Friday, June 17, 2011

PET Scan

Can you guess that this picture is not of me?  I may have an abnormal growth, but not that one.

I was lucky enough to get an opening for a PET scan immediately. PET, for you cancer newbies, has nothing to do with your dogs or cats or hamsters. Or snakes, if you swing that way, which you shouldn't if you have hamsters. It stands for Positron Emission Tomography. It is nuclear-based and gives an inside peek into how the tissues in your body actually function. It can, very simplistically, see cancer growing.

I knew that much about it, but didn't really know how the test was conducted. Lots of women with cancer or suspected cancer have had this test, but I paid no attention to their descriptions at all, confident that I would never have need of one.

When the appointment was made, I was told to prepare by eating a high protein diet for the rest of the day, and to fast the day of the test. I was allowed to drink water, thank goodness. I was also told to bring warm clothing with no metal on it, and that I would be there for three hours.

I was also told not to exercise. That was quite a struggle, as you can imagine.

The night before, after my dinner of grilled chicken and salad, I packed for my three hour test. I found a nonmetallic pair of sweats, grabbed my iPad, iPhone, a book and a magazine and put it all into a bag. I needed to be prepared for all eventualities.

Being a PET virgin, a spayed PET, if you will, I arrived at my appointment a little early. I was sent to the nuclear imaging side of the building. The tech asked me to put my stuff in a locker and said I could change later. She would be injecting me with radioactive tracer and then I would lie down in an exam room for an hour while it absorbed. I put everything in the locker but my iPhone and a book.

As I walked towards her with these items, she gestured back to the locker, and said I would have to go into the room without any items; that I couldn't take anything in with me.

My ADD self was stunned. Was she really telling me that I had to lie on a table in an exam room for a whole hour - with nothing to do?

"I can't even read? Why?"

"I'll explain why in a minute but would you please go empty your bladder?"

I went to the bathroom, shocked. You all know I love my sleep, and you might be thinking right now, "well, isn't that just a good time to take one of those naps you go on about all the time?"

And, you might be right if I was a normal person. But, my regular readers will know that I have ADD, and being put all alone in a room, not being allowed to move for one entire hour, with no distractions, is not going to put me to sleep. Sleeping happens organically, when I'm in one of those soothing machines, or on my couch with my dog releasing gasses nearby. Being told to lie on my back on a table and "don't move!" is going to make me feel itches and aches and pains and pretty soon I'll be tossing and turning and checking the time, and accidentally rubbing my back and scratching my head and doing countdowns with finger tapping and scratching itches again. I'm going to start wondering what's in the cabinets and drawers and want to draw little faces on tongue depressors to make puppets with cotton ball hair.

It wouldn't be pretty.

After I came out of the bathroom, the tech went on to explain, "you see, after I inject you with this tracer, your body will absorb it. If your muscles are moving, even to turn the pages of a book, that will cause more absorption to happen in that area, and the reading won't be accurate. So you need to lie as still as you possibly can."

Okay, that makes sense. But, they can't really expect me to lie on my back in a quiet little room with nothing to distract myself.

Can they?

They do.

Suddenly, a brilliant idea popped into my head. "Can I put my phone across the room and use it as a radio?"

She looked puzzled. "Your phone can do that?"

I said yes, and I quickly grabbed it and loaded "I Heart Radio." She warned me that the room was lead-lined and it might not work but soon, I heard the dulcet, vocabulary rich tones of Dennis Miller, and I relaxed.

She agreed that was it okay to listen to the radio, and so began the process of injecting me. As she did, a metallic taste hit my tongue and I also smelled it. She told me very few people have that experience.

Hey, CIA. I happen to be one of the very few who can taste radiation. Perhaps I can be an early warning system if the terrorists attack. Let me know if you need me.

The radioactive stuff she injected into me came in a lead box. Just sayin'.

When she was done, she very kindly put a pillow under my knees since I'd mentioned my back hurt. I rested and listened to Dennis Miller and some comedian who was chatting about his former addictions. I actually did doze on and off because the conversation was pretty boring. But I was mighty uncomfortable and also hungry, and it was hard to get good rest. Lying in that position for an hour, with my back aching, my shoulder throbbing and my liver sending stabbing pains through me - it wasn't fun.

But the room was nice and warm. And, every time I thought I needed to move, I concentrated on the radio and relaxed. So, it worked.

A million years An hour passed and she finally came for the test. I was to get dressed in my warm, metal-less clothes because the equipment room was cold. She then had me lie on my back in a double-donut machine.

This was a new machine to me, and it's like two CT machines having sex, and you are the penis. Except, I was told I had to lie quietly for another 30 minutes, without moving, very unpenis-like.

I frowned at that, petulant. Nobody said I would have to like completely still for 90 minutes. But, at least it was in a machine so I had a chance of dozing.

I did doze a bit to the soothing back and forth motion of the penis machine, but mostly I just tried not to think about my backache.

Finally, it was over and the tech released me to freedom.

Freedom to eat.

I see my oncologist on Monday and hopefully will get a treatment plan and good news that it is only confined to the liver.

You gotta wonder how much these tests cost. I think I am becoming a very expensive, high maintenance woman. You would think my insurance company would hate me by now, except they keep sending me reminders to get my mammogram, so they must still love me.




  1. Ann,

    I'm glad you managed to endure 90 minutes of lying still. My Dad has had two or three PET scans so far this year because his cancer is still growing (as of the last scan). He thinks this triple whammy of GTX may be working though. We won't know for another couple of weeks when he has his next PET scan (week of June 27th).

    I hope that this is indeed confined to your liver and that they can put it also into remission.

