I can't in general recommend cancer as a cure for narcissism. On the contrary, if my experience is any indication, all suspicions that one has been singled out by fate and that one deserves special consideration and dispensation from others may be outrageously exaggerated by one's diagnosis. I have been particularly alarmed - no, that's too strong a word in the context of my radical self-absorption. I have been particularly bemused by the recognition that my response to a mysterious, unseen enemy resembles George W.'s in at least one respect: I have decided that shopping is an excellent remedy for fear and helplessness. If I stop spending, the cancer wins!
The sudden absence of external controls or brakes conspires with me in my extravagance. The first time Peter and I bought a couch, fifteen years ago, his caution balanced my impulsivity, so that we took months to settle on a common choice. Wednesday, when I visited a local maker of custom sofas and found a huge and heavily-discounted sectional in my very favorite shade of gray blue (you see? fated), I had the courtesy at least to call Pete to ask his thoughts, but I knew very well that he'd tell me - as he did in fact - "Go for it." The beautiful behemoth (ordered and then discarded by a couple who found it could not negotiate the hard angles of their Victorian home) will be delivered in time for Christmas. Talk about self-gifting!
So I was feeling very special when I received a call later that afternoon from Christine Brown, my (splendid) "cancer care nurse navigator." She had reviewed the results of my PET/CT scan with Dr. Christine Barnett, my (excellent) medical oncologist, and she wanted to read a few things directly from the report: "Cerebrum is symmetrical and unremarkable... The thyroid is unremarkable." Furthermore, "There is no paratracheal, subcarinal, hilar, or lung parenchymal abnormality. Liver, adrenal glands, and pancreas unremarkable. There is no paraaortic, iliac, or inguinal hypermetabolic abnormality." How elating to discover the ho-hum ordinariness of my brain, glands, nodes, and organs!!
Bottom line: apart from a "mildly hypermetabolic focus" around my left ovary, and excepting the tumor itself (which is confirmed to be a fierce and hungry little bastard), the scan appeared clear: "No suspicious FDG-avid abnormality at other sites." This includes the axillary lymph nodes where my doctors had felt some suspicious swelling, an unexpected bit of good news. PET scans measure relative metabolic rates (malignancies consume lots of sugar in their mania for growth) and generally cannot detect cancers smaller than a centimeter. Thus the report doesn't rule out the possibility of microscopic to small incursions outside the breast, BUT now that an ultrasound has returned yet another "unremarkable" verdict on the overactive ovary, there's real reason to hope that we've caught this thing while it remains relatively local and contained.
It also means that the path forward is much clearer. Yesterday I met for a pre-op consult with my (remarkable) surgeon, Dr. Chris Lee, and we set a date: January 15th. Even absent the result of my genetic tests, the consensus among my doctors is that I have some strong susceptibility that puts my left (apparently healthy) breast at significant risk for a new cancer. I would really like to avoid going through this again if I can, so I have opted for a double mastectomy. This morning I made a reservation for the weekend before surgery at a lovely inn on the coast at Manzanita, where Pete and I will bid a fond farewell to my good-natured gals. They never meant anyone any harm.