September, 2011

MRI

I went to have an MRI.

Though the ultrasound came back clear, the oncologist has ordered an MRI to make sure the cause of swelling, pain, and a new lump was nothing serious.

Laying down on a patient table and going through a hole like a tunnel is just the same process of CT or PET scan, however, while CT and PET’s procedures are only for 5-10 minutes, for MRI, I had to stay in the tunnel from the head to toes being fastened by belts and some heavy stuff on my chest for about 45 minutes.

When my head went into the tunnel, the wall of the inside was right in front of my nose, and I felt it was so tight and narrow.

Although I was given a buzzer for emergency and ear-plugs for loud alarming noises, as I heard a technician’s voice among the noise saying, “ Be still.  Don’t move,” I got more nervous: I felt like even breathing was not allowed and I were going to be suffocated.

I should be relaxed thinking of something else—- So I called Jesus first and then thought about floating in a tropical ocean, a warm sun, ice cream sundays,  dolphins , etc——- Gradually I got sleepy and  the exam was over.

I am glad that I was not claustrophobic.

If I had a stuffy nose, I don’t think having a MRI, which requires to lay down so still for a long time, is a good idea – and the bigger you are, the more frightening this procedure might be.

Anyway, I am eager to hear the result, which will come in a week.

Nodules in Lungs

The phone rang to deliver the result of the MRI from the oncologist.

There was no abnormality under my armpit and around the clavicle.  Yet, the MRI found some nodules in both lungs.

The doctor recommended for me to have a CT scan next.

I had CT scans last May and November and a nodule was caught in my right lung then.  Doctors will compare with the images of those past CT’s and the new one I will take soon and if there is no change, the possibility of cancer will be ruled out.  Otherwise, I will have to have a biopsy.

A friend, who is also waiting for the result of her MRI, and I were supposed to celebrate together if we both get the good results, but I have to postpone it until the CT comes back clear.

Meanwhile, I have to fasten the “Jesus” seat belt and hold it tight on the rollercoaster that has started moving fast again.

What Is More Important Than Saving One’s Own Life?

Last night on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I saw a TV documentary “10 years after 9/11”: a story of the firefighters on that day.

Heading to the Twin towers in opposite direction of the masses who were evacuating, more than 300 firefighters, paramedics, and police lost their lives as the building collapsed.  Even 10 years after, quite a few servicemen who devoted to work on Ground Zero, exposing themselves to contaminated air and dust, have been suffering by respiratory diseases or cancer and some have even died.

At the 10th anniversary ceremony, a boy, who was in his mother’s womb as his father died on the 911-rescue mission, and has never known the father, was giving an emotional speech.

A teary widow who lost her husband recently from cancer that was probably after the effects of his work at Ground Zero, was telling that he would’ve still helped at Ground Zero even if he had known he were going to get cancer.

At that disastrous horrible moment of 911, they were walking up to high stories of the burning building that was ready to collapse – thinking of saving the victims more than their own lives or families.

The story spoke to me, who has taken the report of recently found lung nodules seriously.

We all die without exception – and never know when – regardless if you have cancer or not.  Therefore, if I could continually grow to be a giving, loving person even if death is chasing after me, just like the courageous firefighters, that must be what God wants me to be.

I was inspired.

Nodules in Lungs Appear Benign

The oncologist e-mailed me about the CT result I took yesterday.  She said, “There were many findings on the left lungs but they were all likely related to radiation and the nodules reported on the MRI appear to  be stable on previous CT’s,”  and “it seems good over all.”

We thought previous CT’s found only one nodule, but it seems like there were more.

Anyway, I, who was ready to hear a bad report, breathed a big sigh of relief.

The combo of Herceptin and Tykerb is effective.  Finally, they are working—I want to believe so!

