Saturday, October 9, 2010

They know we know they know: Techs and Bone Scans

It's gotta be hard to be a radiology technician.  We go in for tests, and they see the results right then.  But they aren't allowed to tell us because they aren't doctors and aren't supposed to interpret the results.   

But, we know they know.  They know we know they know.  We want to know, so we anxiously scan their every word and movement for any "tells."  It's an odd little game played in the medical world.

I've had techs who will kind of wink and let you know all is okay without actually saying anything.  I've also had techs who were easily duped into revealing things.  I have had some who were impassive but allowed you to look at your films without comment.

Yesterday though, I got nothing. Her boss should give her a raise but I never want her as my tech again because I'm still clueless.

A bone scan is divided into two parts:   Injection and Scan.

At 10:45, I went to the nuclear imaging center and was injected with a radioactive tracer, and told to come back for the scan at 2:00.  During the course of three hours, the radioactive isotopes absorb into your bones.

I went back to work, drinking lots of water as was suggested. (Okay, it was really coffee, there was a Starbucks on the way back.)   I should have thought to email the science teachers to see if they had a Geiger counter.   Might have been fun for the kids to see a radioactive secretary!

I arrived back at the facility at 2:00 and was put into the same machine that does the MUGA tests.

The rad tech had me lie on my back, arms by my sides, and positioned the camera over the area that hurts.   I had to lie still for three minutes while the films were taken.

Then she came out and said, "Have you ever broken any bones before?"

"No."  Why is she asking me that?  Does she see something that looks like a broken bone?  Does mets look  like broken bones on scans?

She repositioned me and told me to lie still for another three minutes  - the camera is still over the part that hurts.

(Why is it that the second you are told to lie still and not move, things start itching?)

That set was done and she came out and said, "Have you ever been diagnosed with arthritis?"

"No."  She is still taking films of the parts that hurt.  Oh no, she sees somethingWell, maybe I have arthritis.

"Okay, another three minutes, lie still."

Three minutes later, "Have you ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis?"

Now I'm  a teeny bit freaked out.

"No, but I do have osteopenia."  My bones are crumbling!  She sees damage all over that area! Why else would she ask those questions?

"We are going to do one more set in this area and then we are going to do the full body scan, which will take 18 minutes.  Lie still."

My nose itches.  I need to move my neck, this is uncomfortable.  I want to see my bones, it would be cool to see my skeleton, maybe I'll ask her. 

Ding, the bell signaling that set being over rings.

"What is your height and weight?"  What kind of question is that?  It's right on my forms.  Why is she asking that?  Does it have anything to do with what she sees? It can't, that's a boring question -  I can't even scare myself by making anything up about that question!  Maybe all these questions are routine and the timing is just bad.

"Time for the full body scan.  You'll need to lie still for 18 minutes, then we are done."

"Okay, hang on while  I scratch."  I  scratched my arms, my nose, moved my neck and adjusted.  She said, "Ready?"


Damn, I'm still itching. Oh well, I can ignore it for 18 minutes.  Maybe I can get a quick nap in.  No, I can't because my back hurts.  I'm in the wrong position.  Oh, why didn't I move more or prop something under my neck better?  Okay, I can do this.  I'm zoning out, getting into a zen-like state.  Hey, I can't feel my arm anymore!  How weird!  Is it on my hipbone?  I hope I didn't leave it on the hipbone or that might interfere with the tests.  I know this is a big waste of time anyway, since the pain is really starting to feel like it's an organ inside me.  It hurts to push on now.  That means I'll have to start this diagnostic process all over with new doctors, maybe a GYN.  I don't have time for this!  Hey, I hear the tech talking.  She's talking to somebody else back there, a male.  He's the guy who did my first MUGA and let me see my heart, which was awesome.  Are they looking at my films?  Am I hearing concerned voices? I wish I had super-sonic hearing.  That would be the superpower I'd choose if I could have one right now.  Flying would be cool too, except that I'm afraid of heights.   Wait, they are laughing.  That means I don't have cancer in my bones, they wouldn't be standing back there looking at my films and laughing about it right?  Although, I've heard people in the medical profession can get pretty callus.  Damn, now my neck is getting stiff.  I am going to ask to see my skeleton, that would be cool.  Are mets supposed to show up as light spots or dark?  I forget.  I have to pee.  She made me pee before we started, all that coffee water I drank is really catching up with me now.  I can't hold it as long as I used to, I guess that's what getting old means.  I think I'm dozing off.  But, my knee is itching.....

The little bell rings that  means the films are done and she comes out and says, "Stay there while I make sure the film is good."  I move my arms and arch my back and hope I don't have to do it again.  The table is padded but it feels like I've spent the last hour lying on a wooden park bench.

"We're good."  I stiffly get down, rubbing my back and my neck.  Honestly, I feel like I'm 90 years old.  Lying on a padded table for 40 minutes would not have hurt me one year ago.

"Hey, can I see my skeleton?"     

The tech literally looked shocked at that question.  Like she'd never heard anybody ask such an audacious thing before.

"Um.   Ah.....ah.... {pause}  No." 


"Um, you uh, your doctor might have the films or not.  He can let you see them."

"Okay, thanks!"

Why was she so nervous?  Does she think I can read radiology films?  I just wanted to see my bones!  She doesn't want me to see because she thinks there is something wrong.  I bet she'd say yes if the scan  was clean. Great. I have mets.  Just when I figured it was an ovary or something.  Shit, what if it's an ovary AND mets?"  

I got up to leave and the other tech was behind me.  I said bye and he said bye.  Did he just look at me with pity?

They know, and we know they know.  

Monday, I should know too.



  1. stop trying to second guess it. The tech probably had to ask you all the question so if they saw anything in the scan, they would be able to account for it. However, I can diagnose myself into all kinds of awful things so I know it isn't easy. Good luck!

  2. Caroline is right, but I'll be praying for you anyway.

  3. We've all had those same thoughts. It is maddening! Just remember that one week ago I was convinced I had some sort of bio marker for endometrial cancer only to find out it that SAA stands for "same as above", which was "nothing". Boy did I feel stupid after that! Nevertheless, we are going to feel that way no matter what, so until we hear "it's all clear", that is what we do. You're entitled. Now let us know when you get results, ok?

  4. Hanging in there with you... love your "conversations" - I can identify so well.


  5. WOW!! I could have sworn you were talking about me. I had my bone scan last week, damn those itches you can't scratch when it suddenly becomes urgent.

    Well my Onc said I may have Rhuematoid Arthritis, I'm not buying it. I did see my skelton well I actually snuck a peek. I also asked a few questions she refused to answer. I have been having excrutiating pain in my right knee to the point it makes me feel sick.
    Good Luck with yours Alli XX

  6. Exactly! And why do they put you in positions that seem to aggravate the pain? UGH. Good luck. Know that I'm praying for you and sending healing thoughts your way.

  7. Now I'm seeing your blog as an awesome movie script... :)

    Hang in there... we'll all be thinking of you on Monday...

  8. This was so well written!! I've had the same experience, more than a few times, but I could never have put it into words the way you did!

    I'll be thinking of you Monday - when you get the good news :)


  9. I have no doubt the news will be good. I do have doubts that I'll get it for sure Monday. I'll call - whether I get a call back right away is the question. I'll post it here whatever and whenever it is.


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