Five Is the Magic Number

So here i sit, in the familiar waiting room of Dana Farber’s Althea Lank Imaging Department, drinking a chemical cocktail that’s masquerading as a bottle of Dasani water and waiting for what I estimate to be my 13th chest/abdomen/pelvis CT scan since November 2011. 


There were probably more than 13, but that’s the number I can officially account for. That’s a lot of radiation, but these are the strange little ironies you accept when you have cancer. 

Sure, I’m choosing to expose myself to about 400x the amount of radiation in a chest x-Ray with every one of these CT scans. But, hey, the FDA says that, “for any one person, the risk of radiation-induced cancer is much smaller than the natural risk of cancer.” So….

This is one of those times when you choose the devil you know over the one you don’t. 

While we’re looking at figures, this means I’ve consumed 26 Dasani bottles of oral radiocontrast, the dye used to give docs a good look at my insides with these CT scans. Actually, they only started offering the water option about 3 years ago. Before that it was raspberry or iced tea-flavored Crystal Light. The availability of the water option was a quantum leap in oral contrast delivery, IMHO. 

If that reference just made you recall the excellent ’80s tv show starring Svott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, I’m glad to know you.

But I’ve buried the lede. We’re here today for my five year checkup. As I’ve said before, five years after treatment is that magical moment when docs proclaim you “cancer free” or “in remission,” depending on their personal bent toward optimism or practicality. This is a big freaking deal, in other words. 

For ULMS, passing the two-year mark without a recurrence is the real achievement, but five years feels like money in the bank. You know, if your projected life span were money, which I suppose it is. 

Now is not the time to linger on the eventual day when my atypically irradiated cells wake up and say, “let’s party!” Hopefully I will be 85+ years old by then, basking in my long, mostly healthy and unusually happy life. 

Five Is the Magic Number