Limbo Land: aka scan results are ambiguous

Walked into the Cancer Center yesterday, which I now love - because I CHOOSE to, and sat down in the waiting room. And sat, and sat, and talked to a man next to me with MS whose wife was on her 4th year of treatment and he was so cheerful and wonderful, and sat. Then we sit down to hear from the doctor. But first the PA comes in. "Night sweats, trouble breathing, pain, fatigue?"

"Nope, nope, nopity-nope."

Does she know something about my scan that means I should be in pain? Do I feel sick? I still need to catch my breath going up the stairs, does that really count?

Calm down, deep breath.

I sit on the examining table and concentrate on looking at her hair as she palpates my neck and underarms.

She dyes it red, interesting.

She leaves and we go back to sitting. Dr. Varpas comes in and pulls himself to the desk.

"Well, I have been looking at the radiology report from your scan on Thursday. They seem to have some concern about the node that we noticed that is next to your vena cava, the other one near your spleen seems to be stable. But when I look at the larger one on the screen, it seems very faint to me."

My husband, in his white coat and scrubs, jumps in. "Yes, I looked as well and it has low attenuation."

The two of them look at each other. Dr. Varpas answers George. "Yes that is exactly it, it doesn't look like a node, the attenuation is so faint."

No reason to get mad, they just speak the same vocabulary. But I would like to know what they are talking about.

I interject. "What is attenuation?"

Dr. Varpas answers me. "It means that the node is not showing up very distinct, the intensity is not very high."

"It almost looks like bowel."

"Yes, I thought about that as well." Dr. Varpas turns back to me. "So I was thinking that we could have an endoscopy and they could do an ultrasound of the area and perhaps aspirate it while they are in there, it is right near your duodenum."

Here we go again.

"Well, I have some experience with endoscopies - I did several of them before I was diagnosed while the GI department was trying to figure out why I was in pain."

Dr. Varpas looks confused. "Oh really?"

George jumps in and the two of them go into hospital speak. "Hylar scan...HIPA...Endo...Fall 2006...pre-diagnosis." I tune out.

Dr. Varpas had never read my history on this, what the!??

Watch it.

I am glad that he is reading my medical history now, two years after we started working together.

Silence deepens in the room as Dr. Varpas scrolls through the dozens of notes and tests that I have had. He finishes reading and leans over in his chair, hunkered onto himself, his eyebrows furrow in concentration as he thinks, staring at the floor.

All of that brain power and experience devoted to me, wonder what he is going to decide.

"Well, I don't want to radiate anything unless we know that it is actually Hodgkins. Neither one of the nodes are in a place that is easy to get to."

George jumps in. "Couldn't you go through the ---."

"No, you would have to go through the liver."

"I have built a fortress around them!" I laugh.

Dr. Varpas smiles, "It has been over a year since your last PET scan, let's schedule one of those for three months out." He looks at me. "I saw all of the tests you did for your hormones. I know you want to get back to your life and put this behind you. I want to minimize the amount of radiation you are receiving and waiting three months would not change anything in terms of treatment, if we need to do that."

George leans forward. "If the scan came back positive, what would the treatment be?"

Whatever, that is a, "what if?" I don't listen to Fear in that form.

I tune out.

I should probably take this opportunity to apologize for being such a obdurate and obstinate patient when we first met.

Dr. Varpas finishes answering George, leans back into his chair, sticks his legs out, and starts gesticulating. "Though, I don't think you've got it. In my gut, it doesn't feel right. Just like when you came back from India and there was all of that PET positive activity in your gut. I feel like we are chasing scar tissue."

"Okay, three months and then a scan. Feels good, George?" I look over at George, he looks twitchy and unhappy.

"I would rather know what we are dealing with now, but I guess we have no choice." I hold his hand and squeeze.

Dr. Varpas stands up.

Time to say something.

"Dr. Varpas, thank you so much for all that you do for me. I know I have been obstreperous at times, and I apologize for that."

He reaches down and takes my hands in his, giving them a squeeze. "Oh no, it is my pleasure. See you in three months."

We walk out of the room behind him.

Here we are again, back in the world of limbo. I have three more months of not knowing anything. Three months of freedom and not feeding the Fear and living each moment NOW.

I turn to George. "I should make myself a crown and have Limbo Queen written on it. This whole thing is hilarious."

"Or something."


(The names I use are the same pseudonyms I used in my book, I Dreamt of Sausage. Thank you for reading this as I continue to flush through all that is happening to me.)