I felt like I was getting better dealing with the stresses of MRI’s every two months. My last MRI in November I was able to stay quite confident and not stress as much as the previous few. That all completely went out the window these last 2 weeks.
I seem to get this build up on anxiety leading up to my scans. I get more into my head and everything becomes a symptom. These last two weeks have been extremely hot, windy and dry. I used have fairly bad allergies which seemed to diminish when I changed my diet and lifestyle, but the last few weeks I started getting headaches again. Don’t get me wrong I still get headaches, but they are typically seldom, few and far in between. Leading up to my MRI done on Tuesday night, they started getting worse and worse. It seemed as though the closer I go to that giant tunnel the more my head wanted to remind me just what I was in for. I tried not to focus on them, but lets be honest… Impossible.
Like I always do I toughed it out, stayed strong, confident, a little nervous, and went in for my MRI. Like always, once I got in that little tunnel and the all too familiar pattern of clicks, beeps, vibrations, buzzes and what I can only describe as laser sounds I was able to breathe again. After having my 10th-15th? MRI I now have the entire process nearly memorized. It starts out with a few small clicks, then turns into what sounds like a GIANT cellphone vibrating on a table with some random clicks strewn in. The next part switches to an almost ping pong ball sound with clicks that you can hear coming from different areas of the tunnel. These go back and forth for about 15 minutes until the laser sounds kick in. Once the laser sounds get going the actual bench I am laying on begins to vibrate in sequence with the laser sounds, only a second or two with about a 4 second delay in between. The machine then takes about a 30 second break and starts on what sounds like what you heard as a child watching Bill Nye the Science Guy when he had his electricity experiments (picture those two large metallic poles separated by about a foot with the bolt of electricity slowly climbing up to the top and disappearing into nothing). A few minutes of this sound then the technician comes in and injects gadolinium dye into me for the final 10 minutes. We start from the beginning again, but it changes to a constant buzz towards the end with clicks starting in sequence then slowly working their way to an irregular pattern only to end in sequence again. Laying in that chamber I feel at peace, it might sounds strange but for some reason when I am there I have the assurance that I will at least have an answer. The hardest part about cancer is simply not knowing one way or the other. I have accepted whatever fate has in store for me, but having to stress every 8 weeks waiting for an answer grows tiring.
Once I complete my scans I typically am able to leave with a copy of the MRI so I can go over it at home. I am in no way formerly trained in anything that has to do with reading MRI’s, but it doesn’t take a PHD to look at two different images and find differences. This MRI I was not so lucky however. I scheduled my MRI for 8pm, which I always do- this time I got there and they were running over an hour behind due to emergency MRI’s that had to be done. By the time I went in and completed my scan, the IT guy had already gone home. No CD for Ryan. To add to the stress my oncologist was at a conference yesterday so I got to wait a whole extra day to find out if my lease on a ‘normal’ life had been renewed for another 8 weeks.
I got home after my MRI and had dinner and was relaxing when i scratched the back of my neck. What I felt sent me in a tumble of anxiety, flashbacks and panic. There was a pretty significant 2-3 cm lump and a smaller tiny pimple like lump on the back of my neck where I know there are tons of lymph nodes. Now with Primary brain tumor (meaning the cancer started in your brain and did not metastasis there) there is almost no chance for the cancer to leave your brain. That is not what I was worried about.
When I signed up for the chemo, radiation and trial drug I had to sign about 30 documents and waivers saying that I acknowledge the potential for almost any and everything under the sun to occur post treatment and one of the things they made pretty clear was the fact that all these treatments could in turn cause another form of cancer to occur, typically a blood born cancer which most always affects lymph nodes… Well when you have Grade IV cancer everything is bad news- especially a lump that turned up out of nowhere. After stressing, worrying and trying to calm myself down I finally was able to go to sleep- for a couple hours. I ‘woke’ up around 6:15 and just laid in bed till around 7. I tried eating a little breakfast, but that was not going to happen until I got some answers so I went down to visit Dr. E and asked her opinion on whether or not I should go see my oncologist. I was able to see her around 9:30 and after about 5 minutes she assured me that it is nothing serious and most likely drainage from both the dye they inject into me during the MRI to help differentiate tumor from normal tissue along with some dry skin/acne I had on my scalp. This was obviously a huge relief, but now I had to wait another 24 hours to hear about how my scan looks.
Today I went in for my second ever teleconference with my oncologist (this saves me from having to drive to LA and back) and he gave me the all clear! Another 2 months of life granted. Each MRI I get a little more confident, but not over confident. Each clean scan adds a notch on belt and better vision of the future. Hearing him say the word “stable” is like the most magnificent music to my ears. I consider myself lucky, I get Christmas every 8 weeks!
When I was panicking about the lump on the back of my neck I lost my focus. I have been so strong through all of this and I let a tiny little bump sway me. I kept telling myself it was nothing and I think I honestly did believe myself. I have been pretty much spot on with everything that has to do with this cancer from the second I realized something was off in my head, but this bump threw me. All I could picture were those pages of documents talking about all the potential for other cancers and I got scared. I was genuinely scared for the first time since the day I got the call from my primary care doctor at work that hot day in October. After calming down I started thinking of the road that I have been on for the last 14+ months. Things have been terribly hard and I was able to stay strong. I went through a craniotomy, radiation, 2 chemos, blood counts almost too low to function, countless IV’s, swallowed about a million pills, dealt with all the side effects that go along with it while trying to find a job, work and maintain some type of normalcy and all that time I never flinched. Yes I got nervous, but nothing like how I was after feeling that lump. It took me a while to settle down, but once I did I realized what I had forgotten. I forgot the most important thing that has kept me strong this whole time and that is the fact that I have already accepted my fate- no matter what it is. The day I found out what type of cancer I had was rough, but before the sun set that night about a year ago I made a vow that no matter vow to myself that no matter how this plays out I will stay strong till the end, not only for myself, but for those I love and those whom love me. I forgot that in a moment of weakness and once I remembered what I had forgot I felt peace again.
I want to say a special thanks to everyone at Stupid Cancer for sharing my story (if you haven’t yet, check them out on FB at https://www.facebook.com/stupidcancer or www.stupidcancer.org and thanks for all who have supported me from day one and those who are just joining! Have a great weekend everyone! :)
“The harder the struggle, the more glorious the outcome.”