Posts tagged ‘PET scans’

Cancer Scares

One part of survivorhood I never really prepared for was the cancer scares. Sure, I knew that I would need to keep a healthy lifestyle and make sure I went to routine scans, but for some reason the element of the constant scares had never crossed my mind. That is, until about a month ago.

It’s never fun when your doctor calls to personally to deliver the CT scan results. He was concerned, sent me for a follow-up PET Scan, and about a week-and-a-half of anxiety ridden days and nights, I finally got the news that all was clear once again. Apparently, being operated and radiated on as a 17-year-old can have some residual effects like scaring in the pelvis that looks questionable.

While I’m thankful that in this instance, all was clear, it opened my eyes to the long journey that I, as well as all of my fellow cancer survivors, are on. Especially for those of us who’ve been hit with the disease twice or more; it’s an eye-opening and sobering experience to realize that you’ll be fighting a disease for the rest of your life. When I first realized this after my second diagnosis, I was angry. My anger has subsided these days, but it’s still shocking to me sometimes when I realize the risks associated with just living life. I realized as I waited for my PET scan results to come in, that even if all was clear, this wouldn’t be the last time I’d have a scare like this. Unfortunately, this is a lifelong journey.

As I went about church and life group yesterday; however, I began to see a comforting  parallel between living with Christ, and my life as a cancer survivor. Both require a “wartime” mentality, as we must always stay on guard for the next attack. We mustn’t be surprised by it, but rather, anticipate that the enemy will work to get us down… whether it’s sickness, debt, rough relationships, sinful temptations, etc. We won’t have these “scares” subside until we reach heaven. So until we’re there, we must anticipate them.We must stay in the fight, and remember that we’re at war.

I found encouragement yesterday in remembering that I serve a God that is here to help. Christ didn’t come down to earth to leave us hanging. He sent the Holy Spirit to get us through tough times, give us unity among one another, and bring about a perfect peace that gets us through any trial. While we can’t always change our thoughts or make ourselves feel differently, we can plug into the source who will “guard our minds and our hearts” with only the peace He can bring. Whether it’s a cancer scare, or any other life problem that gets us down, we must keep pressing on and hold the line in this war.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

April 4, 2011 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

Personal Health Update

I often get asked how I’m doing these days health-wise, so I thought I’d take today to give an update.

I pretty much am fully recovered and back to speed after my surgeries and hospital stays last June. It took a little longer than I expected to gain all of my strength back, but it’s rejoined me nonetheless. I’m back to boxing and doing Jillian Michaels’ workouts, which I’m convinced that if cancer won’t kill me – those surely will! Holy cow they are hard!

I was put back into the circuit of receiving checkups from my oncologist every 3-4 months after my diagnosis last summer, but so far everything has come back clear. My lab work is showing that my levels are normal, and my PET scan came back clean. I also had a CT scan that looked good. They did see a few spots around the liver that seem to be fatty deposits. They will keep an eye on them to make sure they’re nothing to be concerned about. I’ll have a follow-up CT scan sometime this summer, as well as an upper & lower GI scope.

I had an interesting time as I added another doctor to my “A Team” of physicians and began meeting with a geneticist. Because I’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer twice now and I’m not even 30, it’s highly suspicious that I have a genetic disorder. I was tested for “FAP,” but it came back negative. Back in the day when I was 17, M.D. Anderson suspected that I might have a disorder called “Lynch Syndrome” but testing couldn’t prove it. This past summer’s diagnosis raised suspicions again, as colon cancer appeared once more. My family and I were reevaluated and retested. While we would have loved to have concrete answers, we didn’t quite receive the certainty we were hoping for. But, reports were still clear and leaning toward there being a genetic problem, science just hasn’t caught up with us yet. I believe that my case has been left open to make us still have faith and hope. We can’t totally explain the two cancer occurrences, but we do know enough to try and stop them from happening again. The doctors have recommended that I be treated as someone with Lynch Syndrome so we can stay on top of the cancer risks and prevent it from returning the best we can!

Other than the frequent scans and more doctors appointments, life is pretty much back to normal. I still go poop (I’m asked that often!) – although because I have less than a foot of colon left, it’s much more often than others. I was very nervous about the foods I would have to avoid for the rest of my life, but it’s really not been that bad. Oils and heavily fried foods seem to be the worst, but I can eat almost anything in moderation – depending on the day, what else I’ve had to eat and my stress level. I’ve not had any more “IBS-like” attacks since my surgery (I was having several the month leading up to the big day) and generally feel pretty good if I watch my diet. As my blog shows, I have been eating more locally grown, organic foods to help me give me the best fuel and energy my body needs.

Of course, I still have my days now and then where I need to stay home, get extra rest, or stay close to the potty – but those are becoming fewer and fewer. I have a clearer understanding now than ever that each day is a gift, and feel so fortunate to be granted another second chance at a healthy life.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement through all of this! As you continue to pray for me and my health, I also ask that you keep fellow cancer soldiers in mind who are undergoing chemo, radiation and other treatments to kill, or hold back their cancers. It’s a rough gig, and they need all of the support we can give. I pray that many others who are currently fighting will also have their health restored and positive health updates to give!

February 11, 2010 at 5:18 am 3 comments

The PET Scan Experience

Today’s story veers from a colon-specific tale, but deals with something many semi-colons face: PET scans. I receive these scans because my colon was removed due to cancer. Here was my experience yesterday…

“Danielle?”

