|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.
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.
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
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.