Aug 8, 2007

Bad News... Great News... A Rollercoaster Day

I finally stopped in to see my alternate case manager this morning and she pulled up the Radiologist’s report from my MRI a week ago. It still is not a final report and she was unable to print it for me. But I leaned in toward her monitor to read it. The first part sounded like the rest of the reports… mentions of scar tissue, dried blood, necrosis, edema… but the last line, which is the overall impression of the scan read, “cannot rule out progression of neoplasm.”

Without any explanation, that freaked me out. I thought the worst. What did it mean? Was the tumor back? I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. I read it again to make sure I caught it the first time. Yep… I read it right. I felt a little queasy and stood up. She said to me, “do you know what that means?” I said, “I guess it means I’m not out of the woods yet.” She didn’t really say anything back, so I was convinced by her reaction that I was right and I dropped my head and walked out of her office. A female Army Captain that I talk to quite a bit here was waiting to see the case manager next and was seated right outside. She saw my expression and asked me if everything was okay. I didn’t answer. I wanted to cry. She asked me if there was anything she could do. I thought of anything, but didn’t come up with an answer, so I responded with, “I don’t know…” and I walked away. Walking down the halls I ended up at my platoon sergeant’s office and plopped down in his chair. He saw the expression on my face and asked me what was up. I couldn’t talk much… I thought I might cry. So I just told him that the MRI might not be a good one. I really don’t remember exactly what we talked about… I just know that eventually I left and knew that I needed to get something in my stomach so I didn’t feel sick all day.

I hadn’t eaten since 8pm the night before and now it was nearing 9am. I knew I was hungry, but I was sick to my stomach. I went to the chow hall and managed to stuff down a breakfast burrito, some yogurt and a banana. Ii figured that would hold me over for a while. I walked out of the mess hall and wandered into the Chapel area of the hospital on the same floor as the dining facility. Walking in, I noticed there were not very many people around. Nobody seemed to notice me and I felt very alone. I think I was about to walk out when a Major… a Chaplain… asked me if he could help me. I could only manage to get out, “I need to talk to someone.” He looked into my face and immediately opened an office for us to talk in. I sat down, he sat and closed the door and I burst into tears. I sat there uncontrollingly sobbing for a few minutes. I finally cleared my throat and explained what happened earlier to me. But I guess the sadness wasn’t from the shock of what might happen to me, I was more upset at the fact that I could not comprehend why this was happening from a religious aspect. I knew that the Lord does not punish us for our sins… but I felt like I was being punished for some reason. He then stated that he believed, as do I, that sometimes God gives us a little nudge or a reminder to take care of certain things in our lives that we might have been struggling with for a long time. This immediately related to me as I’m sure it relates to many people.

He asked me what else I was feeling and I answered fear. Not fear of dying, but fear of suffering. Physical suffering for me and suffering for Holly and my family if we indeed did have to go through what we already went through. I did not want to go through any of that again. My mind was racing at a thousand miles an hour and I was just going through a whole range of emotions and thoughts of everything in my life. He mentioned some verses from Genesis and we had just studied Genesis a few weeks ago at church. Then he mentioned a few things that very closely related to a book study that we just completed that related to me too. It was just odd that so many things correlated to what I was going through right at that moment. We talked for about an hour and I decided I was emotionally stable enough to leave and go back to my room. Before I left, he handed me his card and told me that he was actually the Chaplain for the Brigade that I am in. I was supposed to go to him anyway and he was at our formation this morning. Freaky.

I went back to my room and finally called Holly to tell her what I had found out this morning. Then the Captain and another Sergeant came by to check on me. They invited me to lunch, but I really wasn’t hungry. They left and I then talked to my sister and my father. All of those conversations were a blur. It’s sad to say, but I was just repeating the same thing over and over again. I just felt like I needed people to know and to pray for me. I called up my friend Buddy and we talked for a good while. It was around that time that the Captain came back and I invited her in for a chat. She sat down and the first thing I managed to get out was, “Do you go to church?” She surprised me by answering, “You’re probably not going to believe this, but I used to be a Nun.” Holy Cow!!! We had another very good conversation that encouraged me and she urged me to call my Neurosurgeon’s cell phone. I had already called his office and emailed him, but never got a call back. She convinced me that he would not have given it to me if he didn’t want me to call… so after she left, I did.

I picked up my phone and gave him a call and he answered. I told him about what happened earlier in the morning and said he’d call me back on his land-line. He loaded up the MRI images on his computer and I loaded them up on my laptop. He told me where to look and we went through the images slice by slice together. This MRI, or ‘study’ as they call it, consisted of 5mm slices of my brain. He was comparing last week’s MRI to the one we did in April. We looked at a few things and did notice some differences. First of all, it looked like the edema, or swelling, had withdrawn about 5mm in one area – that was good. Everything else looked slightly different from last time, but the size of the mass was still 1cm. He said the differences in appearance could be due to how my head was oriented this time compared to last time. MRIs of the brain will never look exactly the same twice; there are just too many factors. He said that what is there could be scar tissue, blood from the surgery, necrotic tissue from the radiation (that usually does not appear until 12-18 months after radiation has completed – it has been 12), or it might be neoplasm, or tumor. The latter not being very likely in his opinion. He said that he didn’t think there was anything to worry about and that he was disappointed with the radiologist’s report and the fact that it has taken them so long to finalize it. He had never heard of the radiologist’s name, ever worked with him or knew who he was, so he didn’t even trust the report. Let me tell you, I’ll trust a neurosurgeon’s opinion of a brain MRI before I trust one from a radiologist that has to interpret MRIs from all over the body. My doctor just works on brains all day, every day. He suggested that the next likely step would to do a PET scan or a SPECT scan to try to determine exactly what the components are up there before jumping to conclusions. Those are very detailed 3D scans that can distinguish different types of tissue. What a RELIEF!!!

I have an appointment with my Radiation/Oncologist Monday and my Neurosurgeon wants me and Holly to stop by. Oh yeah… did I tell you that Holly will be coming out here for a few weeks?!? Yay! So, today has been a very emotional day filled with ups and downs. Can you count how many times God tried to get my attention today? I think he’s trying to tell me something. Thanks for your continued prayer.

By the way, you can have this blog emailed directly to you if you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page on the website and sign up. And if you use Yahoo or Google as your homepage, you can subscribe by clicking the buttons to the right on the webpage. Alright, it’s 11:40pm here on the east coast and its still 90 degrees out. Thank God they fixed the AC in our building today!

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