I saw Dr. George Bobustuc, my oncologist, on Monday afternoon to go over the results of my Jan. 5 MRI scan, and everything looks great. The brain scan even shows improvement from my excellent Oct. 19 MRI — the tumor cavity is shrinking even more, and around the cavity there is a reduction in the contrasting enhancement that might point to a possible recurring tumor, lingering dead cells or scar tissue. The absence of such enhancement is a positive sign of healing. And as with the Oct. 19 scan, there are no indications of lesions anywhere else in the brain. My blood work also continues to be very good. All of this is great news.
Dr. Bobustuc told me these results mean that the Temodar chemotherapy pills are having the desired effect of keeping the cancer in check and preventing it from producing another tumor. He expects to keep me on the monthly Temodar program for another 12-18 months, and expects similarly good results when I get MRI scans done every two months. His exact words were: “I don’t expect anything to happen in the next year, or even in the next two years.” He said it may even be “many more than two years before there is a problem” (meaning recurrence of a tumor). The way he put it, we cannot say the cancer is gone…but it has effectively been “put to sleep.”
I went into today’s appointment mentally prepared to deal with any outcome. It is natural and easy to let these bi-monthly, follow-up MRIs become focal points for anxiety, and I allowed myself to slip into that mode for the first two. But going forward, I will try to resist that tendency. From now on, the MRI will be my friend. I will see it for what it is — an incredible diagnostic tool. Dr. Bobustuc emphasized that I (and by extension the people who care about me) should not worry about a time bomb going off every time I go in for an MRI. He said the frequency of these scans will give us all plenty of time to react and adapt the treatment approach if signals change anytime down the road. But the bottom line is that anything that does come up will be detected very early — so there are likely to be no huge surprises with any single MRI.
“Nothing bad is going to happen overnight,” Dr. Bobustuc said.
So I’m not looking at my future MRIs as dreadful dates with destiny. They merely will be stepping stones on what now looks like a blessedly long walk. And the stream they cross is not the dark river of death. It is the rushing current of life.
NOTE: The image with this post is by an architectural stained-glass artist from Indiana named Charlotte Ann Paul. It is just one detail from her beautiful installation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Lampham Hall Science Building. The round shapes represent living cells, which I think look sort of like stepping stones. I don’t know Charlotte, but she made a nice comment on my last post so I checked out her website. You can find more of her beautiful work here: www.charlotteannpaul.com
I wrote this piece in May 2000, for the occasion of the wedding of my friend John Glionna and his beautiful bride Lily Xie. John is an LA Times reporter now based in Seoul, South Korea. But he was based in Los Angeles when he met Lily in the late 1990s. John grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. Xie Li Ping (Lily) was born and raised in Beijing, the daughter of a general in the Chinese army. She came to America on her own as a young woman and carved out a career for herself as an ace accountant. It always amazed me that John and Lily were able to find each other and fall in love.
I’m a wordy S.O.B., and this turned out to be too long to read at the wedding in its entirety. So the guests at the Santa Barbara ceremony (including the Chinese general) just got an improvised, stammering, abbreviated version. Below is the full text, which I just rediscovered today (1/8/10) when cleaning out some old files from my computer. Ten years later, I’m still inspired by the story of John and Lily and what it can teach us about the mysteries of life, love and fate. So I thought this was worth posting. (more…)