a walk through my scan day!

Last week I had a clean, 6-month scan!!!  I have one more of those every 6 month scans and then two, every year scans before I am officially done with my clinical trial.  As promised last time (and last week), Brett and I documented this scan, step by step as we went through the hospital and our day.  🙂

Since we come to the hospital from out of town, Brett and I always drive down the night before and then take the first CT scan appointment of the day.  This means a 6:15 am departure from my childhood home…or 6:20 am if we are leaving late 😉

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When we drive to the hospital, we park in the garage that is adjacent to the building where my CT scans, labs (when they draw blood to check things), and my doctor’s appointment all are.

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In all of these pictures, Brett and I both look a little tired.  🙂  We aren’t used to getting up before 6 am and we had just returned from our all night drive home from Boston the day before heading down to St. Louis  🙂  Busy couple of days!

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When we get to the CT waiting room, the women there know me by name.  They always exclaim “Good morning Ms. Casperson!” as we walk in 🙂  I always fill out the same forms…I did this even when I was getting scanned ever 3 months…I could complain about that and other hospital idiosyncrasies for hours 😉

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Then they call me into the back where they start an IV.  When I was still doing chemo, this process was a lot easier because I had a port they could easily access in my chest.  It meant that they didn’t have to find a good vein in my dehydrated body’s arm (I have to fast starting at midnight the day before the scan) but used the port that was connected straight to an artery in my neck.  I used to always be given a special liquid to drink at this stage too.  It tasted super funny and my GI system didn’t like it all that much…  Now though, I don’t have to drink it!  Win win!

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After the IV is placed, I’m sent back to where the CT rooms are and I typically wait a few more minutes.

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This is what the CT machines look like.  I lay down on the table and it raises and retracts into the doughnut shaped part of the machine.  They scan my neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvic area.  While you are allowed to have some metal on you (unlike an MRI), I can’t have it in areas where I am directly scanned.  I have learned to dress appropriately so that I don’t have to change into some awful hospital paper outfit or raise/lower a piece of clothing for the scan.  I typically wear comfy/kind of fashionable pajama pants, a cami with built in “bra”, a stretchy top, and some sort of sweater that will keep me warm in the chilly hospital and has no metal (no zipper for instance) but that I can also roll up the sleeves.  On the arm where the IV is started, I need to roll up that sleeve without removing my sweater all the way…plus, having some fabric (like a rolled up sweater sleeve) under the tourniquet they use to start the IV makes that process a bit more comfortable.

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Brett waits in the waiting room, and I come get him when I’m done 🙂  Then I can eat breakfast and have some coffee!!!

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Next, we head to the labs area.  Here, they draw the blood needed to take all of the measurements they need to see if I’m healthy and monitor everything they do for the clinical trial.

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This labs area is connected to the rooms where I had chemotherapy treatments a few years ago.

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Then we head to the doctor’s waiting room!  I check in, pay a co-pay, and wait a little more.

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Then we meet with the doctor.  I really love my doctor and her team.  I think that choosing someone to handle your treatment that you are comfortable with is a HUGELY important thing 🙂

Outside of the doctors’ offices and the labs area, there is a bell.  Patients ring it whenever they want.  It signifies good news and everyone claps and cheers whenever the bell is rung.  It makes me teary eyed just thinking of all of the rings I have heard while in the cancer area…whether in labs, treatment, or seeing the doctor.

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And that’s it!  Brett and I weren’t documenting our lives they way we do now, when I was going through chemo.  On a chemo day (if I also had a scan), our day would have started just like I just described, and then after the doctor’s appointment we would have headed across the hall to chemo.  Finger’s crossed that those days are behind us 🙂

another 6 month scan today!

Happy Wednesday!

By the time you read this, Brett and I will be in the middle of another one of my every 6 month scans.  This time around, I decided that we would do a post where you see exactly what one of these scan days is like for us, so look for that later next week (eep!  Teasers!).

We’ll definitely keep you up to date with the results!  Wish us luck!

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Lacuna Loft – the big reveal!

After hinting about it for a number of weeks, I am finally ready to let you in on the details of my new endeavor!  Introducing…..Lacuna Loft!  Check it out here!

