Tag Archives: “CT scan”

Sunshine (?), snow and a scan

Having now shared the location of next year’s One Challenge with the Leica Forum, I will also share it here. The group decided, after dinner in Vienna, that next year we should all assemble in Lisbon. There was some discussion regarding how to vote for the venue for next year and we did change things slightly this time round. It’s still not perfect though, and I want to make sure that everyone who votes has an equal vote – at present those who tick against the list last are often presented with a fait accompli. Will try to work out an even better way for next time.

I have been to Lisbon before, on a school cruise in an old troop-ship called the SS Nevassa. This would have been in 1972, when I was not yet 11 and I am looking forward to it. It will be nice to get some sunshine, with a bit of luck, and we could even extend the stay to drive up the Atlantic coast and compare with California last spring. We will see. Maybe I could take my diary that I wrote as part of the school trip as a guide. “First we did this and then we did that” – bound to be useful.

Next up, however, is the trip to see my Great Grandfather William, buried on the Somme. He was mortally wounded in the field and died on 26th November 1915. We have arranged a personal battlefield tour from an English chap who, with his wife, runs a B&B on the front line, not far from where William is buried. I am sure it will be an emotional day. We were there 10 years ago and it was freezing cold and snowing, which helped to bring home what men had to put up with out there. We have often visited during the summer on the way to or from a holiday in France, but never at the beginning of winter before. This guide has an incredible library of information in his house and while we were there last time, told me lots about what William was up to out there that I didn’t know before. I need to make sure I write it all down, so that I can pass it on to my Dad.

In March, the plan is to head north and to Norway to see, with a bit of luck, the Northern Lights. I need to get that sorted soon, as it is becoming an increasingly popular thing to do, so hotels and the like might be difficult. I will try to sort that all out this week, but it’s going to take a bit of planning. I don’t think that we can afford the cruise on one of the post ships that run up and down the coast, so maybe will hire a 4×4 instead and head to the hills ourselves. Our good friends who live in Oslo have offered to put us up for the weekend we arrive, so that will be a real treat in itself.

As the weather turns distinctly autumnal, the clocks have gone back and it’s dark on the way home, it will soon be time to have my annual CT scan. I arranged this when I saw my consultant back in June and he said that he wanted me to have it at the end of November / first week in December. That’s not long now, really, not the way that diaries fill up these days. Not having heard anything from The Christie, I called them this morning. They only book CT scans 6 weeks in advance, and the book for the week beginning 30/11 will not open until later today, so they have offered to call me back.

I’m looking forward to it. When he reads the results, I am, of course, hoping that the disease is in exactly the same state as it was last Christmas but there is only one way to find out. As far as I can tell, within myself, I am pretty sure that it’s just sitting there doing nothing at present, but it will be good to know for sure.

Doesn’t seem like more than a few weeks since I was last there, but that’s another story…

[And this is the 300th post on this blog – thanks to those of you who have been with me through thick and thin and to everyone else who reads it. Your support is absolutely invaluable and much appreciated]

Unprocessed film and news from my recent consultation

The fact that there was still an unprocessed film from my week in Cornwall at the end of June is testament to the amount of pleasure I am getting out of my photography at the moment. I am hoping that a forthcoming visit to France and Istanbul will get the creative juices flowing again.

However, given a very rainy Bank Holiday Monday, I finally got round to processing the film. Not very successful, I have to say – the processing was fine, it’s what I found when I’d done it that was a bit of a disappointment. I managed to scrape together a couple of shots from the roll, so I thought that I might as well put them on here.

The first shot is of Mevagissey. I am pretty sure that there’s a colour one from there on posts from June, but this is obviously a black and white version. The colour is better, since it’s a colourful place, but never mind that.

Mevagissey

The second is from Port Isaac on a day which probably gave us the worst weather of the holiday. Either heavy rain or horribly overcast. But, beggars can’t be choosers and it’s too far just to pop down to take advantage of good weather.

Port-Isaac

Since my last post, I have been to see my consultant for a regular 4 monthly check-up. 

He has slightly changed his story with regards to what he could see on the CT scan from last year, but it doesn’t materially change anything particularly. He does want to do another scan in December and will send me an appointment nearer the time. He is proposing to do further scans “over the next few years” and then stop doing them until he thinks it necessary again. These series of scans will be used to act as benchmarks against which future, but not so frequent, scans will be assessed.

This is a good thing for a few reasons, but mostly because he obviously expects me to still be alive in a few years after he has done the series of annual scans.

I asked him about “remission” (or “partial remission” in my case) and when that would normally be measured from. This is from the end of the chemotherapy that has caused the disease to shrink. It ignores the maintenance, because that is intended to just increase the remission period. That said, he suggested that there is some evidence to say that the Rituximab maintenance can also continue to shrink the disease during that period. So that’s also good news.

What this means is that I have now been in “partial remission” for four years and with no sign of the disease returning at the moment, this is another successful visit over and done with.

Steady as she goes, once again. Keep on watching – and waiting…

“No Residual Disease”

This is the 200th post on this blog and I am very pleased that I am able to share some remarkable news.

