It's been 10 years since I was diagnosed with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma... cancer. I started this blog to share the many emotions, fears, experiences and, hopefully, triumphs that I will face throughout this journey. I have two goals for this blog, 1. To gain some degree of personal therapeutic benefit and, 2. To help others who may one day face a similar struggle by detailing the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery so that they may know what to expect.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

9 Weeks Post Treatment - Follow Up PET Scan

December 6, 2006 - Today is officially nine weeks since the end of my treatments. It is also the day of my first follow up PET scan. Normally, I'd have to wait another three weeks or so for this follow up but Dr. Tonnessen ordered it earlier than he normally would because of the "nubbin" that can still be felt on the base of my tongue. I've been reaching down there periodically to feel for it and yep, it's still there. It's at what I understand to be the site of the primary tumor and feels to be about the size of a pea. OK, maybe a smallish pea. Anyway, as I've already reported, Drs. Tonnessen and Califano, while not particularly concerned about it yet, have taken enough of an interest in this thing to term it "something to keep an eye on" and, thus, the early PET scan. I wouldn't be worried about myself if it weren't for the fact that both of them stated during the course of my treatment that this thing had disappeared. If it's just left over scar tissue, no problem. But to think that it went away and is now back suggests that it's something more than just scar tissue.

Anyway, the PET scan today was just was I remembered it. And so was my anxiety level. I guess the anxiety leading up to the PET scans never goes away. I'm obviously worried about this "something to keep an eye on." I'm also concerned about some pains that I've been having the past several days. Starting on my upper back and chest and radiating down both arms, my skin is painful to the touch. Almost like I'm sunburned. If it weren't for the fact that I feel this on both sides of both arms, I'd chalk it up to late effects from the radiation. But this is just weird. My clothes literally hurt. It's not excruciating but it is uncomfortable. What's more, it seems to be more focused in certain spots and those spots seem to move around. I don't know how else to describe this and I know it sounds crazy. My shoulders have also been very tight and sore and my throat has been bothering me lately. These things may just be the result of stress and they may be totally unrelated to each other. Who knows? I just know that it's a little discouraging to think that I've made it through two month with relatively little to no pain and now this?

I was told that the results would be ready in 48 hours and sent to Dr. Tonnessen whom I am already scheduled to meet with on Monday. Imagine my surprise when I received the following voicemail just a few hours later (recounted here verbatim):

"Hi, it's Dr. Tonnessen from Radiation Therapy. Ummm, I left a message just now for Mike. It's about 4:15 on Wednesday. Ummm, PET scan was terrific. Ummm, quote 'favorable response to therapy... resolution of previously noted abnormalities in the left neck and base of left tongue... no evidence of spread elsewhere... blah, blah, blah.' Ummm, just what we hoped! Hang in there. bye-bye."

I can't begin to describe how I feel about this so I won't bother trying right now. I will say that I am eternally grateful to Dr. Tonnessen for calling me and leaving me that message as soon as he got the results. He knows that I would have agonized over this all weekend. I told Michelle to listen to the message without telling her what it said. She cried as she listened.

On another positive note, big improvements in taste over the past week. I'd estimate it to be anywhere from 50-70% back to normal, depending on the food. Things are still dry but nothing alot of water can't take care of. More to come...


Anonymous Greg Grehawick said...


Words cannot describe how happy the whole Grehawick clan is for you and the whole Shafer clan. What an awesome Christmas present. Be well and take care.


12:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What great news!

5:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have been following your progress through the blog. This is indeed good news - an early Chrismas present perhaps?
You and you family have been through alot. You have all been in our prayers.
Best wishes for a continued recovery and a Happy Holidays.
Scotty Dudley

3:48 AM

Anonymous mdcentral said...


I am truly happy for you and your family. You deserve to be healthy and happy. Best wishes!


11:03 PM

Blogger Patti Shobert said...

Mike did you have to wear a mask as used in regular radiation

1:54 PM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home