PET Scan #3 Results

This will be short and quick, because I am headed out to Canada in the morning to fish for fish (not people which is my normal job), but we are aware many of you have been praying and wondering for the results of Margaret’s PET scan last week. She met with her oncologist today, and he went over the highlights of the results among other things.

The good news – the very good news! – is that nothing “lit up” in the PET scan, suggesting that the chemotherapy and radiation have been effective and the metastatic cancer is not active. Thus, she was graded out as “no evidence of active metastatic cancer.” She is scheduled for a bone scan tomorrow to look for cancer that would not show up on a PET scan … so the champagne is still on ice.

There were some new concerns, which is what we have come to expect with cancer. There is some suspicious activity in her liver and spleen, but her oncologist said “not to worry” about that. Right! We spent some time this evening googling medical terms and gleaning more information. It’s hard not to be a little bit anxious frankly.

I will stop short of interpreting all this for you and how it is impacting us emotionally and spiritually, but suffice it to say that we are generally pleased with what we learned today, but are definitely still “cautiously optimistic.” Bottom-line? Nothing we learned today should change her treatment or prognosis, and we believe that is basically a good thing. Maybe. Probably.

So she lives to fight another day!

The (Initial) Results Are In!

This is from Margaret:
Dear Family and Friends,
Yellow brick road update but first I must say thank you SO much for your faithful prayers, support, encouragement, and love. We have come a long way and uphill with twists and turns and I simply could not be where I am today physically, spiritually, or emotionally without you.
The great news this week is that the surgery and chemo have been effective and my PET scan is littered with beautiful language including words such as “resolution, no evidence, less intense, improvement, and favorable!” I am grateful even though I had seriously hoped for the words to read “NED” (no evidence of disease).
However, my unexpected journey never seems to fall short of crazy hairpin turns or steep inclines. The newest being that next week will be yet a few more tests and an additional biopsy to rule out thyroid cancer. I am confident that with your continued prayers and support we will get through this with flying colors. To be completely honest, I am growing a tad bit weary of this routine and imagine it may be a lot like running a marathon (or ultra marathon) and getting to that point in the race which is well past halfway yet it is clearly not time to sprint yet. But I know we’ve got this.
Many of you may be aware that my first PET scan in early December last year was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life – mostly because I did not know what to expect and the process of isolation for the injection followed by an hour of waiting in a darkened room seemed to be the key to unlocking the big door which heretofore had held my fears mostly in check. I am so happy to share with you how this scan was different. Even though I was not allowed to have anyone with me in that dark room I managed to have ALL of you! Once the nurse left and I knew I could not manage a traditional type prayer or scripture recitation on my own behalf without completely losing it so I started down my list of things to be thankful for and as your names and faces would appear in my head and my heart it was like the proverbial floodgates were opened and silly old fear did not stand a chance. I thought of all of the prayers, meals, cards, visits, flowers, emails, hugs, offers of support, love, connections with friends old and new and there you all were in that tiny dark room as real to me as the heated blankets I was wrapped in to keep me warm. You kept coming so fast and furious I tried to go alphabetically and then geographically and like one of my favorite hymns describing God’s mercy “from east and west and north and south” you all came. It felt like a miracle to me. Thank you.
Every time I have gone in for “big” tests since this journey began I have been asked about a living will or power of attorney or some other terribly depressing thing I have had to say “no, but I know I should.” However, I do have my jellybean list in place!!! If you think I am referring to my beloved jelly belly jelly beans you are only partly correct and for clarification I offer you this:
The following devotion was sent to me and touched and inspired me profoundly and I would like to share it with you:

The story goes like this:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water.  In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In about twenty minute she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee into a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, “What’s the point, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity… boiling water – but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after being through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked the daughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

With a profoundly grateful and hopeful heart,


Six Rounds of Chemotherapy? Check. Done.

Today on Maundy Thursday, when Christians remember The Last Supper, Margaret successfully completed the last of her planned six rounds of chemotherapy. Praise the Lord and yippie!

She is just shy of giddy and said it feels “surreal.”

If the pattern holds, she will feel good (“good” being a relative term!) for a few days and then crash. She’s lost hair, weight and red blood cells (anemic) and has experienced nausea at times, but avoided many of the classic side effects which make chemotherapy difficult. She is easily fatigued, but her spirits have generally remained high; her outlook, positive; and her will to fight this nasty disease has been strong. Her eyes water and her nose runs constantly, but – dammit! – she still has her fingernails.

She has been doing all the right things recently: eating more and better, walking daily, going to oncology therapy on a regular basis, taking acupuncture, and, as of last week, mixed in Reiki.

Next week, she will have a bone scan on Tuesday and PET scan on Wednesday. The doc gives her a 95% chance for positive results on both of these tests. This, of course, is encouraging, but we aren’t popping champagne yet. At Stage 4, the goal is not to kill all of the disease and eradicate it completely, but to knock it back into remission – and keep it there, so that she may live with “no evidence of disease.”

Assuming a good report next week, she’ll move on to several weeks of daily radiation. She also will soon begin hormone therapy, which she will do for the rest of her life. They will continue to treat her for side effects, such as weakened bones. Since she has an aggressive form of breast cancer (Grade 3), we were told that she will have a PET scan every three months for at least three years. So be it.

Even though she is planning and we are all praying for a good results next week, we did ask what happens if the reports are not so positive. We were comforted to hear the oncologist say that we would cross that bridge when, and if, we come to it, but “Don’t worry. There are 12 different things to try.” So … we won’t worry! Gulp. (I think Jesus said something similar about worry in the Sermon on the Mount.)

Again, thank YOU all for your prayers and support on Margaret and me – and the girls. I want to thank specifically my church, Wellshire Presbyterian Church, for tolerating my fragile mental and spiritual state during this sacred Lenten Season. You have all been great! We love you!

It’s getting late … As Hozier sings, it’s time to “Take me to Church …”

Oh, and my mother is in town, so I must say on her behalf, “Go Duke!”