Archive for August 8th, 2009

PET Scan

I won’t have the results of Friday’s PET scan for a few more days, but my intuition tells me it’s not going to reveal anything that we didn’t already know.  Had last week’s ultrasound found more lymph node involvement, I might have been concerned about the PET scan finding cancer in some other organ, too. Since they couldn’t say for sure that any lymph nodes have cancer, I’m confident they’re just not going to find it elsewhere. We’ll soon know if my hunch is correct.

Several years ago, when I was in the thick of a different crisis, someone told me that I had the option, everyday, to choose “fear or fascination.” Since being diagnosed with cancer, I’ll admit it has been a big challenge to choose fascination over fear. But with the PET scan, I can honestly say I was able to do just that. It’s not an invasive procedure (unless you consider being injected with radioactive material invasive), and you don’t have to be sedated (unless you tend to panic in one of those tube-like machines). So, compared to the various rectal probes and surgeries I’ve endured, hanging out in a tube for a while didn’t seem like a big deal. I can report that I successfully managed to view this test with fascination.

First, I had to avoid glucose for 24 hours prior to the scan, which turned out to be kind of hard. I ended up eating eggs and cheese and sliced turkey most of the day. For my other procedures that require only clear liquids (no solid foods) the day before, I’ve grown accustomed to drinking lots of fruit juice. Well, juice is nothing but glucose, so that was off the list. I usually like to eat a lot of yogurt, in part because it works well with my digestive system. That was out, too. It seemed everything I looked at in the fridge or pantry had some amount of glucose in it! So, I drank lots of water. After midnight that was all I could have anyway.

The next morning, Shawn drove me over to X-Ray Associates, about ten minutes from my house. At 10:00 AM, they took me into a tiny room with a big recliner in it. I changed into a hospital gown (I’m getting really good at that!) and a young woman named Andrea began inserting an IV into my arm. When it was ready, she left the room to “get the isotope.” She returned carrying a small lead box about three inches square with a little handle that she held with her two gloved fingers as if it were something she’d really rather not touch. She set the heavy little box down next to my arm and attached my IV to a port on the box. She then attached a syringe to the opposite side of the box and squeezed, apparently forcing the radioactive isotope out of the box and into my IV. It struck me as comical that they would so carefully keep this “thing” protected in a lead box, and go to great lengths to make sure Andrea didn’t come into contact with it, only to deposit it directly into my veins!

Before she left, she dimmed the lights and asked me to sit quietly in the recliner for an hour. There were also two cups of water containing “contrast” that I needed to drink before the hour was up.  Although the liquid was clear and tasted like water, somehow knowing it contained “contrast” (whatever that is) made me sceptical each time I took a sip. I closed my eyes and relaxed in the darkened room, meditating, praying, saying affirmations and doing breathing exercises.

Surprisingly soon, it was time to go to a different room where the scan would take place. I was immediately shocked by how freezing it was in there! Andrea explained that it had to be kept colder for the machines. I laid down on a very narrow, concave bed and she put a blanket over me. I wasn’t shy about asking for a second blanket. I had to raise my arms above my head and stay in that position without moving for 30 minutes. I got situated, closed my eyes and said I was ready (although a little concerned about how I would stay completely still like that for half an hour).

I could feel the narrow bed moving in and out of the tube. I kept my eyes shut, but I could tell the tube must be very close quarters because I could feel the blanket being jostled slightly as the bed went in and out. I began to realize that this was definitely going to be a “mind over matter” exercise. I could imagine how, if you thought too much about being in the tube, you could panic and then not be able to stay still.  I started doing some breathing exercises and then began saying prayers and affirmations again.

Andrea had told me that the bed would move in and out of the tube a few times in the beginning, but then it would stop inside the tube and only push me a bit further out every five minutes. As I was meditating, I tried also to keep track of how many five minute intervals there had been. I was feeling really proud of myself for not moving at all and not opening my eyes by the time I counted five of these intervals. Then I felt my arms falling asleep overhead and I started to get restless. Instead of moving, I opened my eyes and realized I was in a futuristic, glowing environment that was very close on all sides. I shut my eyes again and starting counting to distract myself. I had just reached 24 when a voice said, “Okay, you’re done.” The bed moved completely out of the tube and I wiggled my fingers and toes for the first time in 30 minutes. My arms had indeed fallen asleep, so I moved them like heavy rubber down to my sides. It took a moment before I was able to get up and get dressed.

Unlike other procedures where it took me a little while to regain my appetite afterwards, I realized as Shawn drove me home that I was starving. She had other things she needed to do and was apologetic about not being able to go to lunch.  But I managed to convince Tim to take a break from pottery to go out for a bite. We went to Harry’s Road House and I had a watermelon juice and their delicious Blue Corn Turkey Enchilada with Green Chile, Cowboy Beans and Guacamole. I don’t remember food ever tasting so good – particularly the glucose part!

That was the extent of my rather uneventful experience with the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan. Fascinating, huh? I’ll post the results as soon as I get them.

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