Comparison of Radiation Doses

from :http://www.molecularimagingcenter.org/index.cfm?PageID=7083

Typical Radiation Doses (From Various Sources)*
Watching television2 0.01 mSv/year
Air travel (roundtrip from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, Calif.) 3 0.05 mSv
Medical chest X-ray (one film) 0.1 mSv
Nuclear medicine thyroid scan2 0.14 mSv
Full set of dental X-rays 0.4 mSv/year
Mammogram (four views) 0.7 mSv
Average annual exposure living in the United States6 3 mSv/year
Average annual exposure from breathing radon gas5 2 mSv
Nuclear medicine lung scan1 2 mSv
Nuclear medicine bone scan1 4.2 mSv
Nuclear cardiac diagnostic test (technetium or Tc-99m) 4 10 mSv
Abdominal CT scan1 10 mSv
Various PET studies (18F FDG)1 14 mSv
Tobacco products (amount for a smoker’s lungs from 20 cigarettes a day)5 53 mSv/year
Cancer treatment (tumor receives)5 50,000 mSv

Safety of Scans

I’ve been having lots of imaging tests since I got cancer.

3 chest & abdominal CT scans, 1 pelvic CT scan, 1 bone scan, 1 PET scan, 4 Muga heart scans, 1 heart echo, 3 mammograms, 1 MRI, and numerous ultrasounds.

We can also check tumor markers by a blood test besides imaging tests to detect cancer, but my oncologist says that tumor markers are not reliable as compared with the imaging tests.

In fact, last year when I was taking the first chemo regimen, my tumor marker was stable in the normal range without showing any alarm sign, according to the oncologist.

Whenever I get some concern, or even if not, I probably need to have image testing periodically for good to make sure that cancer won’t reoccur.

Yet are those exams are safe?

So, I researched about it.

First, an ultrasound, MRI, and echo have no risk.

As I look at a comparison of image tests such as x-rays, a mammogram, and scans, which radiation is used, a radiation dose of mammogram is 7 times more than a chest x-ray, while abdominal CT scan is 100 times more.  Another surprise is that smoking is more than 500 times of the chest x-ray’s dose.  No wonder we want to ban smoking.

Then here is a radiation therapy; 500 thousand more!

Numerous sites explain that if the one time dose we are exposed to is more than 2000mSv, the soft tissue such as skin, muscles, blood vessels, fat, tendons, ligaments, or nerves may get damaged.

While I was receiving radiation therapy, my skin turned red, but several weeks after the therapy was over, my skin started pealing thickly and the affected area became oozing and burning.

4 months after, now my skin is healed, but tightness or stiffness is still there.  All new findings in my left lungs are also apparently from the affect of the radiation.

Fortunately, as it is also said that our bodies have a healing power, I expect that my injuries can be healed eventually.

So far the data of long usage of such image tests is unknown. For safety, the specialists are suggesting us to:

1.  Ask a doctor if a test is necessary or not:  discuss about the risks of taking a test and of not taking a test.

2.  Ask if alternative tests such as ultrasounds or MRI are possible or not.

3.  Take a record of image tests and inform the doctor.

I’ve asked to change MUGA heart scans to Echos and a CT scan to be an ultrasound to look at the kidneys and the bladder.

If 2000 mSv is the threshold,this means it would take 200 abdominal CT scans and 50 years if I take the scan every three months.

Although I have taken 10 scans in the past 1.5 years, which is a faster pace than this calculation, I think I can conclude that image testing is not something I have to concern about.

No Fear to Death

” Every  religion believes in eternity–another life.
This life on earth is not the end.
People who believe it is the end, fear death.
If it was properly explained that death was nothing but going home to God, then there would be no fear of death.”

from the Joy in Loving by Mother Teresa

I wonder if death is something like birth.  Delivering a baby is scary and has pain, but once it’s over, there is a new life.  Just like that, after death, we can enter God’s kingdom with a new life.

“Endless must be our terror, until we come heart to heart with the fire-core of the universe, the first and the last and the living One.” –George MacDonald

Yes.  If we hold on to God who created this universe, our fear ceases.

“It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burdeon of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.
Never load yourselves so, my friends.  If you find yourselves so loaded, at least remember this; it is your doing, not God’s.
He begs you to leave the future to Him.” (George MacDonald from Annals of Quiet Neighbourhood)

At last, Paul, who was prisoned, tortured, and martyred, said as follows in a letter to the Philippian church.

“I’m torn between two desires; sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ.  That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live.” (Philippians 1:23-24)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)