Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Inside my thorax

I looked up a lot of the words in the PET/CT scan report, which was probably a mistake. I wasn't even sure what a thorax was, other than a possible Dr. Suess character.

In more recent news, peeing has been painful for the last several days. Spent hours today, again, at Kaiser (mostly because it took me ages to have to pee even though I drank two large bottles of water), for an exam, urine test, and lunch with Tong. The results of the urinalysis were all normal except it contains hemoglobin. An internet search shows an association with cancer in the kidneys. Alas.

Paramananda, Padmatara and I are meeting Dr. Nelson tomorrow at 1:30. I wish I could share with you what Renee and I talked about yesterday - it might be useful if you have cancer or need to talk to doctors for other intense reasons - but there is too much. Jeff and I also checked out Fernwood cemetery, a beautiful, "green cemetery" in Mill Valley. Can't go into that now either!

Here's the part of the report I understood the least:
Imaging through the thorax now showed more than 20 foci of intense labeling, SUV up to 17, several lesions coalesced to form masses up to 4 cm in size. A 3.5 cm mass with SUV 13 indented the right heart border. Hypermetabolic nodes were located in the paratracheal, precarinal and hilar positions.
My translation: The SUV (Standard Uptake Value) indicates areas of brightness on a PET scan, and the brightness indicates intense metabolic activity, AKA cancer. I'm not sure about the significance of the SUV numbers. There are more than 20 very bright spots in my chest, including on the right border of the heart, next to the trachea, in front of where the two main bronchi split, and in the hila, another part of the lungs that seems too complicated to explain here. The largest nodule in the thorax (chest) is 4 cm (less than 2 inches.) The bigger lung nodules seem to be mostly clustered around the centerline.

And there is cancer all over my bones as you can see. The red circles I drew in both pictures indicate areas of involvement - I don't know exactly where most of them are or how big they are, but it's clear that there are a lot of them.

All this is perhaps going too far over to the clinical side. It is just to say: I have a new self image that  includes a lot more cancer.

After writing that whole thing about sugar a few days ago, I'm not so bothered about what I eat anymore. I feel that the time for being careful has passed. (However, what YOU eat is important!)

It is an intense time for me. In a way no different from normal life, but heightened somehow, and my mood changes seem to be all about life and death and my views about them.

In the past I have sometimes seen myself, in groups anyway, as a walking reminder of death. Paramananda pointed out that to the people I know personally, there is a depth and a tenderness there that goes beyond the abstraction. Truly, the tenderness is incredible.

In Buddhism we talk very freely about 'letting go'. And the reason to let go, or to have it as a goal, is that every aspect of our physical experience in this world, what we own and even our body, is borrowed. On some level we know this. Yet letting go of a loved one, including when the person is oneself, is tremendously difficult. Or maybe it's just thinking about it that's hard.


  1. You are in a place that I have never been and once again I feel any commentary is ridiculous, but I also want to show up for what you're going through in whatever small way I can. I find myself worrying that my comments will be annoying. So I'll start by saying I'm offering these thoughts as a way to show up for you in a small way, to respond.

    I find having information at my fingertips (via the internet) both a blessing and a curse. I've not yet been able to stop myself from googling symptoms and report details, but I'm never sure if it helps. My favorite findings are peoples' personal experiences with something I'm dealing with.

    On the food front, I have this scenario that I play out in my head where I'm on death row and I can order a last meal. I am torn in that fantasy about whether to eat things I know make me sick (Zachary's pizza, chocolate cake, corn on the cob, and a milkshake) or to eat in a way that is better for me, even though I know it "doesn't matter." Fantasy Mary usually goes with the latter, to avoid going out feeling sick. Maybe I have this fantasy because it's the closest I can get to Zachary's pizza. Or maybe it's about engaging with a desire to be able to act without creating repercussions, and accepting that that's not possible (for me).

    With metta,

    1. Hey Mary, I suppose I should have said that I am less careful about what I eat, not that it doesn't matter. Because yeah, if I eat ice cream all day, I will feel bad.
      I appreciate your comments - I don't need for you to understand my experience - you have your own and your own perspective, too, and that is interesting to me.
      love SP

  2. Like Mary, I feel that I want to "show up" for you - especially since I am so far away from you. There is so little that I can say, but I certainly would love to take you out for a meal to eat anything that you'd like to! Since I can't, I'll try to put together some Hawaiian treats and send them onward. :)

    Love & metta,