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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Relax, Rejuvinate, and get Injected With Radioactive Sugar

After 18 months of bitching and moaning about wanting a scan to confirm no breast cancer cells had gone rogue and spread, my oncologist finally gave in. I am not sure if she was just tired of me whining every time I went to see her or if it was the complaint that my right lower back and hip had been hurting for several weeks. Either way I finally got what I wanted and walked out of her office with an appointment for a PET scan.
Because I wasn’t sure what to expect I actually read the information they provided regarding the test as opposed to promptly tossing it in the trash as was usual. I was happy when I read that a PET scan is different from an MRI in that the machine was open on both ends and didn’t make random loud noises. I was going to be injected with radioactive sugar and lay in a quiet dark room for 45 minutes prior to the scan. Since I have 2 small kids, one who is in the “scream and cry over EVERY little thing” phase, I was kind of excited that I was going to have nearly an hour of mandatory quiet time.
I wasn’t nervous; my onc didn’t order this test because my blood work was abnormal, it was more to ease my mind. Plus I still had a bottle of Valium and this seemed like the perfect excuse to indulge.
While I was going through chemo I had learned to think of a trip to the hospital as an extremely expensive trip to the spa. There are these nice blankets they take out of a warmer, comfortable chairs that lay back, and they give you snacks. Plus they have cable, and I don’t. I took the day off and decided to get a pedicure that afternoon to complete the fantasy.
I had several offers to take me to the imaging center where this was taking place but I declined, no point in anyone sitting in a waiting room for a few hours while I was laying on a comfy recliner, wrapped in a warm blanket in Valium heaven. I knew not to drive on vitamin V so I popped 5 mg when I got in the car, I live only 15 minutes from the facility. However I didn’t take into account that I had been fasting for the past 15 hours. Naturally the valium kicked in right around the time that I arrived and it hit me harder than I ever experienced before. I felt like a teenager who was high and was unsuccessfully trying to hide it. I staggered up to the receptionist, got my stylish hospital bracelet and attempted to hold myself together while they asked me questions regarding my living will and other light hearted topics.
After what felt likea day and a half of sitting in a waiting room I was called back. I was finally on my way to my insurable spa day (with needles).
When the radiologist opened the back door and motioned to the, I kid you not, tractor- trailer in the parking lot I was concerned, disappointed, and amused. Seriously? This state of the art equipment is kept in something you need a CDL to occupy? I blurted out “For real? This is where they keep the PET scanner-thingy?” (I made sure to use technical jargon so they would take me seriously)
The radiologist had obviously heard this before and mumbled it wasn’t ideal. He explained because it is so expensive the hospital system in my tiny town had a mobile unit so they could travel to other towns that didn’t have the equipment. Whateves; just direct me to my spa chair.
I squeezed into the teeny-tiny room to the back of the trailer and plopped into a lumpy, hard 1980’s style hospital chair that reclined about as much as an airplane seat. I was very quickly poked, injected and a cold blanket tossed my way. The closet room was not at all dim, it was cold, and there was a lot of activity in the next room. There was no tv and not even crappy Muzac to listen to. And at this time my valium euphoria was wearing off. So much for my spa experience.
After about an hour I was carefully placed into the tiny ass tube with my arms positioned over my head and told not to move for the next 30 minutes or this would all be pointless . As soon as the scan began I had a horrible blazing hot flash that caused my back, face, and chest to quickly dampen with sweat. Luckily I remembered Lamaze breathing from child-birth and huffed and puffed to keep from passing out all the while silently praising the engineer that added the fan in the machine.
Once the hot flash subsided the nice cool fan blowing on me turned into a torture device giving me frost bite on my only real boob and quite possibly freezing the implant on the reconstructed side. To this day it is still cold to the touch.
Sitting perfectly still for 30 minutes is not easy, or relaxing. I tried to ignore the itch on my nose, my arm, my foot. I dealt with the cramp in my arm and hip thinking I only had to endure it a few minutes longer.
After what felt like another hour it was over. The radiologist told me to stay away from women who were pregnant and small babies and to limit my contact with my girls since I was radioactive. Sweet! Maybe I could get my pedicure after all, or at least get some super powers from being radioactive such as the ability to clean an entire room in a single day.


I never got my pedicure, and not a single room in my house is remotely clean. But I did learn that there are no signs of recurrent breast cancer (yippee!) so there are no complaints here. The PET did show 2 large cysts on my right ovary, accounting for the pain I have been feeling in my lower back/hip.
After the scan I had a visit with my obgyn which involved a 10 minute ultrasound session that I really should have been wined and dined prior to. From that we determined that I could no longer wait, I needed to have a hysterectomy, and soon.
This coming Tuesday I will finally get some good sleep thanks to the anesthesia that will be administered while my lady parts are removed. While I am not exactly thrilled to have to have yet another surgery I am glad that my doctor’s listen to me and are willing to do everything they can to reduce my risk of recurrence and of a second primary cancer. I am so lucky that we have state of the art medical equipment available in this small town even if it is located in a trailer.
And I am really glad I still have an active prescription for Valium.