Friday, August 08, 2008

August 8, 2008 - Watch and Wait Some More

Late this afternoon, I have an office visit with Dr. Lerner. It’s a follow-up to my July 1 CT scan. I already know the results, as I walk through the office door, because the doctor phoned me while I was on vacation to let me know the results look pretty good.

As it turns out, the hardest part of today’s office visit is the port flush. The nurse has a tough time getting the needle into my implanted port, and has to call in another nurse to give it a try. It seems the port has shifted a little, with its business end no longer facing upward, towards the skin. At least, that’s what the first nurse thinks, as she sticks the needle in a couple of times and feels it hitting something hard – probably the metal casing of the port, she tells me.

Nurse number two does a lot of manipulating of the port with her fingers, before she gives it a try. Something she does must be right, because the needle goes right in. I suppose she managed to turn the thing, somehow. She even manages to get a blood return out of the port for my blood test – something that hasn’t always worked for me in the past. She has to flush it twice with the heparin in order to get the blood to flow backwards through the port and into the plastic tubing, so she can drain a little off into a couple of test tubes.

Both nurses are apologetic about having to stick me multiple times with the needle. They couldn’t be nicer. At least they saved me from getting stuck in the arm for the blood test, they reassure me (which is what’s happened in the past when they couldn’t get the blood return to work).

It’s really no big deal, I tell them – and I mean it. One of the realities of being a blood-cancer patient is that, after a while, needle sticks become routine. Back when I was new at this, I used to cringe a little each time, preparing myself for the worst. Now, I just roll up my sleeve (or, in the case of a port flush, unbutton the top buttons of my shirt) and say bring it on.

I get a favorable report from Dr. Lerner. He explains that the radiologist’s estimate of 17% growth in my abdominal mass (which we’ve been assuming is residual scar tissue) may sound like a lot, but that amount is not statistically significant. It’s within the margin of error. Measuring these things is not an exact science, he tells me. The radiologists use a little measuring widget on their computer screens, and it all depends on where they choose to click the mouse to indicate the outer border of the structure being studied, before they drag the mouse to the opposite edge to make the measurement. The border’s not always that distinct, so there’s a bit of scientifically- informed guesswork involved.

Dr. Lerner says he’d like me to come back in 3 months, and have another CT scan or PET scan a couple of weeks before. Which one it will be this time, he can’t say just yet. He wants to wait for my detailed blood test results to come back from the lab. The instant CBC (complete blood count) report they handed me looks fine, but there are more detailed analyses the alchemists down at the blood lab have to perform, and these take time.

So far, so good. Another three months, another scan. Watch and wait some more.

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