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Too Many Health Surprises for One Week

All the places Stage 4 Breast Cancer likes to make repeat visits

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

Some weeks are fluid and routine. This past week moved like molasses or honey — thick and slow. Every day seemed perilous.

It started last Monday with an early morning brain scan. I met a new, cool nurse who was tall enough to hang my clothes on a hook in my MRI locker, which was designed for someone at least three inches taller than me.

My brain MRI was quick with the musical accompaniment of Earth, Wind, and Fire. The singer has a falsetto voice. It penetrates the hammer-like MRI sounds with disco music.

The music makes me want to smile and dance, but if I shift my face and body during the MRI, the images get distorted.

A lesson I learned the hard way.

After the brain MRI, I was looking forward to my final meeting with the ARNP I’ve worked with for five years. She was moving on to pursue a research post-doc.

She was more serious than usual last Monday — anxious to view my brain scans with me.

There was a new disturbing development.

A black spot on my brain stem.

I’ve had MRI brain scans every four months since 2016 — after my breast oncologist noticed 15 lesions all over my brain. On that occasion, I got 10 days of radiation over two weeks.

I’m afraid of new brain lesions appearing. I can’t have any more brain radiation. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime treatment.

If this new lesion keeps growing or if I get more metastases, I’ll need an alternate treatment like a gamma knife procedure.

My instinct on Monday wasn’t to cry when I got the bad news. Instead, I got quiet, thanked my ARNP, went home, and watched the rain fall outside the window.

It took me two days to realize I’m in a much better position this time around. My care team is on top of the situation. I have an appointment for another brain MRI in six weeks and I’ll be transferred to the care of a seasoned brain oncology doctor.

I wish that was the end of the story, but it’s not how life works.

Later that week, I got a call from my breast oncology ARNP alerting me of something of concern in my left lung. She referred me to a lung oncologist the next day.

I liked the lung oncologist immediately. She invited me to look at my lung scans. The oncologist noted they weren’t showing the typical dark spots of cancer.

The left lung looked hazy or cloudy in one place. I remembered the same types of growth all over my lungs in 2013, which turned out to be an allergic reaction to a chemo medication.

The new lung oncologist was certain my lung was either having an infection or an allergic reaction.

My care team had already temporarily removed the most toxic chemo medication from the infusions I received every three weeks. They also started me on steroids to see if the haze disappeared and scheduled me for another chest scan in a few weeks.

I’m hoping the next scan is unremarkable.

In the meantime, I’m not a big fan of steroids and their side effects, but my dose is minimal over 14 days. No reason to bitch about it, if it helps.

Because the lung oncologist wasn’t distressed, I didn’t worry about the lung as much as I fretted about my brain.

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

The third thing I found out wasn’t a total surprise. I wish I could have postponed an Osteoporosis diagnosis for ten more years.

Osteoporosis seemed age-related, but I’m sure having had cancer metastases in my bones in 2013 didn’t help.

I’ll keep walking long distances and add in weight training going forward.

I lightened up even more after talking to Frith and friends. It’s better when I can laugh and make morbid jokes about my cancer. I don’t share those with everyone. I suppose that’s not true if I share them on Medium.

I decided I’d wait to tell my family — particularly my Mom — about the recent developments.

Otherwise, Mom, deciding I’m in dire straits, will call every night to ensure I’m still breathing, and have no broken bones.

I’ll tell her what’s going on when I have more information and a treatment plan.

In the meantime, I trust my Doctors’ expertise and lean into all the darker chapters my body’s endured so far.

Amy Sea Photo adapted on Canva

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