Monday, October 22, 2012


The period leading up to a PET scan and the time spent waiting for results are often fraught with what people in cancer-land dub "scanxiety." I don't really know how to describe the feeling except to say you try really hard not to get your hopes up, but there they go, imagining your future - one in which you have hair again and that new house you've been shopping for. One in which you've sat at a sidewalk cafe sipping red wine and fattening yourself up on freshly made pasta in Italy itself, maybe as the Mediterranean breeze blows through that new hair of yours. It's a future in which you teach your little boy how to tie his shoes and cheer him on at his first baseball game. Your hopes take on a mind of their own during this period, and you panic at every thought in which the outcome might not be what you want. I can go on and on about how none of us really knows our future and how important it is to live in the present, but when it's time again for my scans every third month, all those platitudes fly straight out the window.

Last week, as I drove to pick Quinn up from daycare the afternoon after my PET scan, I got a call from my oncologist's office confirming my appointment for the following day. No word about scan results, just a matter-of-fact, all-business call to confirm an appointment. Routine, I'm sure. But it set me off--my heart started racing, my palms got all sweaty on the steering wheel, and I convinced myself that it must mean bad news, since last December, when it had been good news, they'd called and told me over the phone. 

I immediately called Chris to see if he could calm me down. "They probably don't even have the results yet," he tried to comfort me. My throat was closing up and I was contemplating how I would pull over on the exit ramp leading from one freeway to another since I was not sure I could safely drive. "Worst case scenario, they've got lots of other drugs they can try," he said. He was right--as usual when it comes to these things--but rational thought isn't at the forefront of my head in the midst of a panic attack. 

So when we hung up, I called my oldest friend, Alana, who was in the middle of her own craze trying to pack for a weekend trip with twenty minutes until she had to leave for her flight. Her frenzy took my mind off my own stress and she even made me laugh a bit. I promised her I'd call as soon as I had any news. 

Less than a minute after our call ended, my phone rang. It was my oncologist, calling to tell me that my PET scan was completely clear. "They don't see anything," he said.

"Totally clear?" I asked. "There's nothing at all?" I checked again. I wanted to make absolutely certain I'd heard him correctly before I told anyone.

I hugged Quinn extra hard at pick-up that day. "We did it again," I whispered in his ear.

I still have another three months of this chemo cocktail, as my oncologist wants to be absolutely certain this time we knock out each and every one of these cells. But assuming another clean scan mid-January, he'll take me off the chemo component and leave me on the other two maintenance drugs. If our luck continues, this will put me into long-term remission. On the other hand, I'll continue to have scans every three months, so if anything does come up, we'll catch it early again and I'm confident I'll continue to respond well to treatment.

Chris and I celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary and my clean scan this weekend. And I feel like I have another lease on life, even if I have to renegotiate this contract every three months. Turns out, I'm a pretty good negotiator.


  1. The members of the Delta Epsilon Chapter of Theta at ASU want to express how incredibly happy we are to hear this news! Congratulations.

  2. Yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to go, killer! You can't be stopped. You're like Cal Ripken, just getting up and doing it every single day. That might have to be your new nickname - Iron Woman.

    Also, your talent with the written word ceaselessly impresses this lawyer with an English degree from Hopkins. It is truly a mastery of expression to which I have always aspired. I look forward to the day when you write a book.