Tag Archives: Diagnosis

My Return to Scan-Land

23 Nov


This used to be a blog about health and well-being, right?  It is again, for at least the next few posts.  Two weeks ago, the calendar in my head clicked off a reminder about my impending biannual PET scan, and I got the scheduling process underway.  A quick text to my doctor was followed a few days later with a reply apologizing for the delay and an assurance that my paperwork was being processed.  Then, while I was in the middle of composing a lengthier post complaining about the ways that my medical group tends to delay these decisions, I got my approval in the mail.  All that remains is the scheduling, my abstaining from carbs for 24 hours, the injection of radioactive sugar into my bloodstream, the scan itself, and, of course, the results show. I’ve begun my journey down the rabbit hole into scan-land, and I won’t come out the other end for another week or so at the earliest.

When I first started writing this post I tried to craft some cute and funny stuff about the role these tests play in my life and about the frustration of knowing that no matter how I feel, I will have a scan of my thorax and abdomen every December and July for the rest of my life.  But you know what?  There’s nothing cute and there’s nothing funny about that.  It’s frightening and anxiety producing.

I’m not sure what to say concerning my expectations or feelings about what the scan may find.  I feel pretty good these days, but part of me, no doubt the Jewish part, is afraid to say anything positive or hopeful about the process for fear that the evil eye will sense my confidence and curse me with bad news.  What can I tell you? This is how my mind works.  And yet I can’t just run away from this and not do the procedure. Can I?  My, now, semi-annual PET scan is one of the few moments in my life where I actually face my fears and do the responsible thing.

I’ll keep you posted about the progress and results.  If the past is any prologue, I will find great calm and comfort in the good wishes of my many friends who read this blog or at least take a look at my status on Facebook.  I continue to appreciate your readership, friendship, and care.

And as always…stay tuned.


I Live to Scan Another Day!

18 Jun

Erik Hat


For those of you who may have missed my last post, I announced that I was due for a PET scan and would receive the results this week.  Well, the results are in, and there is no surgery in my immediate future.  As my oncologist said, depending upon the angle that you look at it, my mass may have grown a millimeter.  And the only time he would recommend surgery is if I am not feeling well, or if the growth is significant (say, 7mm in 6 months).  I feel fine.  There is limited growth–so limited that my Dr. tells me there is no change in my mass at all–and so we do this all over again in 6 months.  Tonight, Scantasia, an evolving tradition in my family where we celebrate good scan results with a meal out and  the heaving of yet another heavy sigh of relief.  In all likelihood this will be followed by a brief, personal moment of panic and a tortured consideration of my own mortality, which seems to follow every one of these events (perhaps a mild form of ptsd).  I’ll write about it, and other less creepy stuff, too.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for your continued good wishes, and thanks for your presence in my life.


As Always, stay tuned.



All’s Well….Or So I’ve Been Told

3 Apr


Erik Hat


The other day I returned to my Alma Mater, Cal State Northridge.  No big surprise there, really.  Unlike Donald Fagen, I am always going back to my old school (If you do not get the reference, click on this link. Not only is it a bitchin’ tune, but it has one of the finest guitar solos in the history of American popular music).  I am frequently at CSUN and UCLA trying to recruit students for internships, teaching the occasional class, or to discuss the work of public historians.  All in all I had a good time.  I ran into a former student and I seem to have made her feel better about the length of her MA program.  I saw some former professors and other longtime friends.  Good times.

After a few discussions with friends and colleagues, a pattern began to emerge.   We would briefly exchange pleasantries and then their expression would change.  They would look at me earnestly and ask, “How are you?” clearly referring to my health odyssey and, by connection, my blog.  I soon realized that if one follows this blog, I have kind of left my health status in limbo, which, in truth, is one of the points of this blog in the first place.  Still, quite recently there was a good development in my story and I haven’t reported it here.  I think I avoided doing so because I am trying not to get too high or too low about any one piece of news.  That way lies madness, my friends.  On the other hand, the news was pretty good, so I should probably share it here.

Earlier this week I spoke to my oncologists’ office.  I had been meaning to call them (there are two in the practice that I consider my go to folks) for over a week, but the truth is I just wanted a little break from talking to doctors.  At any rate, I called first thing on Monday morning and heard back from the head of the practice the next day.  I told him I wanted to talk about the findings of the tumor board, who claimed that the initial procedures used to biopsy my tumor were insufficient and that I needed to have a larger sample taken to determine the true nature of my tumor, or have the whole thing removed.  He told me that he had, in fact, gone back to my file and seen that the board was misinformed.  The technique used to acquire my tissue did not use small needles, but instead I had had a core biopsy (which provides a much larger sample).  I had told my surgeon that the samples were obtained through a needle biopsy.  I was wrong. 

“Your tumor is absolutely benign,” he said.  “We have lots of tissue.  Sure, if the tumor grows it will have to be removed, but that’s because you only have so much room in your chest.  You do not have cancer,” he insisted.