On Wednesday, I contacted my new Consultant to ask him whether he had received the result of the CT scan from the previous week. He hadn’t, but he called me back about 10 minutes later.

“We can detect no residual disease in this scan. Have a good evening!”

No Residual Disease.

No Residual Disease.

I have taken a couple of days trying to get my head around what this might mean. As I posted at the beginning of the month after my first consultation with him, this “could mean that there really is no disease left, which would constitute being cured.”

No Residual Disease.

The dodgy report done in August 2012 said the same thing (once you’d read between the lines to understand what it actually said). Now, 12/13 months on, there is another, much more reliable report which says the same thing. Equally importantly perhaps, there has been no change in this condition in the last twelve months. NHL is a slow-growing, indolent disease that usually takes its time before causing you any problems. It can take years to show up, especially if it’s growing in the abdomen, where lots of other stuff is going on at the same time. Given that I have already been treated for it, and the usual prognosis, one might expect that any very small pockets of disease that evaded the chemo might have started to grow again by now. This is, after all, one of the reasons why my new man did the CT scan this month – just to check on the disease that cannot be felt manually, in the abdomen.

So, this is out-and-out good news. The best news that I could possibly have hoped for after this scan.

But…

I cannot count my chickens. If this really is true and there really is no further disease at all, then it is remarkable. NHL doesn’t work like that. I was told that it wasn’t curable with at the Stage that I presented with four years ago. It’s manageable. Treatable. But not curable.

On diagnosis, I  very quickly came to terms with the disease and what it meant for the rest of my life. I accepted the fact that I would need treatment over a long period; treatment that would make me sick and which would be unpleasant. I was OK with that and would have done as I was told when told to do something, even if it was to attend hospital and take some more medicine. Now, where does this leave me? This is not quite the same as being diagnosed with something like breast or bowel cancer. These organ / body-part specific cancers can, with some luck and good care, be properly cured and be gone for good. After 5 years (or whatever the period is), you can be pretty sure that it isn’t going to come back. NHL isn’t like that. It hangs around forever.

I now need to re-assess what this means in the medium to long term. IF it’s gone for good, then that’s brilliant and remarkable news. But a part of me, quite a large part of me if truth be told, doesn’t believe it.

The thing is, we will never know if it’s gone for good until I die (of something else).

I will make an appointment next week to see my man before Christmas and will discuss with him in person, what the implications of this report really are. And in the meantime, I will continue to try to live my life as if this was the last day of it.

The CT scan

As per the news from last week, I had the CT scan yesterday evening.

While sitting there, waiting, listening to the man next in line to me shout out in agony as the nurse put the cannula into the back of his hand (he’ll learn… ), it struck me that, fortunately, not many people reading this will have had the experience of having a CT, or PET, scan. So, I thought I would tell you what happens when you have an abdominal scan.

A CT (computerised tomography) scan is a special type of x-ray scan. Instead of taking a single x-ray, as you might have if you’ve broken an arm, the scanner takes lots of x-rays from lots of different angles and the resulting images are combined in the computer to create a 3D image of your insides.

On arrival at the hospital, after they have checked you in and taken your details etc, you are given a litre of a marker fluid to drink over a period of 45 minutes or an hour. This contains a chemical that allows your abdomen to be much more easily seen by the x-rays. It tastes of aniseed (a bit like Pernod, but without the fun) and you can add orange or lemon squash to it to partially mask the taste. I don’t bother. By the time that the hour has passed, the drink is well through your stomach and into your system. When the drink is nearly finished, they invite you through to the private waiting area and you change into a hospital gown, keeping only your underwear and shoes and socks on.

You sit, silently, with several other similarly attired people, all waiting for or having just had, the same experience. For some reason, no one seems to want to talk with each other.

Then, you are called into a side room, where the cannula is inserted into your vein. Yesterday, mine was into my inner elbow, but on previous occasions, it’s been into the back of my hand.

After a few more minutes waiting and the last of the drink to fill your stomach and oesophagus, you are called into the radiology suite. Lying down on the bed of the machine, the nurse tests the cannula, plugs you into the dye delivery system, then leaves the room to the control room next door. You are asked to raise your hands right over your head, in preparation for the scanning process. The bed moves into the large, circular ring that contains the x-ray cameras and beams. You can watch as it moves up to the same level as your face.

You hold still. The machine instructs you to take a deep breath, and hold it, while marker dye is put into the blood stream as the x-rays are given. Thoughts of lethal injections enter your mind, and are quickly dismissed. Many people, me included, can feel a warm flush as it goes round the body and a taste in the back of the mouth – not unpleasant, but odd. The scanning process (but not the dye) is repeated two or three times and takes about 5 minutes in total.

It’s not noisy, or painful and even when I have had a full body scan (which I didn’t yesterday), I didn’t find it claustrophobic.

On leaving the machine room, they ask you to wait 15 minutes, still in your hospital gown before they take out the cannula and allow you to go home. Via the gents…

And that’s it. You have just received at least a year’s worth of radiation in 5 minutes, and slightly increased your chances of developing a completely different cancer. But, without this kind of examination, diagnosis of many cancers would be impossible.

While not to be taken lightly, clearly, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

And now, back to waiting for the results…