After the fourth round of chemo, it was finally time to check my treatment progress with a CT scan. The scan was scheduled for Thursday, the day before my usual chemo and doctors appointment to ensure the results would be ready to review. This was convenient since they only had to access my port once for the labs and then it could be used for chemo the next day. Huber needles can stay in up to seven days.
The university medical center imaging lab blew my mind, all of their equipment is bleeding edge, which made me geek out a bit. After hopping on the CT scanner bed, I had to drop my drawers so that they didn’t interfere with the imaging. Unlike my last CT scan, where I had the contrast pumped through a traditional IV in my arm, this we got to use my port. So after I was situated, they hooked the contrast pump up to my port, and I was almost ready to go.
After I got my port implanted, I read the card the docs make you carry around. I remember laughing when I read the 300 pounds per square inch (PSI) rating, thinking “holy crap, that’s a lot of pressure.” It turns out when using a standard IV, radiation techs push contrast at 320 PSI, so they had to dial it back a notch for my port! That is astounding to me given that the average pressure on a semi-tire is 110 PSI! Anyway, I digressed.
After everything was adjusted, the techs did two scans. The first scan was without contrast, and it took about 15 seconds. I had to hold my breath for about 10 seconds. Then it was time for my rendezvous with menopause. They gave me a heads up that they were turning on the contrast as I was being positioned into the scanning donut.
Getting CT contrast via a port is a bit different than a standard IV in that I didn’t get a warm feeling traveling up my arm this time. Being injected straight into the heart and all, it just hit me like opening the door of a blast furnace. Upon reaching the appropriate level of “I’m cooking to death while pissing my pants,” they told me to hold my breath for ten seconds, and the scan was done. A few minutes later, the warm and soggy feelings subsided, and I was on my way home. I had a strange sense of calm knowing I would find out the results the next day, but I suspected they would be good news.
[I’m about to take a quick stroll into TMI land so if you’re squeamish skip ahead a paragraph.]
I wasn’t really anxious about these scan results, because I had a hunch the chemo was doing its job. I’ve noticed some of the other side effects I was having had stopped. I have not seen any blood in my stool in over a month, before chemo, it was reasonably consistent. Also, I’ve seen a decrease in mucus, which is VERY common with adenocarcinoma. Public service announcement: If you have blood in your stool, get it checked out. If you have a family history, tell that to the doctor too!
[Back to snarkville, with less TMI!]
The next day I headed back to the university with my chemo buddies in tow. After finding out how the previous four chemo sessions were working, I’d dive right into the fifth round. Now that I was finally sitting in the waiting room, I was anxious. When they finally called my name my pit crew, and I headed back to hear the news. I saw a physicians assistant that I had never seen before, but it didn’t matter, she had the info we all wanted. Without any hesitation, she logged into the computer and went over the scan results. It was good news. They found no signs of “wall thickening.” Translating that into English: Our little ass cancer antagonist is getting weaker and is no longer making my rectum swollen. If I understood everything correctly, they estimate my ass mass shrank by 3mm. I wish we had more information, but for now, that’s all we get.
CT scans are useful for getting a brief overview of how the treatment is progressing at a high level, but, they lack the resolution to determine exact measurements and percentage. Getting more granular level details on soft tissue, requires our buddy the dub-step deductible crusher, aka the MRI machine. However, the CT scans give the oncologists enough confirmation to determine if their treatment plan is working. In my scenario, the treatment plan is working, so I will continue with the prescribed 8 cycles of chemo. After I finish all eight cycles sometime in September, I will have additional CT scans, an MRI, and my personal favorite a flexible sigmoidoscopy to look the withering antagonist in the “eyes” one last time.
Needless to say, I’m relieved to find out all the awful chemo side effects are actually paying off. Thanks to everyone who continues to keep me in their thoughts and prayers. Your support has been very much appreciated by myself and my family, I love you all!