Let's back up a bit because I feel as if I'm being a bit vague. My point in immortalizing this is not to garner sympathy, but rather to share this crazy journey in an effort to someday help others...in the meantime I'd rather not walk it alone.
I started having headaches a few months ago...but not just headaches, migraines. Ones that didn't seem to fade and instead increased in frequency. One afternoon it all became too much and I asked Jon to please take me to the ER. Once there they had to do a complete workup as I've never been diagnosed with migraines. I had the complete run of testing including a CT scan and MRI of my head. Nothing showed up that could be the cause of my headaches...but they did find a small meningioma (or brain tumor). I later learned that meningiomas are fairly common and almost always found incidentally. Mine was small (1 cm by 0.5 cm). It wasn't pushing on any other structures nor did it seem to be an issue at all. I was advised to follow up with my primary care doctor.
Thankfully I'm actually friends with my primary care doc because I used to work with her at Mercy. So I sent her a quick email asking what I should do next. She put in the requisite referrals to neurology to follow up on the headaches and neurosurgery to follow up on the meningioma. When I met with the neurosurgeon we devised a plan to simply monitor the tumor with another MRI in 6 months. If it grew at all in that time we'd remove it...if not we'd continue to watch it until it inevitably grew large enough to be removed, "but that could be when you're 60," he said. I casually mentioned my history of cancer and he thought that maybe it would be prudent for me to get a PET scan to rule out any metastasis as that is the only other thing this tumor could possibly be (besides the very likely benign meningioma).
Again I typed up an email to my MD and she put in a quick referral to oncology. They were on board with the idea of the PET scan and I got an appointment rather expediently. As the day of the scan approached I was more concerned with the 10 hours of fasting than the actual test results...but I did as they said and only consumed clear liquids for the day...even though I was working and probably a beast to deal with that day (sorry guys)!
The test was uneventful...boring and long, but not too awful. They inject you with radioactive glucose, you wait for it to work, and then you lay in the scanner while the machine looks at how your cells use the glucose. Cancer cells utilize glucose more readily and hence have more avidity (they light up) on the scan.
After the test Jon took me to get some food and we went home...sadly I couldn't come within a meter of the kids since I was still harboring some of the radioactive agent...so I drank plenty of water to clear it quickly (mama needed to hug her babies)!
The next morning I logged into my computer at work and pulled up my chart. At the facility I work at we are allowed to read our own chart (just not that of our family members). I found the scan from the night before and double clicked it to read the radiology report. I've been a nurse for a long time and read hundreds of radiology reports. I'd already read my CT and MRI reports numerous times. I understand the lingo...I usually scroll to the end for the concise reading. This time I read every word.
3 avid nodules. Three. In my left axilla. My lymph nodes. Three of them. One 11mm. One 9mm. One 6mm. "Further testing recommended to rule out active disease"...
I logged off my computer and walked to my charge nurse. I was crying. I could only motion him to a computer where I logged on again and had him read the report. Maybe I wasn't reading it right. His face said I was.
Ok...maybe it's nothing. Possible. Maybe it's something early. Also possible. Maybe it's everything...
So that's where we are at. This weird limbo in time between nothing and everything. I've spoken to my doctor and our next move seems to be biopsy. Let's see what those little lit up suckers are. Why are they lighting up so readily? Why only on that side? What are they trying to tell us?
I guess we'll find out...soon. Until then, we wait...and pray...and hope...and tell ourselves it's nothing, but prepare ourselves for the everything.
So maybe someday I'll look back on today as the day that started it all...and maybe I'll look back on today as the day that was nothing. Either way today was a stark reminder that life is all those little Hallmark sayings wrapped up in the mundane moments. It is precious. It is short. It is meant to be lived...and enjoyed...and loved. It is dirty, and ugly, and difficult. Life. Is. Everything.
So whatever these three little nodules say...I mean to live through it. Whether it's nothing, or everything. Life is meant to be fought for...and I'm ready for a fight.