Things go on, with reminders that there is no certainty…

…at least not about my health.  Or rather my Health.  Friday before last was one of those days when I had to admit my life is a little bit more complicated than most.  It was time for another brain MRI and CT scan (chestabdomenpelvis, as the CT techs say it).  The schedule for these is every 12 weeks–that is, every 4 chemo cycles.  The March ones showed the tumors shrinking a bit, which in the brain was an expected result of January’s stereotactic radiosurgery, and in the sternum and lung was less expected and quite positive, because even just no more growth would be quite good enough.

The June scans were not as clear-cut as in March.  The sternum met might be a millimeter or so bigger, and is “more dense,” whatever that means–my oncologist didn’t know whether that was good or bad.  The one in my lung is unchanged.  Most of the brain lesions have shrunk away, one is notably smaller than in March, but the biggest one did not shrink and in fact it might be showing more swelling around it, and more activity, than in March.  Again by a couple millimeters.  The best part of both reports was that they did not show anything new.  So overall, they were pretty good.  But with some ambiguous bits.  The take-home summary was: “good, with two small question marks.”

The brain question mark got us an appointment this week with the neurosurgeon, and the suggestion (from the oncologist) of a follow-up brain MRI in 4 weeks.

Meeting with the neurosurgeon was reassuring overall (though I still can’t shake the image of him as the fast-talking smart jock on the high-school schoolbus). He said he “wasn’t very impressed” by the comparison March-June (this is good) and he would be fine with following up on the original 12-week schedule, or 8 weeks, but certainly not less than that since these things are slow and another ambiguous result would be not worth the hassle.  The changes could be just post-radiation reaction.  The bigger the original lesion the less likely it is to go away and the more likely it is to just stay the same size overall.

So we got to see some cool MRI images of my brain–thank you, anatomy & physiology classes!–and I’ll have my next brain MRI in early August.  Meanwhile we just wait, watch out for symptoms (which I don’t have at all), and wonder whether anything bad is going on.  As Augustus says in The Fault in Our Stars, “Apparently, the world is not a wish-granting factory.”

Meanwhile chemo continues to be quite bearable, I’m getting IV Vitamin C, the boys are out of school, the fireflies are amazing at night in the field below our house, and I’m eating ice cream way too often.

5 thoughts on “Things go on, with reminders that there is no certainty…

  1. Gina Qualliotine

    This post makes me think of the following quote.

    “To learn which questions are unanswerable,
    and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”

    from Ursula Le Guin, in ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’

    May Love’s great spaces be our resting place in uncertainty.
    Thanks for the love you are with me.

  2. Shelly

    Good quote from Ursula K. LeGuin: a reminder to all of us. Though I still don’t like the question marks!

    Glad you are continuing to tolerate chemo without a huge reduction in quality of life, so you can enjoy family, fireflies, and ice cream. I had ice cream for lunch twice recently–something I don’t recall ever doing before. If the ice cream is good, it is totally worth every delicious bite (lick?).

  3. Alice Raymond

    Keep enjoying the ice cream! I also loved that Ursula LeGuin quote.

    And lots of love to you,


  4. Beth Moughty

    Hi Ellen,

    Thank you for your updates and so glad the chemo feels bearable. Your mention of fireflies makes me think of our time together at Lake Michigan! Sending you lots lof love (and some virtual baguettes) from the Stella-Moughty gang.


  5. Wendy G

    Thank you for the update — glad that you are symptom-free and that progress was unimpressive to your oncologist. Here’s to ice cream and fireflies… sending you love.

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