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gretchen scherer luebke
6/13/2016 Latest post:
So let’s get this out right up front: I have ass cancer. As if having cancer isn’t bad enough, I have the added insult of getting a cancer that is in an area no one likes to talk about. The upside? There are so many terrific puns and jokes that can be made when you have ass cancer.
So how did all this start? Well, when you are a middle-aged woman and start having issues in a certain part of your body, you naturally assume you have hemorrhoids.Unfortunately, that’s what my doctor assumed too—two times. So, even though the small bump turned into a substantial, angry growth, my doctor never considered it could be anything other than an out-of-control hemorrhoid. Luckily, I did not wait too long to go see a colorectal Physician’s Assistant to get the“hemorrhoid” treated, and that is where this roller coaster ride began.
My official diagnosis is anal squamous cell carcinoma. The same thing Farrah Fawcett had. My sister Ellie recently reminded me that I always dreamed of being Farrah Fawcett when I was a kid, but this seems like kind of an extreme way to accomplish that goal. Although things did not work out so well for Farrah, ASCC is actually a very treatable cancer.
Where things got tricky with me is that my PET scans turned up some “hot spots” that perplexed and concerned my doctors. For those who have not yet been exposed to the wonderful world of PET scans, here’s how they work. A PET scan shows your body’s metabolic activity. Cancer shows up as bright, glowing colors and normal areas show up as gray. My primary tumor was as bright as a Christmas bulb, the lymph nodes nearby were kind of pink, but some nodes farther away also showed up as kind of pink. Those were the nodes that the doctors are concerned about. One is in my fatty tissue in my midsection and one is in my periaortic nodes.
This was really scary news because if the cancer was in this area, which the doctors did not think it was, we would be looking at a Stage IV diagnosis, which would be really bad. At the end of the day, they wanted to know for sure.
In order to get to the bottom of things, my doctors decided to do a biopsy of one of those fatty nodes. Initially, the scans suggested they should be able to do a needle biopsy of that area. Unfortunately, the reality was too complex. The doctor decided it was too risky and might cause too many problems like bleeding, etc. So,instead, they biopsied the lymph node near the cancer that they considered the“hottest” on the scan. Here is where we finally got some good news.
To their surprise, that lymph node came back cancer free. While that does not definitively mean the cancer has not metastasized, it now seems highly unlikely. Those other lit up areas could be lots of things, many of them absolutely harmless. Of course, my doctors have said it could also be a slow moving lymphoma, but they are going to “worry about that later.” :)
So, Jamin and I have decided to just feel happy and optimistic and get ready to battle the lightbulb in my ass and whatever may or may not be in the surrounding lymph nodes. I got my chemo port put in on June 8th, and I am set to start chemo and radiation on June 13th. In addition, my adorable niece Frankie made me my very own light saber to zap away my cancer
Although this whole deal is really going to be a pain in the ass (see what I mean about the puns?), I feel absolutely uplifted by the outpouring of love, support, and offers of help that I have already received. It is an amazing thing to be enveloped by so much love. For that and so much more, I am incredibly grateful.