It feels strange to refer to my father as a cancer patient, to put a name or label on it. He has been through a diagnosis, the doctor’s prepared a strategy, performed surgery, he went through a long recovery and now he is in remission. Done, right?
A few weeks ago my father went in for a PET scan. If you don’t know what a PET scan is, it is a test which the nurse injects a radioactive dye into a vein. You sit for a while, then they put you in a tube to take pictures of your internal organs. In my father’s case the doctor’s needed to see a better picture of his lungs.
We went in for the results yesterday, and the doctor’s exact words were “I’m treating this like a tumor until I can prove otherwise”. A little harsh, I know, but straight and to the point. The doctor went on to explain how the radioactive chemical or (dye) the nurse injected is basically sugar. The instructions pre-PET scan were not to eat or drink anything after 5pm the previous night. The doctor explained that your body needed to be hungry so when the picture (PET scan) was taken and if there was something there the sugar would feed it. The doctor showed me the pictures and if this picture was not of my father’s lungs, and I was in medical school, it would be fascinating. But at that moment the doctor pointed out where the sugar fed my father’s tumor- I felt a chill through my body- Here we go again.
Now is the time I go into detachment mode. I have to do this in order to interpret the instructions and take the directions the doctor is giving me for my father. The doctor says he will set up a biopsy. The tumor is very close to a blood vessel, but he assures me he can get into the precise spot and extract a piece of the tumor for biopsy. He discusses with me some other minor details, and I ask him the big question- Is this tumor malignant. As the words came out of my mouth, I already knew the answer. The doctor sat silent for a moment. I nodded and that was that.
As we were leaving the hospital, I had to re-attach myself emotionally at this time, become his daughter again. This takes a couple minutes; I call this the “cancer walk”. It consists of a period of silence that lasts about 5 minutes, which is the time it takes to walk from the doctor’s office to the car. Out of character my father breaks the silence and says “I think this time around is going to be worse than the last”.
I put my arm around him and tell him “here we go again.”