Those of you who know me or who have been following my blog for a while know that my wife, Kate, was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer back in October. Life since then has been a series of medical appointments and chemo sessions. For the most part, a lot of these appointments have become routine, except for the ones with the Oncologists. These, for some reason, remain scary.
Although Kate responded noticeably well since the very first chemo treatment, with her hypercalcemia-induced nausea being brought under swift control with the Pamidronate and her breast lump shrinking significantly, I still half expect to get bad news when we visit the oncologist. We've learned that no two cancer patients are alike in all their symptoms, how they respond to treatment and in the way the disease behaves in the body. Further, just because the breast tumour has shrunk is no guarantee that the metastaces (or "mets" in cancer parlance) in her liver and bones have shrunk and no guarantee that the cancer hasn't spread to other parts of her body.
Yesterday, we had a big appointment with Dr. G, Kate's medical oncologist. We were getting the results of a round of imaging, ECG and blood tests that would compare progress from the tests they did in October after she was diagnosed. In the days and hours leading up to the appointment, I felt so nervous I was sick. Kate has gotten noticeably stronger in the last few weeks, but what if the pain medication was masking what was going on inside her body? The doctors have her on cutting-edge treatment, but chemo is hard on the body and her cocktail is hard on the heart in particular. What if complications arise from that - will that jeopardize their ability to treat her? Though trying to stay hopeful, these types of questions keep popping into my head and fear's icy hands give me a deep body massage.
Fortunately, my fears proved to be unfounded and we got only good news yesterday. The scariest of her mets are the ones in her liver. You have only one liver and without it, well, you simply cannot survive. The cat scan results show that her liver is still riddled with cancer, but the largest reference tumours, one of which was as big as a large apple, have shrunk by as much as 75 percent, and that is just after two rounds of treatment. The bone mets are somewhat ambiguous since the CAT scan can't really differentiate between tumours and healing bones. The radiology report said the bone mets are worse, but Dr. G told us that we shouldn't be concerned and that they expect wacky results for the bones because the test results are hard to interpret.
So, things are moving in the right direction. Dr. G., who in our first meeting said he doesn't sugar-coat things (not to say he's mean - indeed he is extremely compassionate), said we have every reason to be optimistic that this can be managed for many years. Though I believe him and hope and optimism are more my companions than fear, I expect I will always be sick with worry when we visit the oncologist. That's just the way I'm built.