Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CT Scans #9, Update and Dr. Paul Kalanithi

     This morning I had an appointment for CT scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvis.  Unexpectedly, I slept pretty well last night.  In the past, the night before my CT scans is usually sleepless.  I suppose I didn't chase sleep because I've been feeling more confident about my cancer status lately.  

A patient's perspective...I'm going in...
     Unlike my previous CT scans, which were ordered with IV contrast only, this time my oncologist added oral contract.  CT scans with IV contrast illuminate vessels and organs, within the abdominal cavity and pelvis region, with greater detail.  Since I have a PowerPort implanted in my chest, I don't need to do anything special prior to getting scanned because the contrast dye is injected directly into my port by the CT tech.  IV contrast is a fairly benign event, except that when it goes in, there's a distinct warming sensation that travels through my body.  The tech always warns me that, "it will feel like you've wet yourself, but you haven't. It's just the contrast."  They are correct.  It's a weird feeling.  

     Oral contrast uses a barium sulfate suspension to allow more detailed imaging of the stomach and intestinal tract.  My oncologist wants me to have CT scans with an oral contrast every-once-in-a-while to get a better look.  Every-once-in-a-while is good because the prep for this isn't fun.  Two hours before the scan, I had to drink, what felt like, a gallon of thick, white, chalky-ish barium sulfate suspension.  Mine was supposed to be berry-flavored.  In actuality, it was probably the amount of a Starbucks Grande drink.  It was really filling and I had trouble downing it all at one time.  Then, an hour later, I had to try to down another one.  

     My oncologist called me tonight to let me know that my CT scans continue to indicate that my cancer is stable, which means that Xalkori is still working for me.  So for now, I stay the course on my miracle medication. 

On another note...

     My relief today was tempered by the sad news that Dr. Paul Kalanithi passed away yesterday of metastatic lung cancer.  He was a neurosurgeon at Stanford University Medical Center.  He was 37 years old.  He had what I have.  He, too, never smoked.  He was well known among my lung cancer community because last year, a few months after he was diagnosed in 2013, he wrote a poignant NY Times article entitled "How Long Have I Got Left?  


       Each time I learn of another lung cancer patient's death, two thoughts race through my mind.  I am instantly reminded that I, too, will die of lung cancer.  Then I wobble through a wave of survivor's guilt.  Today I wondered why Dr. Kalanithi died less than two years from the time he was diagnosed and I'm still here 27 months later.  My heart breaks for his young wife and infant daughter. I got to live nearly 20 years longer before being strapped with lung cancer.  Dr. Kalanithi did not get to see his daughter grow to adulthood as I have with my children.  I cannot escape the reality of my diagnosis, even though my scans were good today.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Kalanithi. 



Matthew Ireland said...

So happy to hear the results of your (unpleasant barium sulfate prep oral contrast :(() scan! Stay strong Luna!!

bens said...

When the smoker gets lung cancer, it is due to the smoking. But when the non smoker gets lung cancer there is silence from the medical establishment because the gloves don't fit.
With this kind of attitude can a cure be found?

Lucy said...

luna, thank you for the kind message about paul. wishing you more happy months and years. love, lucy kalanithi (paul's wife)

Luna O. said...

Lucy, my sincere condolences to you, Cady, and your and Paul's families.