I will have my routine PET Scan tomorrow, June 24. The good news is that I have not had a scan since the end of last year. Apparently, my oncologist is beginning to feel that I am doing well enough that the time between scans can be increased, even if by a month or so. For me, it's another right of passage.
I continue to experience these "baby step" moments -- just another part of my reality as a cancer survivor. It seems almost like yesterday when she announced the end of my Herceptin treatments. I was totally overwhelmed. Then, I realized I would only go to MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando every 12 weeks for my Zometa treatments. I was "buying" back more time to live. (The good news just keeps getting better.) Even my trips every 4 - 6 weeks for port flushes and labs (I visit South Seminole Hospital for these quick fixes.) have become so routine that I need to check my calendar to make sure I don't miss an appointment. Actually, appointment is not really accurate since I do not have a "real" date or time set for these trips. I merely show up when it is convenient for me and the staff at South Seminole's Infusion Department are very accommodating. My life as a breast cancer survivor has definitely changed for the better.
My overall health is good. I feel great most days, except for those times when my "chronic pain" begins to settle in. I could complain about the hip / lower back pain (the left side is still the worst) but truth is, I am so happy to not be living at pain levels of 10 or higher that right now, I am living the good life. I still reach for breakthrough pain medications, but much less. (My femur breaks reached 100 on the standard scale of 1 -10. And after my lung surgery, I lived 24/7 with level 10 pain all the time.) I personally find that exercise is a wonderful pain reliever. My basic cycling class has become a favorite especially since my hip pain disappears for the 30 minutes I am on the bike plus an additional time period afterwards. I still do a 60 minute aqua fitness class -- although there are times I stop at 30 or 40 minutes depending upon how I am feeling. This class is later in the day (5:45 p.m. on Monday) so there are times when I am already tired but still attend the class. I simply do what I can. Then I do Zumba. Yes, for those of you who cannot even imagine this -- I love Zumba! It's fun! It's all about having fun and no matter what you may think, it can be done at a low impact level. Trust me. I am usually standing next to an 80 + year old woman (a wonderful Y friend) and the two of us are enjoying class. We move slower than others -- our jumps (we don't jump at all) and our quick turns (we don't do those either) -- we have our own unique styles. However, here's the great news. Despite the fact that I may not be jumping high or moving fast, I am still getting great benefits from these Zumba classes. Cardio pulmonary wise I am definitely doing something right. My cardiologist tells me to keep "doing that Zumba thing." And my pulmonary doctor was amazed by my latest test results. My lungs are doing well -- I have very mild asthma which is basically exertion oriented. (I use my emergency inhaler before classes to keep my airways open.) I have been able to see test results go from severe to mild. When I say I feel good, I know that exercise can and does make a HUGE difference.
As usual, I am doing the PET prep diet. I call it the extreme Atkins diet -- all protein. No carbs. And no exercise or exertion since as a diabetic, my glucose levels may be lower than usual today. Oh and by the way, I never take these tests for granted. Like any "normal" person or as a "normal" cancer survivor, I am still having a slight anxiety attack. Since I cannot exercise, I have been walking (slowly) around the house today both going crazy from boredom as well as feeling a tinge of anxiousness. I would be totally "insane" if I did not exhibit some degree of concern. These PET scans are scary. They are designed to see all the way down to the cellular level within the body. Usually, if I get any written comments from the reviewing physician, it is a note that there is more arthritis. (It is not written that way, since doctors "love" using medical lingo.) But, as Dr. Shah (my medical oncologist) told me back in the very beginning, "arthritis does not kill." The pain from it may seem that way, but after years of reports indicating more locations of this condition - - quite honestly, I have come to embrace it. I even developed a "chant" where the techs and I would actually say things like "Let's hear it for A for arthritis."
Tomorrow, I will be in a very cold room (they will wrap me in warm blankets) and I will be spending about an hour waiting for the nuclear drug to go throughout my body. I will be hanging out waiting. Just waiting. (Cancer patients do that a lot.) Then, I will walk over to one of two rooms where they have the PET scan. This part of the entire process does not take very long. It is shorter every time as technology improves. After I am done, I will find my way to a place where I can get a bite to eat. My usual post PET diet is a large amount of carbs. (Pancakes, lots of bread, fruits of all kinds.) I will eat my way through "carb-ville" and enjoy every moment of it.
Then, the true test of patience begins. I wait .. again. This time. for the test results.