Mammograms still can’t see everything

The technology continues to improve but mammograms still can’t see everything

Thursday, May 5, I had my first post-surgery mammogram, and for the first time in my life, I was afraid of it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d been stressing for a week. My poor left boob had already been biopsied, injected, sliced in two different places, scanned a couple of times, and radiated. It seemed logical that subjecting that abused, scarred tissue to the none-too-gentle clench of a mammogram machine was just asking for pain.

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Nothing if not thorough

Two months after the fact, bronchoscopy results are still coming in.

This morning I got yet another test result from that bronchoscopy I had waaaay back on December 29.

Not surprisingly, when one’s lungs are being examined for disease and/or damage, one of the things doctors look for is tuberculosis. This is done with an AFB (acid-fast bacilli) smear on a slide that is examined under a microscope for signs of mycobacteria. The smear provides presumptive results which can guide treatment decisions while culture results are pending.

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Still more test results

Unpleasant thought but comforting test result: No fungus in my lungs.

Unbelievably I received yet another test result this morning from the bronchoscopy I had on December 29. Maybe they’re just slow posting the result. Or maybe it actually took this long to process something, like growing a culture or something.

Anyway, I was relieved to see that the “Fungus Culture” report revealed “No fungus isolated.” Thank goodness. Fungus in my lungs is a really gross thought. Ick, eww, yuck!

A worthwhile bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy produces a dozen different reports evaluating everything obtainable from one set of lungs.

I’ll always remember it as a horrible experience — that bronchoscopy I had on December 29. But looking back, I can at least say the doctors made the absolute most of the opportunity.

Today I received a notice that yet another report from that day had been posted on My Health Connection, the online portal where UC Health patients can see their test results, messages, appointments, and records. It brought to 12 —  an even dozen — the number of different tests/reports emanating from that one procedure. The system isn’t perfect; three of the reports appear to be identical and contain no information. But still, there’s an impressive amount of information.

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Bronchoscopy results mean more prednisone

My bronchoscopy was a nightmare but at least it produced new information leading to yet another change of treatment.

My bronchoscopy last Tuesday was even worse than I’d feared but having bitched at two different doctors since then, I’m finally done with it. Except to say I’ll do it again only at gunpoint.

Rather than repeat the whole story for at least the third time, I’ll just pull from my notes:

Wed Dec 30

Bronchoscopy yesterday. Awful experience (I woke up half way through it). The lavage part was like choking to death, coughing as hard as I could and unable to clear my lungs. Terrifying. I’ll never trust versed again. That or the personnel were incompetent. Hard to believe my experience was the typical one that I was told was “no big deal.”

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And for the holidays I’m getting … a bronchoscopy

Because the cough hasn’t gone away, a bronchoscopy has been scheduled. Now all I want for Christmas is for the cough to go away before then.

Oh joy. For my holiday surprise, I’m getting my very own bronchoscopy! On the 29th. One that will include a lavage and a biopsy. Now is a good time, the doctor said, because I’m completely weaned off the prednisone. And because the cough continues, not notably better or worse, but still definitely there. If it clears up before the 29th, I’m off the hook; I’m not counting on that.

I can’t begin to tell you how (not) thrilled I am by this. I may have mentioned before that I have a Class A Godawful gag reflex. I also have a deep distrust of the sedatives commonly used for the procedure, since I actually woke up from them during a colonoscopy about 15 years ago. All the assurances about how the drugs will ensure I don’t remember anything? Screw that. I don’t want to be aware of anything. And if I am aware, the well-being of anyone within reach will be in grave danger.

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In search of … answers

More CT scans today. Diagnosis and treatment still to come.

Today was (another) CT scan day — for the high res scans I mentioned earlier. This time they did inspiratory (“Take a deep breath and hold it”) and expiratory (“Take a breath, exhale completely, and hold”) scans. For one of those, I forget which, I was lying on my stomach instead of my back. So now they have all sorts of scans to examine and compare. Oh, and they got a sinus scan too, since the pulmonologist thinks sinus drainage might be a factor. If so, I’m in trouble, because that’s just a year round fact of life for me. Lots of low grade allergies, and there’s always some allergen floating around even if it’s only the dog, the cat, or my outstanding collection of house dust. Continue reading “In search of … answers”

Moving on to hormone therapy

The cough persists, but the cancer treatment moves to the next step — hormone therapy, which really should be called anti-hormone therapy.

I’ve had three different medical appointments in the last two days, but at least now there’s nothing on my calendar for the rest of this week.

Yesterday I saw my ophthalmologist for the first time in three or four months. Good news all the way around. My glaucoma is stable; there have been no changes due to all the cancer treatments or to anything else. My intraocular pressures (IOP) in both eyes are at good levels. When I told him I was concerned about all the corticosteroids (inhalers and prednisone), he said that steroids had ceased to be a concern when I had my glaucoma surgery. With the filters (drains) in place in both eyes, there’s no risk of a sudden, unrelieved increase in pressure. So great news there. Going forward I can stop worrying about the steroids messing with my glaucoma.

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Time keeps on tickin’

Raised today: The possibility that I might be dealing with more than just the side effects of cancer treatment.

I’ve been in sort of a treatment lull for several weeks. My last radiation treatment was on Friday, November 13, and although the boost area in the middle of my chest got bright pink, there was never any real pain or discomfort. The outermost layer of skin cells has mostly flaked or sloughed off now (“peeled” isn’t really the right word) and the skin underneath is a lot less pink. Getting very close to normal looking. Continue reading “Time keeps on tickin’”

Radiation treatment could begin this week

My vacation from treatment is over. Tomorrow is my VSIM, the final check before radiation treatment begins.

Another whole week of leisure time has passed, interrupted only by a PET scan last Wednesday. I’ve been resting a lot, eating a lot (with an emphasis on protein), and trying to get more active. I’ve gradually been getting my legs back with a couple of walks up to the mailbox, a couple of walks around the block, and a couple of drives to the supermarket. With each outing I’ve felt a little stronger, a little steadier on my feet. I even took a short leaf-peeping drive up the Peak-to-Peak Highway as far north as Peaceful Valley (about 3 hours altogether), so I’m a lot more confident behind the wheel than I was a few weeks ago. Continue reading “Radiation treatment could begin this week”