Posts Tagged ‘CT scan’

Life has a way of changing you.

January 13, 2013


inally, it is here.  I could get my Downton Abbey Season 3 fix.  If you are one those who follow this TV drama in PBS you know the feeling.  It is unfair that First Lady Michele Obama got to see the whole season ahead, oh well.

I don’t watch too much TV but I make an exception to Downton Abbey; besides it is commercial-free in PBS, which is home to Big Bird…if you know what I mean.  (Note: For my international friend, during the debate on tax cuts, the Republicans threaten to cut funding to PBS, home of Sesame Street: Big Bird and his friends.  Don’t touch Big Bird was the cry).  The TV drama series has a huge following here in the US.

I am a history buff and this was set during the Eduardian and post-Eduardian era.  It follows the lives of the aristocratic lives of the Crawley family.  The one thing that held my interest in this TV drama is the crisp, subtle and meaningful dialogue; and the intriguing character.  So when the butler Mr. Carson said in one of the episodes (in monotoned English clip):

 “Life has a way of changing you.”  It hit me.

Life has force me to changed.  I, at times, would look back at my long journey and compare my life before cancer and my present one.  I have definitely change for the better inspite of the things I have given up, like red meat.  You have to change to get better and find out more about yourself.  Sometimes you have to fears in order to improve or get the most out of life.  It is like jumping out of an airplane to face your fear of height, right?

My fear is my mortality.  I get tested with it every other week during chemo, which I cannot get use to.  However, when you look at the long road I have taken since March 2008, I have survived them all.  I have made so many friends along the way.  I have discovered myself and I think you have too with the stories I tell.  I am glad that I have changed because I am able to appreciate life more fully now.

I have another milestone coming: re-staging my cancer.  This Thursday, January 17, I will have my CT scan to verify if I am responding to my current treatment using the new chemo drug, Zaltrap.  Oh yes, I have done many scans before and I also have received good news and bad news from the results  This time, I am hoping for good news that my nodules are gone or at least have shrunk.  What can I say, except thanks for your support and prayers.  Will let you know.  Onward with my real-life drama.


P.S. NYC marathon have opened up the registration for 2013 for those who were not able to run the canceled 2012 marathon.  I will decide if I will run 2013 after my scan results.

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I thought I escaped.

October 27, 2011

n my mind I thought I escaped by leaving for Atlanta, but in the end I think it was just taking a detour to the same destination: chemo treatment. The results of the CT scan still bothered me so I called up Dr. B, the radiologist who read my July 28 PET scan.

I had gotten to know Dr. B when he did my chemoembolization(or targetted chemo) December 2009 (see related post ‘At the starting line with Dr B‘).  He is a very warm and caring doctor who is thorough with his work. He said he was disappointed when he saw my July 28 PET scan showing the suspicious nodules in my lungs.  I told him the reason for my call.

Dr. B, can you tell me which of six nodules discovered last July 28 grew when compared to the October 20 CT scan?  The October 20 report just said ‘representative nodule’ measures 1 cm,” I asked nervously.

He ticked off the growth of each nodules with a professional tone:

6 mm to 7 mm

8 mm to 10 mm

9 mm to 11 mm

3 mm to 5 mm for the nodule on the right.

Each time he gave me the comparative results, it felt like a stab to my heart.  Breathe. I lost count.  It was like pounding nails sealing my faith, forcing me to accept reality: it is back.

It is conclusive, Bo.” He solemnly said. I thank him for his openness. Also, he does not think another PET scan will be helpful.  He just advised me to have a discussion with Dr. M on my treatment plan.

It is back to chemo for me. It is like, I am being told to go back to the back of the line because you have not learned. I maybe missing the point of this lesson this time or it maybe just hard to see it at the moment. Do you get it?

What my muscle memory tells me is just to stand up, move, and never give up until I finish this challenge.  But chemo treatments are not marathon races.  They are unique by itself. There are no endorphin highs or no medals to show.  There are even no winners or finishers, just survivors. In the end, there are just those who are with us or those who are not.

I will commit myself to this again.  What else is there to do.  I will be at the starting line again on November 8.  Please come with me again.


P.S. I entered a half-marathon race this Saturday, October 29, here in Atlanta.  It is called the Silver Comet.  Let’s see what they have here in Atlanta besides peaches.

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Facing reality: Lung CT scan.

October 18, 2011

short posting.  My oncologist’s office called to say that I have been schedule for my chest and abdomen CT scan Thursday morning, October 20.  Gulp.  We will now find out if the six nodules in my lungs has grown or multiplied when compared to my last July 28 PET scan (see related posts ‘Its not there‘ and ‘The plan‘).  All bets are in.  Should there be any cancer activity, I am sure the verdict will be six-months of hard chemo.  I am hopeful, and praying for the best.  My blood test last week showed my CEA (tumor count) level is stable at 1.7, which is under the 2.5 threshold.

“Be sure to pickup the barium sulfate contrast so you can drink it the night before.” I was instructed.

“Ok.” I grudgingly replied.

Great. Just in time for Halloween, I am my own ‘glow in the dark’.


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It’s complicated*

April 12, 2010

(*Footnote: The title of this post reminded me of the 2009 movie ‘It’s Complicated‘ starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Most often, it is also used as common American expression to describe a difficult predicament/situation.)

