“You are stable.” I have lived from scan to scan every 4-6 months hanging on those words for the past seven years. I even started to believe that things would stay that way. Although #scanxiety would creep in, it never really took hold for very long. I would tell friends “no news is good news” and when the phone didn’t ring I believed I had skated by for another 4-6 months.
But this past June I sat in the doctor’s office expecting to hear him say “You are stable.” Instead, I got the long face, you know the look the doctor gives you when he doesn’t have good news. Instead of hearing the words I wanted and expected to hear, he asked “how does your back feel?”
Funny thing was, my back felt fine. I didn’t have any pain. I was riding a high from the previous weekend when I had walked down a runway at Austin Art Bra, a fundraising event for the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) where all of the models are current or previous clients of the BCRC. I was one of two stage 4 clients that walked the runway.
The doctor shook his head and while looking down at the report, informed me that there was a new spot on my T9 (on my spine). Still looking at the report, he told me he thought this was “just a bump in the road”. After all, I have been on the same medication for seven years and it has kept me stable all this time.
You would think that living with stage 4 cancer it wouldn’t shock you to hear that something has changed. But 7 years has made me a little complacent.
I’m grateful that my oncologist does not like to overreact. Because this was just one small spot, he wanted to do a biopsy and then recommended radiation. Afterward, I would remain on the same medication and we would see if things changed on the next scan.
This all seemed like a great idea. After the biopsy, I had 10 rounds of radiation and finished in time to go on vacation to the beach. Biopsy – check. Radiation – check. Continue living and not worrying about cancer – check.
Then the end of summer came. This summer had been full of lots of things culminating with my oldest daughter being offered a job in South Carolina and moving within 2 weeks. Of course I agreed to drive out there with her. I wanted to see where my daughter is going to be living and a trip to South Carolina sounded fun.
But when I got home I could hardly walk due to pain in my back. Being the realistic optimist that I am, I figured I had finally hit my limit on everything I had done this summer. So I decided I needed to rest. Slowly, and I mean very slowly, my back started feeling a little better each day. But after a week and a half of still not moving very well, I decided it was time to mention this new pain to my oncologist.
Not surprisingly he wanted to do a scan. Actually an MRI. Which, if I’m honest, I expected him to do just that. Wednesday morning at 9 am I reported for my MRI. Another box checked. Afterward, I met a friend for a late breakfast and decided to put it out of my mind as much as possible until I heard from the doctor.
Thursday morning around 11 am, the phone finally rang. It was the nurse. Unfortunately, I was on the phone and couldn’t get the call before she left a message. As my heart was pounding, I pushed the play button on the message I was relieved to hear herniated disc with nerve compression – not related to metastatic disease. The complete message was 1:33 however all I heard was not metastatic progression!