Update #17 — False Alarm!


Rizzo shouting to Kinickie “It was a false alarm!”

When I was growing up, one of my very favorite movies was Grease. The last few weeks I kept thinking of the scene where Rizzo yells out to everyone at the carnival: “It was a false alarm!” She was referring to a pregnancy scare, but I kept imagining applying it to my situation, a cancer recurrence scare. 

Since the last scan, I’ve been feeling well. I had no symptoms of disease progression, and my labs in July improved. Somehow, the bleak outlook after the last scan started to clear a bit. I was able to really see how the Best Case Scenario I mentioned in my last post (which seemed like a long shot at the time I wrote it) might actually be a realistic possibility. I wasn’t sure if I was losing my grasp of reality, but I didn’t want to necessarily re-grasp it if I was. It felt good.

Then, a week before my August scan, one friend died and then another friend shared about her progression. Reality and anxiety returned. I upped the exercise, meditation, and zen doodling. That helped. I was doing ok, until the morning of the scan, when the universe thought it would up the challenge, and I spit out a little blood as I brushed my teeth, completely out of the blue. Perfect. I couldn’t even bring myself to share that detail with anyone because I knew it would raise alarm bells, and I needed to marshall all my resources to manage my own emotions, I had none to spare for anyone else’s. The scan would tell us soon enough, anyhow.

I drove myself up to UCSF, distracting myself with some podcast I can’t even recall now. I recited my mantra as I slid back and forth through the scan machine. That was the easy part. Then I returned home and commenced the hard part, the waiting. 

I obsessively checked and refreshed my screen looking for test results more than I did the day they posted the Bar Exam results. Finally, around 10:30pm, my oncologist took mercy on me and sent me a message: “the preliminary results look promising, I’ll share the radiology report when it gets signed tomorrow.” Vague, but good. I was able to go to sleep. 

The next morning I did see the report, and then I had my appointment with the oncologist the following day. The results were indeed good. Very good. The new spot that was there in the June scan is gone. The fluid that was in my lung has also mostly cleared up.

So, what was that??? It could have been some sort of minor infection or irritation that I didn’t feel, but was nonetheless there, causing an enlarged lymph node that’s settled down now – a common cold or allergies masquerading as life-threatening progression. Or maybe it was cancer and it miraculously reversed itself with all the love and support you share, and, of course, my stash of magic crystals and lucky pennies. My doctor is pretty sure it’s the former, but she hasn’t seen how pretty my crystals are.

I am so relieved, and very happy. There is one thing I am wrestling with a little bit though. I have a fear of being perceived as “crying wolf.” This cancer thing is such a crazy roller-coaster. I’ve chosen to be public about a lot of it, which means you all join me on the ride sometimes. I share often how serious is this diagnosis, how dire the statistics, how few the treatments, how often I lose friends and peers with the very same disease. And yet, so far – *knock wood please!* – I somehow I keep thriving. I am so grateful. I just don’t want anyone to mistake my uncommon good fortune and misunderstand the ominous threat of lung cancer. So, please do keep that in mind. 

I return for another scan in 12 weeks. The roller coaster will continue. But for today, I’m Rizzo, on top of the ferris wheel, shouting with profound relief and joy “False Alarm!”