Good news team. All that we are doing is working. Last week I performed my mid-treatment PET-CT scan and the results are in. My tumor has shrunk in size by about 80%! For those more imagistically inclined, that’s a 9 cm diameter grapefruit down to a 3 cm strawberry!
The other significant news is that the SUV (standard uptake value) of the tumor is now 2.4, down from 27.0 in January when my first scan was performed. The SUV is the rate at which the different tissues and/or tumors in the body metabolize special radioactive glucose injected intravenously before the test. You can see from my scans the significant difference:
January 22nd, 2020 (Before Treatment)
No need to circle anything here, as the massive tumor is indicated by the bright color in my left lung space – the organ appearing next to the tumor is my heart.
May 1st, 2020
(After 2 months of healing work and chemotherapy)
This time I circled the tumor in yellow, as you can see it is MUCH smaller and does not ‘light up’ like it did in January. I’ll explain this below.
The bright portions you see in my recent scan are what is clinically called a therapeutic response – meaning my bone marrow is lighting up because of the Neulasta medication, stimulating new blood cell growth. This was expected as my last injection was a few days before this scan.
What is important to note is that the tumor is not lighting up any more than the organs around it. My report said the tumor has a maximum SUV of approximately 2.4, minimally below mediastinal uptake, meaning that it is in the normal range for tissues in this area. This was given a Deauville Criteria score of 2, indicating a complete response to treatment. This is a very positive result for me as often patients’ mid-treatment scores can be Deauville 3 or 4, as inflamed tissue or continued cancerous activity may still be present.
When a nurse read the report to me over the phone I turned to Allie and high-fived her and breathed a deep sigh of relief. Since it was Cinco de Mayo we celebrated that evening with a Chipotle bowl and a terrible margarita in a bottle. Days later, my stomach is still not happy about that decision!
I told my doctor I was considering skipping the last two rounds of chemo – she suddenly became rather stern and explained that I need to complete the protocol to clean up any microscopic cancer cells not detectable on the scan. We laughed when I said I was joking and I just wanted to see her reaction.
Many people have asked me if I am elated or super-excited about this result. The truth is that I expected it. I know the work that I’ve been doing to heal, how you all have been showing up to support me, and listening to my intuition of what is happening inside me, was going to result in such news. Of course, I am thrilled to have it confirmed by a million-dollar machine and to be certain that the decisions I have been making the past 3 months have been good ones.
Today I am fasting and preparing to begin the fifth round of chemotherapy tomorrow. As I have written recently, the last weeks have been particularly difficult. The results above certainly help with my motivation, outlook and mood. June 21, the official last day of my chemotherapy regimen, feels a lot closer than it did in February. The healing and recovery will continue much beyond June, but at that point, most of it will be back in my hands.