it was clear water and nothing smelly.
From the pathetic glances I received, I’m pretty sure all the Chinese people waiting to get PET scans thought I was on death’s doorstep and wondered how advanced my cancer was. They would never guess that a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito might have kept all this from happening.
But once it started, I couldn’t stop. After my PET scan, I vomited at a restaurant and in a taxi on the way to the emergency room. After a few IV’s and a couple hours of napping, I was well enough to return home.
If it wasn’t the worst day of my life, it was certainly in a tie to be the worst day of my life.
They emailed me my results in English. I got them Monday after the PET scan on a Friday.
I expected to read something like, “all clear.” Instead, they found five things wrong with me. A doctor would have to evaluate the results and let me know what’s going on. One item gave me concern that I was going to have to pack up and head back to America.
I sent the results to my doctor at MD Anderson at his personal email account and he wrote back on the 4th of July (his holiday) with his take on the situation. I love those MDA doctors and their helpful, dedicated service. His note put me at ease.
I couldn’t get an appointment with my Israeli doctor until ten days later, which was fine because I was gone on a week-long trip anyway.
Of the five things wrong with me, none of them are cancer, and none are life threatening! Yea! So the best news I got is confirmation that the cancer has not spread throughout my body, not to any part of it. For breast cancer patients, it is most likely to spread to lungs, brain, bones and liver. They said my brain was quite clear … haha!
I will have to follow-up on some of the five things they found wrong with me. For example, the PET scan showed I have chronic lung inflammation, and there is nothing that can be done about it to improve it. A few things may require follow-up ultrasounds. A few things were not easily explained, but neither doctor thought it was cancer spreading.
I’ll have future PET scans that can be compared to the one I just had. This one is the baseline one.
Who did this
I believe that God stopped the cancer from spreading to other places. He heard my cry for help.
So I want to say: Thank you God for all You have done for me, for sparing my life, for giving me hope to replace my despair. No one could do this but You.
May the Lord be praised,
for He has heard the sound of my pleading.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices,
and I praise Him with my song.
Psalm 28:6-7 HCSB
Continue to pray for my damaged right arm and neck that restrict my daily activities. Day-to-day I get by okay, but when anything unusual comes up, like a trip, I need extra strength and medicine to feel up to the same level. I have a major trip approximately once a month.