Monday, July 6, 2009

Not over yet

After an agonizing wait of 12 days –with only Sarah Palin's flameout and the Jacko shocker to distract me from my worries– my doctors at Kaiser finally delivered results from my PET scan.

The PET scan I had on June 25 was meant to determine if I have any cancer remaining in my body following the radiation and chemotherapy treatments that I had last winter and spring. I had hoped to hear the outcome from the procedure a few days later, but when I emailed my lead radiation oncology doctor about the results, he said that we'd go over them during my upcoming appointment.

That appointment was on Monday. And as much as I would like to announce that the PET scan showed that the barrage of treatments chased all of the cancer out of my body, I can't.

My doctor –actually, the first of several doctors who examined at me on Monday– showed a little reluctance in delivering the news. At first, he held up the PET scan and said that it was mostly good but that the test also showed "activity in my jawbone."

It was left to me to scribble a question in my note pad to clarify what he had just said.

"You mean, CANCER activity, right?"

He nodded.

He quickly added that the fact that there is no evidence of cancer in my neck, lungs or elsewhere in my head is a very good sign –cancer cells have not established colonies of Cancer Condos in my body– but that still leaves the stubborn cluster of cancer cells in my jaw to address.

Five doctors then took turns probing my mouth with their fingers, followed by lowering a fiberoptic camera in my left nostril and down my throat. Images produced by that procedure clearly showed the abnormal region near my epiglottis, which presented as an ominous white circle surrounded by pink and reddish tissue.

Monday's news wasn't all bad. The doctors said that my airway looks much improved, and that means –if my head-and-neck doctor concurs with that assessment– I may be able to shed my trach sometime.

But it's also clear that this cancer bout is going into overtime.

At the end of today's appointment in the radiation oncology department, one of my doctors said that "only time will tell" what the outcome of this mess will be. I sensed an apologetic tone in his voice; I think we both realized that he uttered those very words to me when I saw him a few months ago.

"I'm sorry I don't have better answers for you," he said.

I scribbled my response in my notepad. "I understand," I lied.

The fact is, I don't understand why there's not more clarity in what's going on in my body.

I just know I need to keep on fighting. To paraphrase John Paul Jones and Karen Carpenter, I've only just begun.


  1. I know this isn't the news you were hoping for but I you have the strength and the courage to continue fighting. You have a great deal of supporters, myself included, that admire your determination and positive outlook. Chin up my friend, even if it's only to secure a scarf around your neck. :)

  2. That's all we can do ... keep fighting.

  3. As sure as there's a star in the sky, you're going to follow it, Paul. Grit those dentures, squint at Fate and carry on. -- Marvin

  4. Hi Marv! Thanks for the inspiration. Can I grit my dentures if I hold them in my hands? They haven't fit in my mouth since Thanksgiving. --Paul