Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy days are here again

My week of medical appointments is over now; I had something going on 5 days out of 7.

On Saturday I finally had my "annual" mammogram; it was originally supposed to be in early March but it was scheduled for right after my incision opened so I rescheduled it. It was fine, as it always is... not a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning but I don't find it painful either. Luckily I got results back a couple of days later, and they were normal. The tech was cracking me up though. She was from another location, subbing at my location for the day. My location is one of the few in the system that doesn't use digital films yet, and she was having to adjust back to that. Now I understand why it's easier to get an appointment there! I wondered aloud to Jim later as to why they haven't upgraded the machinery there. He pointed out that they've had several floods in their building over the past few years; radiology is in the basement of the building and gets completely trashed each time. Trashed like they have to close for a few weeks. So I guess I can stick with them and old technology or go to another location for digital. Not really a super big concern for me right now, though.

Monday was CT scan day; I also had bloodwork drawn, both for my kidney and also a Vitamin D retest. I was diagnosed as having a low level of D back in January and have been on supplements. The techs didn't do too badly with my shy veins; two pokes at the lab and three at CT. And almost no bruising after the fact; not sure how I got away that cleanly.

On Tuesday I saw the psychiatrist that does my medication management. We talked about how to talk to the girls if/when my health situation were to become more serious or grim. She shared an interesting caterpillar story as an analogy for dying and death. Weirdly, at home that night, Rebecca started talking about caterpillars and their live cycle, as they are studying them in science. I talked a little bit with her about it but decided not to press the analogy part of it. As for my meds, we're going to try increasing my dose of the med I take for ADD because I haven't been feeling like it's helping, especially at work. Well, it's helping some, because I don't space out and avoid work like I used to want to, but I still have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time. It's really difficult for me to know, though, how much of that lack of focus is me, and how much it is the nature of my job. Our area has gone through some restructuring recently, and I am hoping that as a result, I can focus more deeply on fewer project areas than I have been working on in the past. There is a lot to learn but it's impossible to get into anything in any depth when I have 100 other fires coming at me at any given time.

On Tuesday evening my primary care provider's office called. The Vitamin D results were in and my level increased but only slightly. The medical assistant who was calling wanted to know if I'd taken the prescribed supplements. I absolutely did... not messing around with this since there are increasing links to Vitamin D deficiency and, oh, cancer, among other things. My NP recommended I double up on the supplement for 8 weeks, go back down to the regular level, and have my blood re-checked again in July. I asked my online mommies about this and learned that there is a link between obesity and Vitamin D not being retained in the body. Sure enough, a quick web search turned up this article, whose URL I forwarded to my NP. I know I need to get more sun, too; it is now my goal to do more walking... outside. Interesting that we've been told for all these years to slather on the sunblock before going outside, and now we're learning that by avoiding one health issue, we may be causing others.

Wednesday was my Big Day. I saw my oncologist, Dr. Rini, to get the results of the scans and discuss our next step.

A fellow doctor who works with him came in first, as always happens at a teaching hospital. I saw her on my last visit so it was nice to have some continuity. She asked if I'd gotten my test results yet. Ah, no, that's why I am here! So she and I reviewed them together. According to all three scan reports, I am ALL CLEAR!!! The scans showed no metastasis. The "only" thing noted was some tiny thing in my lung, which was never a concern to any of my docs, but which has SHRUNK since the scans in January to the point of being almost not visible. Awesome news! So awesome! I was so relieved and excited. Jim was happy too, though as usual he remained stoic throughout the appointment. The fellow wanted to see my open incision, what's left of it that is. She thought it looked good too, but commented that I would have "a divot" in my back. Okay by me if that is the legacy to remain NED. She told us that she's leaving the Clinic in June and going to Case Western Reserve next. She was really interested in my case, and was telling us about the possibility of there being some link between pre-eclampsia during pregnancy (which I luckily did not have, though hypertension has been a legacy of my first pregnancy) and kidney cancer. She was also excited that they have the tumor removed in February as a research tool, to compare with my original tumor... which is also "on ice" somewhere in the bowels of the Clinic. She said that maybe at some point they would be able to provide some clues, and hoped that I would consider allowing her to use them for study in the future. I absolutely would be willing to do that, and told her so.

Dr. Rini came in next and was clearly pleased for me. Interestingly, he was initially not in
favor of surgery to remove this last met, since I'd just had a the other surgery 6 months earlier and this was in a more difficult spot. But the surgeons felt it was a good idea and I am glad they did. I am going to have more scans and bloodwork in July, and will see him again on July 15.

I know I am only out of the woods for the next 3 months until my next scans, but for those 3 months I can consider myself NED. In fact, I told Jim that night that I am already 2 months NED since the surgery was on 2/23. I was prepared to hear otherwise, and had lots of good questions to ask based on all the knowledge I have gotten from my online kidney cancer patient communities. I am so grateful that I didn't have to ask any of those questions. I felt like I was "loaded for bear", yet not having that bear to shoot at wasn't a let down At All.

A couple of people have asked me if I think the mangosteen juice helped bring about this NED status. There is no way of knowing, but I believe it's definitely possible. After completing the 21 day challenge, I'm now "down" to drinking a half a bottle each day for a month. The juice is tasty so that isn't a problem; the gallon of water per day was the hard part, and that is thankfully past now. Another item to ponder is the healing service Jim and I attended in January. At the time I didn't "feel" anything happening, and since Spot was still there the following week, I didn't see any clear result of having attended and having been prayed on. But maybe... Dr. Nemeh's prayers may have stopped the growth of Spot so that he could be removed before sending out cancer cells to other parts of my body. Maybe the prayers helped my body to kill other cancer cells. Only time will tell if my "remission" continues. If it does, I will consider my "alternative therapies" to be at least part of the reason for my good health.

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