Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013 — Bye, Bye Scans

So, this past Friday I go to see Dr. Lerner. It’s a routine, 3-month appointment, with port flush. I get the flush, I go for the blood draw (necessary because my port no longer works both ways - just going in, rather than taking out), then it’s out to the waiting room for a while.

Into the examining room, the nurse does the intake interview, and the doctor comes in. Dr. Lerner starts looking at the computer screen, reviewing my records. As he does so, he makes it clear he’s no fan of using the computer for patient records. (Those 3-inch-think files have been a thing of the past, in his office, for the past half-year or so.) He explains the insurance companies have forced it on them. He doesn’t like it much, because he has to spend half the time, during an examination, staring into the screen, rather than looking at the patient.

I have to say, I’ve noticed the same thing. It makes the doctor appear disinterested in the patient as a person, which I know is not the case with Dr. Lerner. It’s all about body language, and he knows it. He’s wishing he could do something to overcome that, but he can’t.

Anyway, here’s the real news. Towards the end of the examination, I ask him if he wants to schedule another scan. It’s been about 6 months, my usual interval these days.

Looking back over my records, there on the screen, Dr. Lerner says no, he doesn’t think so. With my last chemo in the spring of 2006, a recurrence 8 months later, but no change ever since, he thinks we can probably stop doing scans altogether. He still wants me to come in every 3 months for blood work and a physical exam (feeling for swollen lymph nodes in my neck and under the armpits), but he doesn’t think the CT or PET scans are called for any longer. If I experience any of the typical lymphoma symptoms in the meantime, I’m to call him, and he can always order a scan on that basis.

Wow. A milestone. These regular scans have been a part of my life for the past 7 years or so, but now that part of my cancer journey seems to be over. I take it to be a very good sign. The doctors don’t use the word “remission” with an indolent lymphoma like mine, but sometimes they do reach the point when it seems to make sense to just wing it without the scans.

Dr. Lerner also says I can get my chemo port removed, at long last. Those monthly “oil changes” (my port flushes) have likewise been a part of my life for the past 7 years.

It’s up to me, he says. I can call Dr. Gornish, the surgeon who put it in, and ask him to take it out. It’s a simple surgical procedure, done in his office. Local anesthesia: just some lidocaine, a quick cut with the scalpel, and he yanks the thing out.

I do feel some trepidation about that, because I’ve heard tales from other cancer survivors about how getting that port removed with just local anesthesia is sheer agony – brief, to be sure, but agonizing all the same. Mine’s down pretty deep, too. But then I’ve heard others say it’s not so bad.

Guess we’ll see about that. I’m eager to have it out. No more monthly needle sticks.

So, all in all, it’s pretty good news.

I'll take it.