(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo, from a week ago)
Several months ago, I noticed that I had stopped turning my head whenever I could avoid it. I positioned myself (and others) so that I could look at them “head-on.” I asked my kids to stand in front of me to talk, rather than turning around to face them when they called from behind. I had to concentrate more when driving.
When I mentioned my new limitations, my oncologist said we should do an MRI. Knowing that the health funds are reluctant to approve more expensive imaging, he sent me for a CT of my head and neck. I suggested that we should still try to get approval for the MRI, so he gave me a referral for that as well.
The CT did not show anything new. So, when the health fund approved the MRI, I questioned my doctor if it was really necessary. He said I should do it, so I did.
Last Thursday should have been an ordinary chemo day.
I had some concerns about increasing pain in my bones, but my markers were still normal and there seemed to be no other indication that anything might be wrong.
So as we sat in our oncologist’s office, reviewing my case, Moshe casually asked our oncologist if he had seen the results of the MRI of my head that I had done over two weeks ago. Hadassa will not send the results to me, only to my doctor. Except, they had not sent the results to my doctor either. So my oncologist picked up the phone, called the radiology department at Hadassa Hospital and then excused himself to go pick up the fax of the MRI report.
A few minutes later, he walked in, placed the report on his desk, and announced that he did not like what he read. He was not joking around.
He called Hadassah again. This time he asked the head of the radiology department to look over the images. The head of radiology confirmed the report.
I have cancer in my brain.
“We were not supposed to know about this yet,” my oncologist pronounced.
I have no symptoms that prompted us to do the MRI.
“We did the MRI by accident,” continued my doctor, clearly disturbed up by this unexpected turn of events.
My oncologist asked to see the disc from the MRI, so that he could examine the images himself. Then he wanted to consult with someone else. We needed to make some decisions, and he wanted to take some time to consider the options.
I listened, as if from a different dimension.
My oncologist informed us that we can live with this. Brain metastases can be controlled and remain stable for years.
But it will not go away.
I wanted to know how this might affect my 20-year plan.
“Well,” my oncologist responded, taking his time, “twenty years is a long plan….”
We already established that 20 years was a bit of a long shot.
“I promise you that I will let you know when things are imminent,” my doctor told me seriously, referring to the end stages of cancer for the first time.
“I want to know before that,” I responded, explaining, “When things are imminent, you cannot do anything.”
“I want to know when I hit the ‘two year mark'” I continued, “I want to know when I still have the time and energy to go to Disneyworld with my kids!”
My oncologist turned serious again, “We usually do not discover tumors this early, before they are symptomatic.”
Once again, my case is unusual and leaves us full of uncertainty.
“When we discover large tumors with severe symptoms,” he continued, firmly but quietly, “two years would be considered a long time.”
I could no longer hold back my tears. As they rolled silently down my cheeks, I reach for Moshe’s hand.
“I want you to listen carefully to what I said…” my oncologist began, but I cut him off.
I understood. My tumors are small. I have no symptoms. The tumors can be controlled. I can live with this.
But no matter how you cut it, tumors in your brain are just not good.
My oncologist canceled chemo.
My head was spinning.
I needed to stop crying.
I did not want to go “out there,” to the chemo ward, where I am always smiling, with tears streaming down my cheeks.
I needed to hold myself together until I could get home.
Then I could fall apart.
My head was swirling.
How was I going to tell my mother?
How was I going to tell my kids?