    *gentle hugs*

  2. You crack me up, Ann. Never had a PET scan but all too many CAT/MRI/Don't-You-Dare-Move-A-Muscle tests that just beg me to squirm. It's like trying to NOT think about a pink elephant. Yup, you're pretty expensive woman - and worth every single penny!

  3. I have had a multitude of PET scans and your description is absolutely hilarious. I will have to tell my husband about your description of the process. I am having another scan in August and am certain that I will be laughing when I enter into the scanner and I won't tell the technician why. The hospital where I get my scan has yours beat to heck. Has your hospital ever thought to utilize a recliner during that first interminable hour? The interventional radiology department that I go to has an unattractive recliner from an interior design aesthetic but is comfortable and relaxing. The highlights of the experience are the heated blankets, mood music and the low romantic lighting. This is the perfect foreplay for the scan, at least for me now that you have imprinted that image in my mind. The hospital just got a new scanner and instead of 90 minutes of scanning, it is now completed in 45 minutes or so. They say that the scan is higher quality if it is done more quickly because the patient can stay more still during the procedure.

    I am sorry that you have joined the PET scan world. I like to think of us as being in the "in" crowd. Quite chic, don't you think?

    Seriously, I hope you hear the best case scenario is what you are dealing with. I know you will fight this liver mets for all you are worth.

  4. I have decided that while I think a lot, I obviously don't have much imagination. I daydream during pet scans. My mind wanders here and there and back and forth...but I have never been a penis. A very still penis. Too funny. Good luck! Debby

  5. Oh, NO....I sympathize with you 100%. I can't imagine having to lie still that long without blankets, chocolates and a book! Your description of the machine is hilarious, and I'm throwing all of my positive vibes in your direction that the mets are confined to liver only. (HUG)

  6. I had a PET scan. I was very glad that I fell asleep and passed the time. Hoping for good results.

  7. Susan, I hope your dad gets good news on his next scan.

    Yes, I think this test is going to be a fact of life for me. Of all the tests I've done, with the exception of the liver biopsy, this is the one I dislike the most and probably the one I'll have to repeat the most. Just my luck.

    I am enjoying the thought of women all over the world chuckling mysteriously as they climb into these things though.

  8. I had a PET scan a week after my original diagnosis. I assumed it was SOP for everyone, but guess not...makes me wonder? Anyway, my doctor suggested a Xanax right before going in and that was the best advice ever (though like your iPhone trick!!), as I also hadn't realized I would have to be alone for the hour or so. Luckily, I slept through the whole thing in a very comfy recliner and was more annoyed than anything when they interrupted my nap! (The PET scan was a follow-up to an MRI earlier that morning, so it was a stellar day).

    Oh, and we had to get pre-approval for the PET scan, and I think it ran about $7000 and we paid about $115, but I could be off slightly...Good luck, but I am going to assume the best and that it's liver only...thinking of you!

  9. Jen, don't wonder. Some oncologists like to get a first PET as a baseline. Most wait until you are symptomatic, due to costs. It doesn't mean they suspect anything.

    I'm wondering about this recliner thing - that would be a LOT easier on my back! It was a small room though, and not in a hospital. It probably has to do double duty. I was just very pleased that they had a little heater going on there. I needed it.

  10. I love your blogs!!! Dont get me wrong, I hate the reason that you have a blog but I just love reading your blogs, you are so funny!!! I am not really a laugh out loud person, but just reading about the penis machine a couple of minutes ago had be giggling away and my husband asking why I was laughing at my puter :)

  11. I think that's probably the best description of a PET scan that anyone has given! I can't believe they don't even give you a radio! Geez! I have a hard time laying still for the 10 minute MUGA. I've never had a PET, even with the colon cancer. My onc likes CT scans, at least for my situation. He says too many things so up on the PET and the ct scans show him what he needs to see. I also had a bone scan as soon as I was dx with breast cancer. I think that was 20 minutes.
    Hope you can enjoy your weekend--I'll be thinking of you on Monday!

  12. I had to laugh at the penis machine visual. When I go for my PET next Tuesday I will think of that and ask for mood music! LOL! This will be my 2nd PET in 8 months. And yes, I couldn't believe they wouldn't let me read a book either. How harmful could a little page tunring be? Makes me wonder if it is that sensitive how accurate must it be? (I have heard also that doctors don't like them because they light up everything in the room, making definitive diagnosis diffuclt).
    My doctor tells me that PET scans cost between $5000 and $6000 in the civilian sector, and that DOD (I am seen at an Army hospital) pays less than half that as well as 1/2 for chemo drugs because there is no middle man (a.k.a insurance company) or profit to be made (a.k.a. million dollar doctor salaries/malpractice premiums)). Who says solialized medicine doesn't work?
    My neighbor and I met together for about 30 minutes on Friday and prayed specifically for you, Ann. You are one special person! Hugs!

  13. Ann,

    You made me laugh. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Too bad you couldn't taken a Xanax. That has been my salvation during MRIs. And it promotes...sleep.

  14. LOVE your writing style!! You really make the worst situations bearable! Thank you.
    From one cancer chick to another,

  15. Have my fingers crossed for you Ann (Although they are jerking from laughing so much!) You are a gem! i hope that things are contained to the forgiving and regenerative Liver... Heaven help them if they decide to offer any 'new style equipment' after that description of the PET! Lol!

  16. I have just started reading your blog and I think it and you are amazing! You made me laugh out loud! Thats a gift! You have much to share and teach . Keep on! I am praying for you. Jane Gray, Creston BC

  17. Just read your news, liver only and treatment plan underway without losing hair! Navybean will do the trick for a long time! Yay and wishing you all the best

  18. great news on treatment plan/clear bones and even better news on the hair situation !! go girl.

    nicola in canada

  19. It is nuclear-based and gives an inside peek into how the tissues in your body actually function. It can, very simplistically, see cancer growing.Pet Insurance


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