Thursday, February 08, 2007

For the Record

After I got done imploding with relief, I decided I wanted to read the radiology reports for myself. So I drove back down to Our Lady of the Damned yesterday to purchase copies (I couldn't have access to my own records on the same day as my appointment because my chart was still over in the oncology department, not at the medical records department which is the only place I can look at it). I had a sneaking suspicion the radiologist didn't actually say, "Yo! Dudes! Everything here looks EXCELLENT!"

And here's what I learned: the medical-speak word for excellent is "unremarkable."

Damn, here I spent my entire life trying to be remarkable and now I find out that's not exactly the best case scenario. Fortunately I failed. The report for the pelvis scan, for example, says this: "There are no enlarged lymph nodes. The rectum and loops of bowel and mesentery and urinary bladder and uterus are unremarkable."

Unremarkable! Well shoot, it may never win me a Pulitzer or make me rich, but my new motto is: Woooo fucking hoo, three cheers for unremarkable! May I dwell in the land of the unremarkable forever.

Anyway, back to the scans. The biggie of course was the chest scan, because my primary tumor was a mediastinal monster the size of a grapefruit, wedged between my lungs and heart, pressing against my superior vena cava until no oxygen passed through and pushing outward against my sternum until it cracked. Here's what the chest scan had to say:

"The MediPort is seen in the right chest wall. The chest is otherwise unremarkable. There is a small smooth low-density mass in the anterior superior mediastinum that may be residual thymic tissue. There are no enlarged lymph nodes. There is no hilar mass. The lungs are clear. There are no nodules or infiltrates or pleural fluid.

The previous CT thorax dated August 16, 2006 were reviewed. The previous exam showed massive lymphadenopathy in the anterior superior mediastinum. The recent exam shows this has decreased markedly. There is still a small anterior superior mediastinal mass."

So, there's still this small remaining mass. I know from what I've read that it's probably scar tissue, dead cells, and debris, the shriveled corpse of the evil Brenda. A PET scan might have been more informative, but I also know from reading that even PET scans tend to give false positive results on mediastinal masses, because there's often residual inflammation which lights up like a Christmas tree. Short of an open chest biopsy, the only way to know for sure if there are still a few active cancer cancer cells lingering within the small remaining mass is to watch it over time. This is an extremely aggressive form of lymphoma, and if the beast is still there it will move quickly to reclaim its lost territory.

So. I know that little piece of mass is still lurking in there, and that it may or may not be innocent. Statistically, there's about a 35% chance the cancer will recur, most likely within the first year. But there's also a 65% chance that it won't. In the absence of new symptoms my next scan won't be for another six months. Six months of waiting, followed by six more months of waiting, etc., ad infinitum. In the mean time I'm just going to concentrate on healing and revitalizing my unremarkable self, fixing my broken life, rebuilding my strength both inner and outer, doing whatever it takes so I can deal with whatever lies ahead.


This is what a totally unremarkable person looks like.


Blogger Alto2 said...

The radiology and pathology reports are excellent. I'm married to a doc and have read my fair share of my own and his own radiology reports. At one point, I read DS2's scans while he was in the hospital. So, unremarkable is med-speak for "good".

Now you can spend your time revitalizing your garden and warring with the roses.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Perhaps you can write a best seller about the experience, which will provide you with two bonuses: 1. Purge the ugliness from your psyche. 2. Pay the bills and then some!

Whatever you decide to do, I join the masses in breathing a sigh of relief for you. Look forward to seeing lots of rose photos in the blog - are you transitioning to a new blog, now that you're tumorless, BTW?

1:18 PM  
Blogger Lingual X said...

HURRAH! I'm joining the collective sigh and it sounds like a yogic lion's roar. HURRAH! Still cheering for you!

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, Liz, I love you! I'm so thrilled for you. I don't comment here much but I read regularly and you inspire me to be a better person. And yeah, I'd TOTALLY buy that book if you decide to (finally) write it.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Liz, have you looked at

Not sure what the implications are, but if it were me I'd cut out all sugar and starch from my diet and not overeat protein (gluconeogenesis)but keep it moderate and enough to sustain muscle growth. I'd even ditch it from WO drinks etc.

And congrats for your success at being unremarkable! Your old friends over at BRC have been following your story and cheering for you.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Artemis Rich said...

Congratulations on that thoroughly unremarkable news! We've all been sending you strength and healing thoughts from the Left Coast.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine spending a life trying to be remarkable. Things will happen. Character will out. Remarkableness will surface if it's there, without forcing.

Being unremarkable has its own pleasures, as you have discovered. Yeah, baby, it's all about the context.

Anyway, congratulations. I heartily wish you -- or at least your rectum and sternum and all those other parts -- a thoroughly unremarkable future. :)

8:53 AM  
Blogger Trasi said...

If you're "unremarkable", I'm pretty sure that's something I'd like to be.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Velma said...

You are fabulous, and magnificent, and best of all - unremarkable!

10:21 AM  
Blogger Mrs Pretzel said...

One of the most Unremarkable people I've ever "met"! I'm going to have to use that one day soon....


11:53 AM  
Blogger momo said...

May I say that you look absolutely unremarkable? I'm so happy for you!

11:03 PM  
Blogger KinnicChick said...

Fabulous. And I love the t-shirt! :)

12:57 PM  
Blogger Professor Zero said...

Fantastic! :-)

12:47 PM  
Blogger belledame222 said...

catching up...huzzah for unremarkable!!!!

12:00 AM  

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