Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Christmas in the books

All the hype, over again for another year, except for celebrating with my sister's family, which we will do today (Saturday). It was a nice holiday, though I felt rushed and disorganized about preparing for it, more so than usual. I just wasn't in the groove this year. In general I have been very disorganized, scattered if you will. This is ironic considering that I was diagnosed with ADD over the summer and have been taking medication to see if it helps. It actually has helped; I think my brain scatter is more a matter of the things on my mind pressing up against each other.
Over the summer I started to see a psychiatrist close to my office for medication management. As some of you know, I have been on and off antidepressants for several years, to mostly great effect. I've had periods where I've not taken them and functioned okay but not as well as I do on them. And after having post partum depression twice, I think that my brain chemistry is altered so it doesn't bother me to be on medication for it. Anyhow, I was having my primary care physician prescribe my meds. This worked "okay" until I switched to a particular med to avoid some side effects, and found myself turned into a screaming lunatic at home, especially to Carly, who was in the throes of terrible twos and was pushing Every Button. So, I got a recommendation for a woman who is local to my job, making it easier to book an appointment, and who is on my insurance (yay). She's been great, very supportive and knowledgeable. she explained why the med I was taking wasn't working for me and prescribed a different drug that has helped a lot. I decided at this time to also seek a therapist to deal with my life long emotional eating issues, which I have tried to address numerous times in the past but not successfully. The doctor recommended a therapist who practices in her office. I was hesitant to make the appointment, I think because I was still feeling hesitant about facing my problems. Then they found the nodule in my abdomen and everything changed... so I started seeing R, the therapist, to talk about my cancer issues. As we've worked together I have been able to lose a bit of weight, as I become more aware of myself, and of my eating. The holidays have been a bit of a setback, as I suppose they are for many people, but I don't feel defeated this year.
Unfortunately I have this cancer business hanging over my head. I did have a follow up scan in November, as I had planned. I didn't post about it here because it put me in a tailspin. This was the official impression of the abdominal scan: "High density lesion seen in the left posterior lateral flank musculature measuring 2.7 x 1.9 cm, previously 1.9 x 1.5 cm on 7/14/08. On 1/16/08 it measured 1.7 x 1.2 cm. Impression: SMALL INTRAMUSCULAR HYPERENHANCING MASS CONSISTENT WITH METASTATIC DISEASE, DEMONSTRATING MILD INTERVAL ENLARGEMENT". In other words, there is "something" in my left side, about where the ports went in at my nephrectomy. Because RCC (renal cell carcinoma) was found in my abdomen in August, this spot is also very suspicious. My oncologist contacted my kidney surgeon (Dr. Kaouk, who removed my kidney and who I love!) to discuss an ablation of the mass. Dr. Kaouk called me himself and explained the situation. The mass is somewhat diffuse, and is very close to my bowel. He is not comfortable introducing a needle to that spot because of the risk of puncturing the bowel. He and Dr. Rini decided to re-scan me in January to see if there are any changes, and to see if the area of bowel may move, so that they might be able to get to the mass more safely. If the new scan shows more disease elsewhere in my body, then it won't really matter whether the mass we now know about it near or far from anything. At that point I won't be treated surgically anymore but instead with systemic therapy. Luckily a lot of advances have been made in RCC treatments in the past several years, and I know people from the KCA patient forum who have lived for years on these therapies and are doing well. Still, it's not something to look forward to. Now, it is possible that what they are seeing isn't cancer, but Dr. Rini, very sensibly, says that he considers it to be RCC until proven otherwise. Dr. Kaouk sounds the same. This is very depressing to me but I know that it is their job to look at the worst case scenario, and I absolutely would not want to be given false hope. My sister works with oncologists and tells me not to worry too much about their pessimism for just these reasons. I know she is right but if I start to think about it, I feel like falling apart.
This is a situation that needs to be taken a step at a time, but it's really easy for me to progress myself mentally into the worst of all possible outcomes. I don't like to talk about it with anyone because I don't like burdening the people I love with more sorrow than they already feel. Jim in particular struggles with depression too, and I hate giving him fodder to add to it. But I'm holding a lot in, and I can see (with help from R, who is Wonderful) that keeping my feelings to myself is hurting me.
I am also trying to do things to feel like I have some control over what is going on in my body. I'm continuing to do visualization, to get rid of any cancer cells. When I was first sick, family members suggested I contact a local doctor who has gained renown as a faith healer. I was skeptical, and scared, and ultimately didn't pursue seeing him since I was doing well. I recently decided to google him, and found his web site. There I learned that he holds healing services on a regular basis, and will be having one next weekend near where we live. Jim is going to attend with me, while the girls have some quality time with my sister. I don't know what the outcome of this service will be; I'm hopeful that it can help me but I am being realistic enough to know that it doesn't always work for people. The service is on Jan 3rd, my CT scan is on the 12th and I see Dr. Rini on the 15th, so I will have more information in a few weeks.
Am I grasping at straws? Foolishly putting faith in anything I can get my hands on? Maybe. But I am willing to open my mind to all possibilities. And, if my doctors think that standard treatments are needed, I will take them. I will try whatever I can to make sure that I am here and healthy for as long as possible. I have too much to live for.
Hopefully my next post will be lighter - I still have a newly minted six year old daughter to celebrate!


Deborah said...

Dear Liz,

Our thoughts are with you. Good luck.


sherri said...

Liz, You are dealing with so much and yet you gracefully lead your life with plumb and concern for your family. I am so impressed by your "willing to open my mind to all possibilities" attitude. I will send PVs your way for the impending scan and consultation. Glad to hear R is such a help to you.

Sarah said...

Liz...I'm sorry to hear you are going through such a rough time. But I'm so impressed by your strength. Keep hanging in there. I'm sending pv's and keeping you in my thoughts.