Cancer Scans: A Love/Hate Relationship


Appreciating modern medicine and learning how to cope the unknowns

Scans. That word alone elicits a series of emotions within me that one word probably shouldn’t. I have an incredibly complex relationship with scans, specifically PET/CT scans. Having heard this word so very often in these last few years, it conjures up many feelings and memories for me. I think of the pain that my sister endured while receiving them and the hours that she spent in a machine so that images could dictate in what direction we would be taking her care. Then you have the pain that scans has caused my family, and all of the bad news and changes that have been brought to our life by a vast series of images layered together.

Every scan seemingly brought more and more complications and highlighted what we could often see happening from the outside. As we knew that some scans would bring bad news, we tried to be prepared — as prepared as one can be when dealing with cancer, anyway. The scans that were by far the hardest were the ones that we had thought would be better. When she was doing OK and we had no idea that upon dictation, our world would once again spiral out of control and we’d be forced to make choices that nobody ever should.

She has had several scans since and every single one is just as nerve-wracking of the one that she received the morning of July 11th, 2014. Even though I’ve often played the waiting game, I’m still very bad at it. The pacing, increased heart rate and the endless worry are still all-consuming. The need to see dictation and meet with her care team to talk about what is next has become greater, because I now know what every word means, as where before, it was gibberish on a page.

In January, she will get a one-year follow-up scan and while many think it will be “clean” — that she will still be in remission – I am holding my breath. Because if nothing else, history has taught me that until you see that image in black and white, we simply do not know for sure.

For a picture to hold so much is remarkable. I am grateful for the advancements in technology that have been made. Without the tools and tests we have now, we could never have caught her cancer. If it is to return, we hopefully will catch it early and be able to provide adequate care before it gets too bad. That does not mean that I have come to like scans anymore that I did before.

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