It all started with a passing, but worrying reference on a CT scan I had done because of lingering pain in my lower abdomen. The test was taken to rule out a hernia (which it did), but it also noted the following: “PANCREAS: There is a 5 mm focal low density in the body of the pancreas as seen on series 2 image 39. Orthogonal images are more suggestive of a fatty cleft than a focal lesion.”
Oh. There are lots of different kinds of cancer, but one of the ones you *really* do not want is pancreatic and here I had in front of me a medical report that was at best equivocal about that possibility. The radiologist recommended an ultrasound be taken in six months. On a separate, but parallel track, I was due for a colonoscopy (I had turned 50 a month earlier) and when I showed the report to the gastroenterologist, he prescribed an MRI instead, explaining that an ultrasound was unlikely to resolve the question of what was on my pancreas because the sound waves used in the test would probably bounce off my stomach (which is in front of the pancreas, who knew?). I had to get through the colonoscopy first (which I did, and it was clean) and then wanted to wait a few weeks so my right arm didn’t turn into a pin cushion (both the colonoscopy and MRI require IVs).
Obviously, this weighed quite heavily on me. It was not enough that I had spent months in almost complete isolation during a pandemic, had been trying to juggle working from home with being at home (not as easy as you would think) and my general struggles with depression and anxiety, now I had to worry about a ticking time bomb in my body that could end things entirely. Add to that a succession of snow storms over the span of about 3 weeks that dropped a total of more than two feet of snow in front of my house and I was really at my wits end. I started having trouble sleeping, was anxious all the time, had what felt like were hours-long panic attacks, and all the while, just tried to keep my shit together and my driveway clear (ha ha). This stress, along with COVID, finally hit my waistline - I put on 5 pounds in about 2 weeks bingeing on sweets and not working out as much as I should. It was at the lowest point in what has felt like almost a year of one long, ongoing low point.
When I opened my gmail account this morning, there was an email from the gastroenterologist notifying me that the report was in. I nervously opened it. It did not start well: “At the site of the questioned abnormality, there is a 3 mm focus of intrinsic signal abnormality which is isotense to the adjacent fat on T1 and T2-weighted images.” (Uh-oh, this doesn’t sound good). It went on: “It demonstrates suppression of signal on the T1 fat-saturated sequence.” (Heart pumping faster). And still more: “It is hyper intense (yikes!) on the in phase sequence with a rim of low signal on the out of phase sequence.” At this point, I assumed the worst because hey, there was a lot of verbiage that did not sound very promising and then, the kicker: “These findings are consistent with a small fatty cleft in the pancreatic parenchyma. There is no pancreatic mass or cyst.” (emphasis mine). EXHALE and then, a feeling of relief.
I have spent the last four months unsure whether a lesion was growing on my pancreas that might kill me and now I know there is not. It is an odd feeling to not have this hanging over my head anymore. In the movies, the character would embrace ~ a new lease on life ~ but now, I just want my stupid COVID vaccine so I can get back to my normal level of grumpiness, not the dark hole I have been in for almost a year.
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