As if saying why does life have to be complicated?


ast week Monday (April 5), my wife and I found ourselves in the patient room waiting for Dr. A, the liver surgeon (see related post ‘Meeting Dr. A‘). This appointment was already set several weeks ago to assess the resectability of my liver. The previouls week (March 31 and April 1), I had a series of scans of my liver, chest, and whole body (PET).  The PET scan came out negative with no cancer cells detected, soI was curious to find out what Dr. A would recommend.

“Wow. You look burnt, Dr. A. I hope you had fun!” I jokingly said upon seeing him walk through the door.

He smiled and said “I took in too much sun while on vacation in Arizona.” I suppose you forgot to put sunblock. 🙂 We exchanged further pleasantries and then he got down to business.

“As I had previously mentioned in our last meeting, we have a surgical review team that go through all our cases every Friday, and your case was among those reviewed.  For your case, it was reviewed by the radiologist, oncologist, and surgeon. They reviewed the results of your scans and medical background, and came to the conclusion of surgery to resect the tumors in your liver.”

There it is again. Reality looking me in the eyes. I could not reconcile in my mind why these learned doctors would recommend resection of my liver when my scans were negative. Why? Seeing my apprehension, Dr A. continued.

“I understand that the PET scan shows negative presence of cancer cells. To me this is the litmus test of the resectability of your liver.  The negative PET scan, tells me you have responded to your chemo treatments. If you did not respond to your treatments or your PET still showed positive presence of cancer, it is useless to resect your liver. No point in opening you up when you don’t respond to chemo.  It does not buy you anything.”

Ok. That make sense.

“Also, the negative PET scan results does not mean that your cancer is not going to come back.  For now, nothing can be detected or identified.  A resection of your liver would increase your chances of remission or the cancer not coming back. I know this is a lot to absorb, so you might like to think this over before deciding.”

He gave me other details of how long is the recovery period and if it will be partial or full resection. Right now he is looking at an open surgery to take out the right lobe of my liver. Gulp! Recovery is about four weeks in order for the left lobe to grow and take over. I would have to give up drinking or drink in moderation since I am left with one lobe.

This is complicated, but if you think about it I am being given an opportunity to increase my chances of remission. My right lobe for a better life. It is no different from the choices given up by other cancer patients, like LisaK, a breast cancer survivor of 11 years. Lisa is my yoga-mate and I recently got to know her more.

She is a graphic artist and entrepreneur with her own company (Pisa Design).  Eleven years ago, she was in the same predicament I am in now.  To increase her chance of remission she had a double mastectomy; moreover,  she even went further to have her ovaries removed. Now, how does that compare to me giving up drinking and her giving up up the chance to have kids of her own?  Cancer makes give up things for a sliver of hope of remission.

You have to give up something in order to get something of value. Sounds familiar. It happens everyday, like paying for goods and services; but put this into perspective of something of real value.  It is like giving up something for a chance to smell the roses for many more years, hold hands with your wife or love ones, a chance to see one more sunrise, or a chance to stand at the starting line of the NYC marathon or London marathon. Would I give up a liver for that?

Yes, I would.  It is not complicated.


PS: I would know in the coming days when my liver surgery will be. For now, I being weaned out of chemo toxins in my body. To help in getting rid of the toxins, I am running, cycling, cross-training, and doing more yoga.  Hopefully, I will have an easy recovery from surgery, as well.  I will keep you posted.

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What’s next: chopped liver

March 30, 2010

ecovery Tuesday is here. Woohoo!  Last week’s chemo was uneventful. I am not saying I was not sick from the side-effects but it was just uneventful. No surprises which is the way I wanted coming to this week. My sights are focused towards next week when I meet Dr. A, the liver specialist. My oncologist, Dr. M, is giving me some time-off from chemo. Double woohoo! Dr. A takes over for the moment.

In preparation for the meeting, I started running again, cue in the Rocky music.  I started Sunday by running 2.3 miles@11:28 pace, then yesterday I attended a cross-training class, and today was spinning class or cycling. In between, I did some yoga.  That’s for the physical activity part intended to recover fast. There is also the medical preparation activity, which goes like this;

  • March 31 – chest CT scan requested by Dr. A. This is to rule-out any metastasis (mets) to the lungs. If the cancer has mets to my lungs I will not longer be a candidate for liver surgery.
  • Same date – liver CT scan also requested by Dr. A. This will provide a detailed study of my liver and the locations of the tumors. It will help Dr. A and his team to determine if partially a resection of the right lobe is feasible or total removal of the right lobe to remove the cancer. If the right lobe is removed, the left lobe would take over and grow. It means no drinking or too much drinking. Oh…oh.
  • April 1 – PET scan requested by Dr. M. This will determine if I am responding to chemo and that there are no new tumors. They would compare this my previous PET scan in November 2009 with this new one.
  • April 5 – I meet with Dr. A with all the results of my scan and the ‘verdict’ will be read. Chop that liver! Let’s do it! I just wanted to get this cancer out of me, I want to heal, and be normal again. If I need to give up my liver (and drinking), just take it! Er…just one please.

That’s the plan.  With all this scans, I would be glowing in the dark (from radiation) and blow away the geiger counter. In the meantime, I need to get strong and exercise to remove as much chemo toxins in my body prior to surgery.

My friend/colleague, Art, called today and said I sounded good. Must be due to all the exercises I have been doing. He is working in Portsmouth, UK and he wished that I was there working with him.  Art and I have fun working together and traveling around the world.  In due time, Art, in due time. There are many things I wish I am able to do but I can’t anymore or have been limited. I see others taking for granted what they have, not knowing it can be taken away.  Do take care. Carpe Diem.


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