January 29th, 2010
My mother’s PET scan and new CT scan got read this morning, and her tumor is gone. Gone as in missing, not there, as in no one knows what happened.
To recap, there was a baseball-sized mass behind her sternum in November that showed up as a shadow on an x-ray and then very clearly on a CT scan. It was still there at the end of December. During the biopsy, the surgeon found it wrapped around her blood vessels and diagnosed (for the second time) invasive inoperable thymoma, which is a form and type of thyroid cancer that kills more than 85% of patients within the first couple of years after diagnosis, often quite quickly.
The pathologist’s report from the biopsy conflicted with the unequivocal clinical diagnosis, so the biopsy went to specialist lab in Texas, and they couldn’t find cancer cells. The surgeon continued to tell my mother and her husband not to trust the pathology, that it was wrong and offering false hope. The insurance company finally approved a PET scan (though they, of course, reserve the right to decide not to pay for it after all, because we live in the US and that’s how they do) to find out what the mass was really made of.
And it’s gone. She has residual inflammation, and of course she’s still healing from the biopsy—the incision goes all the way around one side of her torso, from front to back.
This feels as dreamlike as the initial diagnosis. Both scans agree, though, PET and CT.
Words don’t cover this relief, “grateful” doesn’t describe how this feels. My mother is…I have not, in these weeks and months of corrosive uncertainty, been able to imagine my life without her.
How can I say what it means that my children will probably know their grandmother?
Since this began, I have learned about so many of your losses: how many of you have been through this or something like it, or are going through it now, and you have been so generous with your love and good wishes. All I can say now is thank you for your help. I wanted to tell you as soon as I got confirmation, even though I’m not sure how to say it. I feel like we just walked away from a plane crash and the plane is still on fire and other people are still on the plane and I can’t hear very well.