I must admit, that when I heard this news I got a little giddy.  It felt good to hear a doctor say something so positive and definitive to me.  The truth is, though, that I have dedicated too much of my psychic energy to the latest news from doctors.  The good news has raised my spirits too high, and the bad news brought them down too low.  And so, while I did call my wife, daughter, and mother to tell them the good news, I have been a little quieter with the rest of my circle, until today, that is.  Good news, friends.  The scanning continues, but my issues are structural, not pathological.  I hope that your days are filled with good news, as well.

As always, stay tuned.

This Just In

13 Mar


I noticed a little blood in my sputum this afternoon, and so I called my surgeon to see if that’s normal.  Apparently it is.  Then the nurse (who is his wife, as well) tells me that my “initial pathology” came in this afternoon.  Sarcoid tissue and inflammation, no malignancy.  The news is good, my friends. 

And yet!  There may be one more report to come in about 3-5 days because apparently I haven’t been tortured enough.  I swear I’m not making this stuff up!

Still the news started good and keeps on getting gooder.

As always, stay tuned.


My Promising Post Surgery Post

12 Mar

As most of you know, I had surgery today to extract some lymph nodes to determine once and for all whether I had cancer.  You know I was scared out of my mind at the prospect of general anesthesia AND the possible pathological findings. of my procedure.  I am happy to say that on both counts, things look promising.

I simply will not say I do not have cancer until I have heard the results of the lymph node biopsy (which I should learn on Friday).  Too many times in the past six months I have been led astray by embracing good but incomplete data.  The process has been emotionally draining, and over the past few weeks, downright emotionally devastating, as well.  I have been so terribly frightened, lately, so utterly besides myself as I tried to reconcile the competing theories of numerous talented and caring medical professionals, that at times I really did feel like I was in the middle of a horrible nightmare.  Indeed, if Wes Craven would really like to write a horror story, write one about a guy who goes to the emergency room for kidney stone pain and then is routinely told for almost six months that he probably has cancer.  Scary shit.    

So I will hold off making any of my own assertions until some time on Friday.  In the words of my surgeon, though, it looks like sarcoidosis (not cancer), and he saw nothing to indicate any type of malignancy.  Promising, but I will wait for the proof.  So please keep sending your fabulously good thoughts and prayers my way, and I promise that on Friday I will share, what I hope to be, the good news.

As for your good wishes, they surely worked, and I am grateful to each and every person who reads this blog and wishes me well.  You have helped, and continue to help, me through an incredibly difficult and frightening time in my life.  I honestly believe that your good wishes, which I was able to read in the surgical prep room right up until they wheeled me in to OR, made me stronger, and helped me to better tolerate the experience of general anesthesia and thoracic surgery.  Amy and I are discussing ways to thank you.  Indeed we are thinking about a three day party (kind of an open house) to have an opportunity to offer some hospitality and to hug each and every person that can make it.  For those of you who live a long way off…we’re working on that, too.  

I hope that Friday I can share glorious news, which is to say that instead of cancer I have an autoimmune disease (the bar for what I consider lucky is still quite low).  Until then, THANK  YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

As always, stay tuned.

I Live to Scan Another Day

16 Jan

Erik Hat

 We return to the central narrative…

An emergency room CT scan intended to locate a kidney stone (my first and hopefully my last) uncovered a large mass near my left lung.  Within days a Spiral CT revealed the growth to be a cyst, but a series of enlarged lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen suggested something more sinister.  On to an oncologist appointment and a Petscan, all intended to prove my doctor’s suspicions—that I had some form of lymphoma.  Though the radiologist for the scan asserted that I most assuredly had lymphoma, only a biopsy could provide some certainty and tell us what type.  I received a CT guided needle biopsy, waited one week for the results and….no cancer…a big ole thing in my chest, yes, but no cancer….a bunch of enlarged lymph nodes, an enlarged spleen, and a higher than usual metabolic rate yes, but (say it with me now) NO CANCER. 

Off I went to live my life (perhaps more mindfully and somewhat improved) and to await my next scan.  Two months flew by and there I was, again, me and my tumor, under the CT machine (which looks like a giant donut).  I take some radioactive sugar.  They take some pictures, and one week later, the results show…..

Good news and…. Well, still pretty good news.  The tumor is stable.  Some of the lymph nodes have reduced in size.  Others have seen a drop in metabolic rate, and my spleen has reduced down to just a few centimeters over its normal size.  This is good.  But what to do about all this?  How do you deal with an 8 cm mass in your chest and enlarged lymph nodes? Well we had a bunch of choices, but as any of you who have talked to me these past few months know, this was all headed in one direction, a surgical consultation.  I want to know if we can get this thing out of me without too much trouble, and if they can, they can grab a lymph node while they’re at it and see what it has to say.  If not, we scan again in three months.

In the meantime, I continue my efforts at behavioral reformation, active health, and spiritual peace of mind.  I can’t say for sure that my steps towards a healthier lifestyle have helped, but they surely haven’t hurt. 

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes, your kindness, and your continued indulgence in reading my blog.  You are all too kind.

Stay tuned.