New Scenarios and Unknown Paths

Half of my mom’s body is sticking out a machine that wailing so loud it sounds like it’s on the verge of implosion.

As the MRI machine scans her brain, a series of loud alarms, buzzers, and rings flare off. We have on earplugs. I’m sitting about seven feet from my mom, and there’s a mirror just above my mom’s line of sight. It’s tilted at an angle, and she looks my way. She gives a thumbs up.

We wrap up in about a half-hour, and the disc we’re handed contains dozens of images of her brain—virtual dissections of her most vital organ and the mass inside of it that threatens her survival.

The report will reveal to us if the six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation had an effect on her tumor. While we won’t get her doctors’ verdicts until we see them later this week, I can compare this report to the tumor’s measurements in the pre-radiation and oncology MRI she had in December. I carry a copy of the December MRI report on my iPhone, so as soon as I look, I’ll have a version of an answer.

I’m somewhat accustomed to reading medical reports now. The measurements—given in three dimensions, i.e., 3.5×3.6×4.6—will tell me if her tumor shrunk, stayed the same size, or grew. If it shrunk, it would relieve some of my worries. It’ll be evidence that her treatments had a significant effect on its growth. In this scenario, we’d likely stay on chemotherapy and hope that it keeps fighting the tumor.

If the report shows the tumor stayed the same size, it wouldn’t be bad news, and not great, either.  I’d feel compelled to look at other options again. This could be treatments to supplement chemotherapy, like Novocure Optune, or clinical trials. By far the worst news would be if it grew. But this is a game of numbers, so if it only grew by a millimeter and not a centimeter in either direction, it wouldn’t necessarily mean we need to raise the alarms. Any more than a few millimeters, and we’d more than likely explore clinical trials or another surgery.

I’d say my mom’s doing well, considering she hasn’t shown any of the symptoms that she had prior to surgery. Though I offer to drive anytime we travel, she wants to drive each time. She’s mobile, and her headaches seem under control and less frequent. While she’s not worse, she isn’t noticeably better. I wish I had my own Symphony Maestro so I could monitor the tumor every day and know if it grew even a millimeter.

I’m going to have to give in a check the report sometime soon. Here’s to, hopefully, some good news.

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