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Lacuna Loft is a magazine and e-commerce website geared towards young adults (20s/30s) dealing with cancer or long term illness (either as a patient or a caregiver) and their support network.  Young adults are at a time in our lives when we are facing new careers and families, competitive graduate programs, and our friends often have trouble relating.  The website is two fold:  there is a blog with articles on survivorship, personal stories, cancer life hacks, and much more AND an online shop with kits designed to quickly communicate the physical needs of the cancer patient with their social network.  Lacuna Loft is meant to help young adults adapt to their new, slower, day-to-day lives while also offering them the resources to easily communicate their needs with their support system.

Lacuna Loft provides a one-stop resource for the young adult patient or caregiver, and their loved ones.  Today is launch day!  🙂

Happy Biopsy-Versary!

Our third biopsy-versary has come!  🙂  February 14 will always be an interesting day…but it is much more than Valentine’s Day in our household.  We talked in depth about our first biopsy-versary last year.  You can find that post here.  The phrase biopsy-versary was taken from an xkcd comic that we have shared before.  🙂

This year for Valentine’s Day Brett and I went to a Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors concert in Evanston, IL.  We saw them almost exactly 3 years ago in the same venue.  That evening three years ago was hard…we had just found out my diagnosis but hadn’t done any of the staging yet.  (This means that we knew that I had cancer but we didn’t know how far along it was or what my treatments/prospects were).  There is a song of theirs called Live Forever.  These lyrics made me feel so scared and uncertain about what would come next for us…

This year the concert was great 🙂  Instead of the entire band, the evening was spent with just Drew and Ellie Holcomb…unplugged and totally awesome 🙂  Drew and Ellie even played our song 🙂  Do you remember it from our wedding?

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a cancer survivor rant of sass: on survivorship

There are actually a few things that I could rant about as a cancer survivor.  There are the usual, Why did this happen to me? kind of thing.  There is definitely the much deserved rant about what things people say to someone with cancer.  (I talked a little bit about that here).

First of all though, to get the actual rant started, I hate the words survivor and battle when talking about cancer.  The unfortunate truth of the word survivor, is that it implies such a harrowing feat for those of us here and the narrow alternative for those of us who are no longer.  I also hate the phrase, so-and-so lost their battle.  Really?!  Because I’m sure that that person’s friends and family still see the battle as an every day occurrence…not something lost.  Definitely not something that is done, finito, fini.  The same connotation is used with survivorship.  That is the root of this rant…the idea that being a survivor also means that the battle is over.

Cancer builds a context into a “survivor’s” life  (and into the life of a caregiver for that matter).  Cancer taints future events in ways that result in both negative and positive outcomes.  We have all heard of people living life to the fullest after experiencing life changing events like cancer.  Some of the things we hear a lot less of though are the negative aspects.  I do not mean this to be a moment where I now tell you each thing that I have experienced as a negative to being a cancer survivor….I only want to outline the key of survivorship that I have found to be so often overlooked by the bystanders.  Survivorship is the process of surviving.

The context that cancer creates cannot be erased, forgotten, pushed through, sucked up, or ignored.  Though others in the cancer survivor’s life may completely forget about the day of diagnosis, the months of chemo, and the feelings of isolation, anxiety, and hurt, the cancer survivor is not afforded this luxury.  Others may choose to forget the new context of the cancer survivor’s life but the survivor does not have that choice.  The survivor must now go through the process of surviving…

where things once easy may now seem difficult,

where once there was a clear and photographic memory now there may be a foggy and sluggish feeling for years,

where some people refuse to admit that you may not be back to 100% yet,

where people ignore what happened as if it is now over.

This is survivorship….not just being clear of cancer.  To the survivors (both patients and caregivers) out there….cancer did happen.  It is real and it makes sense to me that you are still feeling the effects of the battle.  It makes sense to me that you may not be back to 100% and that your brain may still feel a bit slower than before.  Cancer changes everything…so how can one expect to be the same as before?  More importantly, why should one be made to feel as if they need to be the same as before?

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Image via http://www.ttuhsc.edu