September 5, 2020 – Much of our August was spent at the West Cancer Center: blood tests, CT scans, an ultrasound, another CT scan, and, finally, a wonderful needle biopsy. Throw in a couple visits with my oncologist, further lab tests, along with a PET scan, and August was a month I’d like to do without.
Why all the visits? You may recall from my last health update on July 6th (Doctor, Doctor…) that – since early June – my doctors were monitoring a blood mass in and around my right adrenal gland.
|September 3rd sunset: a reminder
to enjoy the beautiful things
life has to offer.
Here’s an excerpt:
Now For Something Completely Different
There was, however, something completely unexpected on the scan results. A fairly large mass – about 2 1/2 inches – on or around my right adrenal gland. The adrenal gland sits on top of each kidney. The radiology oncologist called it a heterogeneous mainly low density mass. Basically, it looks like I had some internal bleeding either in or around my adrenal gland.
Testing, testing…1, 2, 3…testing…
On August 7th I had an ultrasound to determine if there was any tissue with the blood mass surrounding my adrenal gland. The ultrasound did show tiny tissue fragments, so I immediately underwent a needle biopsy utilizing CT scan technology.
A needle biopsy is exactly what it sounds like. An area of skin is deadened and a (somewhat) long needle inserted into your body at the spot to be biopsied. Unfortunately, you remain awake during the entire procedure. It’s painful and weird – the only way to describe it.
Note: The biopsied tissue samples were sent off for detailed genetic evaluation (biomarkers).
A little over a week later, on August 18, 2020, I had a PET scan. Doctors use a PET scan to determine if any cancer – metastatic melanoma, in my case – has spread to other parts of your body, including your lymph nodes.
PET scans utilize a radioactive tracer that is injected into your bloodstream. To be effective, your body must be completely at rest for an hour or more.
Glowing in the Dark
Here’s a brief description of what a PET scan is like:
I shuffled into a cold room with a hard terrazzo floor. In the room’s middle sits a large scanning machine. Plastic. Metal. Intimidating. At this point, I was exhausted. Ready to go home. I hadn’t eaten in over 8 hours, and I’d had no caffeine today. None! It was almost three in the afternoon.
Plus, I had just spent the past hour sitting in a small dark room doing nothing. Nothing. Just sitting, trying to relax, while radioactive isotopes coursed through my body…I think I slept for 15 or 20 minutes while in that little room.
After being strapped down to the hard plastic “bed” of the scanner, I was inserted into the metal and plastic donut hole several times. Many people refer to CT and PET scanners as donut fillers. Another 25 minutes went by before we finished.
Now the hard part
The waiting game began a few weeks ago and will be over soon. At that point, we’ll know the biomarker testing results and the results of my PET scan. Then we’ll know the next direction in my journey.
Thanks, as always, for listening.
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