Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why radiologists love me

MRI was still new technology in 1993 when my 3-year-old son was scanned for a serious neurological disorder. I was editor of Diagnostic Imaging then, a young father, and slightly awed by the power of a technology that could show details down to the wrinkles of a little boy’s brain. Nick ended up having his dural sinus occlusive disease successfully treated, and he went on to become a happy, healthy kid. He graduates from high school with honors this spring. The MRI machines that ogled his brain gave us information that helped to save his life.

About 13 years later it was my turn for a medical crisis. To cut to the chase, I was diagnosed in August 2006 with melanoma. Too much time in the sun, I hate to admit. I had surgery on the side of my knee to remove the cancer, and a PET scan and sentinel lymph node biopsy to check for metastases. Everything checked out OK at the time, and we heaved a sigh of relief. As the months passed, the anxiety about a recurrence gradually subsided. I was officially a cancer survivor.

A CT scan done in January for a one-year follow-up changed everything. The radiologist detected suspicious findings; my oncologist quickly ordered a PET/CT study. It too was positive. For good measure, I also had a brain MRI. No problems there, other than the shock and panic that no imaging technology can detect. Two weeks later a surgeon was slicing through my inguinal crease, and scooping out all the nodes he could find. Two of them were cancerous. He sewed me up with what felt like boar’s bristles and sent me to the oncology ward at OHSU for two nights with Dante on the shore of purgatory.

It’s been almost seven weeks now since the surgery, and I’m only beginning to feel normal again. To make sure that doesn’t last, I’m scheduled to begin a four-week bout of high-dose interferon on Monday. I paid a social call to Good Samaritan Hospital’s cath lab this morning so I could be outfitted with a central venous catheter. This so-called PICC catheter will be used to administer the interferon. The nurse used ultrasound to locate a juicy vein into which she could place her needle, after which I had a chest x-ray to confirm the proper placement of the line. I only mention these details because I want everyone to know that I am an indiscriminate and profligate consumer of imaging technology. I’ve now run the table: CT, PET, MRI, ultrasound and radiography. I used to write about this stuff for radiologists. Now the radiologists are reporting on me.

So that sets the stage for what’s to come in this blog. I have invited friends and family to follow along on this adventure. Many of you have shown great kindness and concern about my illness and seem to appreciate being kept in the loop on what’s happening. I’m not sure how dense the brain fog will be once I start the interferon, so I may ask Ellen to report on things if I’m not up to it. I’ll be blunt: I don’t expect this cancer will kill me, but it may. I’ve had several weeks to process that possibility. God has blessed me with his peace, however, and I know I am in his loving care. All is well with my soul. Please post your comments below. I welcome hearing from you all.


Marc Andresen said...

Wonderfully personal and reflective without being morose or sappily self centered. Thanks for drawing us into your world.

Marc Andresen

Keith said...

At last the writer in you is displayed. I just wait for Dante's shore to be soon replaced by a shore in Hell's Canyon with fly rod and raft.

Anonymous said...

How I've missed your prose and wisdom since you left the world of Diagnostic Imaging, Peter. Over the years, you and I have devoted endless column inches to criticising the overuse of medical technology, but thank God the technology exists. It's helped empower good people like Nick and enable them to realise their dreams, and now it's giving you every reason to stay optimistic and positive. Philip

Bonny Gorsuch said...

Dear Peter--I just ran into you darling sister, Gigi, in the Mariner Market parking lot (here in Cannon Beach). She mentioned she had just left her job. Of course, I wondered why, so I asked her, "Is your health fine?" She said that hers was fine but her brother Pete in Corvallis was in Stage 3 cancer. I asked her if you are "spiritual". She said VERY! And, of course your BLOG proves that you are thinking of Heavenly Things. Who wouldn't be at a time such as this? I will check in with your blog periodically as I find it interesting and informative. Yes, God does have you in the palm of His Hand. God's BEST to you and YOUR family. Bonny Gorsuch in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Zone Captain said...

Thank you for sharing your ongoing story Peter - now to the world via this blog. I, along with others from First Pres Berkeley, keep you and your family in prayer.
Rick Leong