In preparing for my 3-month-scan and labs to make sure the tumor that triggered my transplant hadn’t returned, I found two journal articles. (Yes, I’m a nursing student who has a penchant for research.) I read Getting a Handle on Posttransplant Recurrence of HCC and Adjuvant Treatment After Orthotopic Liver Transplantation: Is It Really Necessary?, the second of which I noticed was co-written by the surgeon who performed my transplant. Very cool. And regarding my labs, I wasn’t exactly sure what “tumor markers” were, so I brushed up at the National Cancer Institute.
My own personal conclusion was that I had/have a low recurrence rate due to the characteristics of my tumor. That calmed my nerves, so we were off to a good start.
This morning I had my CAT scan followed by labs to screen for “tumor markers.” If you’re interested in medicine, check the link above. If not, suffice it to say they’re something in your blood that can signal whether or not there is a tumor present in your body.
By afternoon, most of the scans had been read and the conclusions of 3 surgeons were this: (And yes, this was complete news to me.) No where in any of my tests, labs, reports, etc. did it ever say the tumor (which was found in May) was definitely cancer. Due to the location of the tumor, it could not be biopsied and diagnosed as cancerous or benign. Therefore, it was assumed to be cancerous, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma to err on the side of caution. Remember, it was never in fact proven. In June, I received chemoembolization, chemo directly targeted at the tumor and not the rest of my body. When my old liver was removed September 1, some lymph nodes were screened for cancer, and none was found. To sum all of that up, my tumor may have been completely benign. Yes, it may have been cancerous, and the chemo may have just cured it. But the catch is this, chemoembolization is rarely successful with just one treatment. We will never know which the tumor was, so even if I am at risk of recurrence or any kind of cancer coming back, it’s a very small risk. Because it may not have ever been there.
That was a lot to take in while it was a relief as well. The day after I had the scan that found the tumor, my doctor said it was cancer. It would have been nice to know that she wasn’t sure and had no way of knowing from the location of the tumor.
But I digress.
The scans today were completely clean, and because of that and the realization the tumor likely was not ever cancerous, I’m now off the protocol treatment and don’t have to get scanned for another 6 months, then every year for 5 years. That’s a lot better than 3x/year for 5 years. And it’s so much better to know that the tumor wasn’t positively cancer. They can never say never since nothing was proven or tested either way, but the tumor was likely non-cancerous.
Sigh of relief.
So God is good, and while we don’t have answers to a lot of things, I really do believe that everything happens for a reason and works out for good. Somehow I beginning to believe the people who say I’m a walking miracle.
Thank you for your prayers, Tweets, comments, emails, texts… I felt so supported and at peace today.
PS – My WBC and platelets are still low (we’re watching them to see what might be the cause) but my liver numbers are all perfect. I don’t know if they’ve ever been perfect. So grateful.