The nurse called my name and I entered the Radiology door. She escorted me to a closet-sized room that was very medical-feeling except for one frame hanging on the wall displaying her certificate of completion for IV therapy. I felt relieved when I noticed she had 10 years of experience. Plus, her cheery uniform matched her happy personality and helped calm my anxiousness.

She explained the routine for the morning: IV, infusion, sit in the dark, scan.

“Oh, and do you want a blanket?” she asked.

“No thanks, I’m OK.” I said.

For reasons I don’t understand, they keep the infusion and scanning rooms very chilly. She handed me a waver to sign, acknowledging that I understood the chemicals injected into my body proposed threats of kidney failure, hives, cramping, nausea, growing three arms, etc. I prayed that I wouldn’t suffer from the rare complications and signed my life away. (Just kidding about the three arms thing… at least as far as I know.)

The Lord has blessed me with good veins, so the IV was no big deal. She gently inserted the needle and taped down the plastic device hanging out of my arm with sturdy tape. She left me to rest and passed the torch to the PET technician. He was a taller guy who you didn’t want to mess with, yet friendly at the same time. It must have been his green scrubs. My favorite color. He entered the room.

“Need a blanket?” he asked.

“No thanks, I’m good.” I said.

He walked to the back of the closet and opened a metal safe in the wall. The safe had some sort of radioactive needle logo on it that gave of the impression of  “CAUTION! THIS CONTAINS STUFF THAT IS EITHER DANGEROUS OR REALLY EXPENSIVE” on it. He pulled out a very thick, silver capsule that was sweating due to its cold temperature.

“This contains radioactive sugar isotopes,” he said.

“Great, I thought. Now I’m going to freaking glow.”

He proceeded to push the isotopes in the big, silver tube into my IV. I didn’t feel anything and in a few seconds, I started glowing! Just kidding, nothing happened.

“You sure you don’t need a blanket?” he asked again.

“I’m sure, I’m good.” I said. “Thanks though.”

He left the room and left me to marinate. For another reason I don’t understand, I had to sit in the dark once I received the injection for about 45 minutes. He was nice left the door cracked so I could read my book.

“Geez,” I thought. “It sure is nice when they remember what it feels like to be human.”

The 45 minutes went pretty fast thanks to my book.  After a while the isotopes had gotten to me and I thought my bladder was going to pop. Plus, it ran through my semi-colon quickly as well. I got permission from the cheery nurse in the colorful uniform to use the restroom. I slowly stepped into the hallway, wondering if I would shrivel up in the light like the Wicked Witch of the West, but soon realized I was fine. I headed down the hallway to save myself from damaging yet another important organ and give my bladder a rest.

I was greeted by the PET technician outside the bathroom door as I made my exit. He was ready for me. I entered the room to see a large scanning machine. I hopped up onto a narrow sliding tray that went all the way through the machine.

“You need a blanket now?” he asked again.

“Sure, I’ll take one this time.” I replied. It was the least I could do, I felt bad for saying no over and over.

He propped my head with a pillow and supported my slightly bent knees. To take friendliness up one notch further,  a serene photograph of leaves falling near creek was placed in lieu of a ceiling tile so his patients had something pretty to look at.  I was impressed.

The machine began to slowly move and I quickly shut my eyes and held them tightly. I’m not typically claustrophobic, but for some reason MRIs and PETs can give me the hibbies.

“Remember, you’re not strapped down. You could get out of this. You’re OK. Breathe deep,” I told myself as the machine turned on and the scan began. “All you have to do is lay still for 25 minutes, and then it’s over.”

I tried to picture myself in a playground tunnel, probably a bright red one. The red ones look the most fun. I imagined that I was running from “bad guys,” and that I had chosen to crawl into the middle of the tunnel to hide out. I even tried to convince myself I heard muffled voices from outside the tube as bad guys ran through the pea gravel looking for me.

That worked for a few minutes. For the rest of the time I prayed about everything I could think of to take my mind off the fact I was laying on a cold, skinny tray in the middle of a large, thick tube scanning my vital organs for any traces of radioactive sugar isotopes attached to cancer cells.

I began to hear movement in the scanning room and accidentally opened my eyes. To my surprise, I was on the other end of the tube.

“That was painless,” I thought.

“You’re all finished,” he said.

The technician removed the IV from my arm and told me I was good to go. I thanked him for being so kind. As I sat up, I made sure to leave the blanket on the tray. I gathered my things and headed back toward the Radiology door.

Later, I was thinking about how funny it was that they kept offering me a blanket even though I was wearing sweats and it finally dawned on me. Yes, it was really cold.  But in that moment, I saw life through their eyes. Seeing patient after patient worry in fear for their upcoming test as they put in IVs, watching them sit in dark closets and chase away anxieties, and directing them to lay still on a tray while you scan their bodies for cancer cells. A blanket was the only real way they could help and show they care.

I walked out of that clinic not knowing what my future held. PET scans are awesome because they detect cancer cells in your body. PET scans are scary though because they detect cancer cells in your body. I didn’t know how my results would end up. It could have gone either way. But even though the anxiousness started to creep back in, it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt cared for. I appreciated my experience. I remembered the thoughtful staff members who offered hope in the midst of trial. And after a long day of testing, I was so thankful that I took the blanket.

November 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm 2 comments


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