I had my most recent PET scan and received the results a few days after, per usual. I’ve been wanting to share the news but I’ve been so overwhelmed lately. I’ve been super busy traveling and gearing up for a busy October for Breast Cancer Awareness. And I guess it’s really taken some time for me to wrap my own head around the news and process it all. For those of you new to my site or for those who aren’t familiar with my story, I have been fighting “incurable” stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for over 6 years now. I’m sort of a medical anomaly and statistically speaking it’s rare for someone with my diagnosis to be doing as well as I am… let alone super rare to get the amazing results that I just did.
I honestly couldn’t tell you how many PET/CT scans I have had but if I had to guess I’d say about 20-25… so wild to even fathom that, geeze… surreal really. You never get used to them but I definitely have way less anxiety when it comes time to do a scan nowadays. They used to scare the sh*t out of me. They have ranged from stable to not so stable over the years. I have had mets to lymph, bones, spine and lungs, so these have always been the spots and areas that have lit up or had increased FDG uptake.
So when I went to get my most recent results, my oncologist walked in the room and uttered “good scan.” He isn’t one to get overly emotional so he really didn’t get into much detail (but he truly is the best oncologist). He’s told me not to worry too much about my PET scans because he could see how much anxiety I used to get and emphasized that the scans are merely indications for him to see if my treatment is or isn’t working. Easier said than done however. Needless to say, when Dr Glaspy says “good scan” I know that I’m in a good place and don’t need to worry.
I used to have a habit of not even looking at my scan results. For one it’s like reading another language, trying to decode all of the medical lingo and for two, if you really don’t know how to read those things, you can misinterpret the results and scare the crap out of yourself! But because I’ve been dealing with this mess for so long, I am much better at reading and interpreting the results. So when I went home that afternoon I looked over the 3 page report and was completely and utterly shocked at what I saw.
All of my spots that once lit up like a christmas tree had the words “no FDG uptake” next to them. Huh? What does this mean? I have no detectable cancer?…So much so that nothing is lighting up?!!!! OMG OMG OMG! I’ve never had scan results come back anything close to this. So I had to read the scan a few more times just to confirm that I wasn’t seeing things or misinterpreting what I was reading. Sure enough, every previous cancerous “target lesion” that I once had, had the words “no FDG uptake” next to it. For those of you who fortunately don’t have to know what any of this means, a PET scan uses a small amount of a radioactive drug, or tracer, to show differences between healthy tissue and diseased tissue. The most commonly used tracer is called FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), so the test is sometimes called an FDG-PET scan. When cancerous tissue lights up it’s measured by its SUV value and to my understanding, the higher or brighter the SUV, the more aggressive the cancer. I have always had a value or number next to the cancerous spots in my body, so for the scan to read “no FDG uptake” is by far the best news I have ever received. I still haven’t fully digested this news. I don’t think grateful is a strong enough word for what I am feeling. I can’t fully type or put into words my thoughts/feelings really… so I’m doing the best I can.
So does this mean I am in remission?
Well, medically speaking the answer is no. Once you are diagnosed as being metastatic or have stage 4 cancer, you are considered to have chronic, incurable disease. Since day one, I’ve been told that achieving remission would be next to impossible. But you know what?…I never really internalized or believed any of that. If anything it fueled me with determination to prove everyone wrong. I don’t really care what I am labeled as because I have climbed mountains, been knocked on my ass over and over again and have been told for years that I would never be cancer-free. And here I stand, 6 and a half years later when I technically I wasn’t supposed to live more that 5 years, and no active cancer is traceable in my body at this point in time! Now if that isn’t a miracle and the biggest blessing in life, I don’t know what is! So I’m going to go ahead and take the reins and label myself as being NEAD (the medical term for “no evidence of active disease”).
I understand the caution my oncologist must take in relaying my test results. However, I know that he has believed in me since the day I showed up to his office, sick as a dog right after I had found out I was misdiagnosed. You can read about my misdiagnosis here. As sick as I was, he told me that even though I was “incurable,” that if I lived to be in my 80’s and got struck by a bus and they found cancer in my body, that I still beat it. And that was good enough for me…But this news is even better!!
I feel healthier than I have ever felt, I feel stronger than I have in years and I am determined to stay this way. I am still on a full treatment regimen and probably will be for some time, but it’s a small price to pay, to have this gift of life. I don’t know what the future holds for me. But does anyone? So today, in the present, I am the healthiest and strongest I have been in years and I couldn’t be more grateful to be in this state, at this point in my life. I have believed that anything was possible from the start of this crazy ass journey and that will never change. I have proved to myself that the power of thought, attitude and the mind is more powerful than any treatment out there. So next up… remission! That’s the goal and I still believe it’s going to happen. I believe all things are possible for each any every one of us as long as we believe this to be true.
I coudn’t have achieved any of this without the love and support of my incredible family, friends and team of doctors, so thank you to each and every one of you. I love you. Thank you for your constant love and support. And just as I have believed in me, I believe in you. Keep believing and you too can overcome whatever adversity you are facing.