Last Wednesday I had a PET scan to determine the success of my chemotherapy treatment so far. Yesterday at my 9th chemo appointment, I got the PET report. I already knew its contents, because my awesome doctor called me literally as soon as she got the results, which was last Thursday. But hearing news over the phone and seeing them in black and white print, particularly to a writer, are vastly different things.
I sat in my chemo chair while I waited for my Activase (they call it the port Drano) to clear my port line and read every word of that report.
Just to give you an idea of how serious this was (which I’ve tended to downplay): nodular sclerosing Hodgkin’s lymphoma stage 4, advanced disease involving lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm as well as the bone marrow. Meaning my previous PET scan was lit up like a Christmas tree. Now all the lights are off and nobody’s home. Not even a kitchen light for the dog.
Previously noted abnormalities have resolved, in nearly all lymph areas and in all bone marrow areas.
Enlarged lymph nodes have significantly decreased in size.
Spleen is unremarkable. Gall bladder is unremarkable. Kidneys are unremarkable. Bowel is unremarkable. Bladder is unremarkable.
In other words, there has been a near complete response to chemotherapy. Praise God. Vindication. I have never been so happy to be unremarkable in my life.
I have to say, sitting there surrounded by other cancer warriors, some whose stories I know and some whose stories I don’t, I couldn’t help but tear up a little. I am going to walk out of there after round 12, healed. I cannot definitely say the same for those other men and women. I have an aggressive doctor who found my disease in the nick of time and wasted no time at all getting me the proper treatment. Thankfully, many of those other Wednesday patients have Dr. McDonald as well, though I’m sure all the physicians at Georgia Cancer Specialists are fantastic.
This wonderful news of my insides being unremarkable comes in conjunction with some other really great news; this past Saturday, at my drama students’ final performance, I was presented with a beautiful bouquet of roses and Teacher of the Year! I was totally, completely surprised, not just because it’s my first year at Master’s Academy, but also because I just plain wasn’t expecting it. I have truly enjoyed pouring myself into these kids and am looking forward to working with them again next year. I feel like I have really come into my own as a teacher (after only ten years) and am comfortable in my own skin in front of my classes. I have also discovered that I really have a heart for middle schoolers, and I’ve had a blast teaching English to them as well as teaching drama to the little ones. It was so rewarding (and humbling) to be recognized for the hard work I’ve done this year, not just because I’ve soldiered through and still showed up even throughout multiple surgeries and chemo treatments, but because I honestly feel like I’ve done a good job and really taught these kids things that they will remember. After all, that’s what we hope for, right? To make a difference. To make our students’ educational lives just a little bit easier in the future. To instill motivation, work ethic, and maybe even a little grammar. And fun. Fun is definitely important.
Speaking of fun, I have to tell you guys this story, even though I know my mom will be totally grossed out and fuss at me for it.
You guys know I’m really only about 12 at heart. I love to kid around and have fun at my appointments, because, well, if you can’t laugh about the possibility of death, then what’s the point of laughing about life?
So at the end, when the infusion nurse was taking the needle out of my port, she was showing a few of the medical techs how to do it. I was holding my nose, because if I can’t smell the saline flush, it doesn’t taste nearly as nasty. The pharmacy tech asked me why I was holding my nose, and I told him it was so I wouldn’t be able to taste it. Then, once the needle was out, I said, “Really I just farted. It’ll hit you in a minute.”
Best part of the day. All three of them cracked up. I didn’t really fart, but wouldn’t it have been hilarious if I had?