When Cancer Returns

Spinning Carnival Ride

The doctor’s eyes shifted slightly when he looked at me during the meeting following my scan. I knew.

And I knew immediately.

In the scan following my initial surgery, there were tiny, tiny spots in my lungs, as well as one in the T-11 vertebra. Too tiny to biopsy. So tiny the first radiologist said nothing. Possibly just part of my body.

In a scan just before Christmas, the spots on my lungs had grown and changed.

To be or Not to be

The tilt-o-whirl ride started when I was referred to a surgeon. He spoke positively about resecting the lung spots, although we might have to wait since they are so tiny that there is a risk of not getting all of the cancer — don’t want two surgeries on the same lung. My surgeon wanted to get a closer look at the spot on the T-11 vertebra, so I went for a spine MRI.

The surgeon called the next day. “I think the spot on your spine is cancer. That means we will not do surgery, and I’ll be referring you back to your oncologist.”

Death TarotBasically, if it’s in my spine, I’m screwed. The subtext is this, “Lady, I’m not doing surgery. I mean, why would we put you through it?”

Okay, so that afternoon in my office, I began thinking — endgame. What do I want the last year or so to look like?

At home in the early evening, my oncologist called and we talked as he looked at the new scan. He doesn’t think the spot on the spine is cancer. We have a long talk. A day later, after having multiple radiologists compare scans, they decide that it is not cancer since it has not changed in size or shape. It may be a bone island.

So. Now, I’m not dying. (Okay, we are all dying. But I don’t need to make immediate plans).

It’s the feeling of being handed the Death card. You hold it. You look at it. And this time, someone takes it back.

I then did the most logical thing in the world.

I got on a tall ship and headed to sea.

The Royal Clipper, sailing through the Windward and Grenadine islands.
The Royal Clipper, sailing through the Windward and Grenadine islands. Photograph by Ann Fisher.

Here is the review my trip on the Royal Clipper, one of the Star Clipper line.

Cancer Update

March 6, 2016: Great news! My CT scans are stable, so no treatment planned — instead, I get to travel this summer. Woohoo!

Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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*** Image of the carnival at night is from Pixabay.

Ann Fisher

Chemo with Walter White

Taking chemo
My six month journey and my poison.

Tickle that cheek, and take your throne; pump your veins with gushing gold. — Glass Animals

On September 15, 2014, I took my first round of chemo for colon cancer. My treatment was FOLFOX6, a cocktail of Leucovorin, Fluorouracil (5-FU), and Oxaliplatin, for six months, infusions every other week. Each time I had a treatment, after the main infusion, I wore a pump which slowly pushed the 5FU into my veins for another 48 hours . Nausea and extreme aversion to cold, likely. Complete hair loss, unlikely. Neuropathy, likely.

Treatment began three weeks after emergency surgery for a complete bowel obstruction and a week long hospital stay. One week before treatment the surgeon implanted the chemo port in my chest.

I considered myself an old hand at chemo. I had helped my husband, Drew, through over two years of treatments before he passed away in July 2013.

Ah, but between the experiences of the support person and the patient — there lies an imposing gulf.

Friends were with me for most of my treatments, but my daughter stayed with her Dad for my treatment weeks, so at home I was alone. It was quiet.

A treatment or so into the ordeal, I watched the first episode of Breaking Bad. This was a series that had held absolutely no interest for me. I mean, why would I want to watch something about a high-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cooker?

Taking chemo with Walter
Bryan Cranston plays Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad

Walter White proved charming and addictive, and he drew close during my treatment.

I still have visions of the nurse’s face inches from mine, as she begins pushing the wicked-looking needle into the porto-cath in my chest. And there is a song that I associate with that vision and with the feeling the chemical infusion, Black Mambo by The Glass Animals:

Glass Animals

Glass Animals — Black Mambo video. — mesmerizing song — I recommend it. Gets to my feeling exactly.


(Verse 1)

What’ll it be now mister mole
Whispers sloth in curls of smoke
Take a back seat
Or play pharaoh
Dance with me
And shake your bones


Slow down
It’s a science
He’s been waiting
To bring you down
Snake eyed
With a sly smile
He can hold you
And shake you child

(Verse 2)

Leopards laze each
On plush pillows
Slender capes
Of red and chrome
Paperback dreams
In their deep doze
Twitch their toes to
Black mambo

Repeat Refrain
(Verse 3)

Wanna play cheat
Now says the sloth
A domino
Flush to his nose
Tickle that cheek
And take your throne
Pump your veins
With gushing gold

Repeat Refrain
We can hold you
We can hold you
We can hold you
We can hold you

***** Note: while the chemo chemicals I took were not really yellow, their cost put them past the price of gold.