Thursday 19th September, 2013
The day had finally arrived when I would find out if the chemotherapy was having any effect on my cancer. It was the day of the follow-up PET scan. If you need to refresh your memory on what a PET scan is, click here to read about my first PET scan. It was only a few days before this second PET scan that I started writing this blog, so many people were aware I had strong opinions on inappropriate things to say with someone with cancer. As a result, I don’t think anybody really knew what to say as they were worried about saying something inappropriate. That actually suited me fine. I was happy for people to say nothing. What can you say? Good luck – not really appropriate because luck has nothing to do with it and it’s not an exam or a job interview. It is something you have no control over. Some people just said they were thinking of me and hoped the results were good. That was appropriate. I don’t recall if anybody even said this but I would suggest you don’t say “I just know the results will be good” because actually, you don’t know and then what are you going to say if they’re not good? And don’t ask “Are you nervous?”
I dropped my daughter at school and headed straight to the radiology centre for my 9:15 am appointment. I was feeling a bit emotional that day. At the time, I didn’t think it had anything to do with cancer and the anticipation of finding out what the scan showed. It was about other things going on in my life at the time, but looking back maybe the cancer stuff was a factor. I went up to the desk and was told to take a seat, and I waited and waited and waited. I think I waited close to an hour which I know is not long if you’re in the public health system, but in the private system with probably the first appointment of the day it was a long time and it pissed me off a bit. The scanning was going to take a couple of hours as it was.
Finally my name was called and I was escorted into a small room where I was given some oral contrast to drink (for the CT scan) and two radiographers fussed around, neither of them wanting to be the one to have to put an intravenous cannula in a doctor! I gave the lucky candidate the good arm and she went for a nice juicy vein in my cubital fossa (front of the elbow) and much to her relief, the first attempt was successful. She was however, a bit embarrassed about all the blood that spilled all over the floor.
I was then taken into the room with the iron walls where I was expecting to see the ancient looking, big metal machine in the corner, which I was planning to take a photo of, but it wasn’t there. Had I imagined it last time? The radioactive glucose was simply injected from a small syringe and I was left to radioactivate. The radiographer said she would be back in 50 minutes. There was no radio with fuzzy reception this time. Just me and silence. I don’t know how long I was left there for but when the radiographer returned, she apologised for leaving me so long.
I was taken into the PET scanning room. I didn’t have to get changed into a gown this time. I was just asked to remove my bra and when I was lying on the thin table I was covered with a blanket and pulled my pants down to around my knees. The scan was much the same as last time. I had to lie very still with my arms by my side and I was very, very slowly passed through the donut. When that was done, I was expecting another scan with my arms above my head but I was told I was done and could get off the table. I asked about the second scan and they said it wasn’t needed and they only usually do that with the first staging PET scan. Were they telling the truth? Or did they not need to do it because this PET scan still showed cancer everywhere so it wasn’t really important exactly where it was? Or was it showing no cancer so they knew the scan with my ams above my head would be pointless? I was thinking too much.
I was then asked to drink another cup of oral contrast prior to the CT scan. Since there was no ancient looking metal machine in the room with the iron walls, or anything else remotely interesting enough to take a photo of for my blog, I took a photo of the cup of oral contrast. Very interesting! And Lisey, the private oral contrast doesn’t taste like aniseed. I’m not entirely sure what flavour it was, but it wasn’t aniseed.
The CT scan was quite uneventful. This time I did have to put my arms above my head, so I had two injections of intravenous contrast (and hence felt like I wet myself twice), one for the scan with my arms by my side, and one for the scan with my arms above my head. The CT scans are much quicker than the PET scan so that part was over with quite quickly.
The radiographer told me to go to the front desk to sort out payment and then to wait and he would give me a copy of the CT scan films to take. I told him I didn’t need the films. I actually didn’t want the films because I didn’t want to be tempted to look at them and misinterpret them. He told me my haematologist always wants his own hard copy of the films. I thought that was odd because I hadn’t taken a hard copy after my first CT scan back in July, but then it occurred to me that that CT scan had been requested by my GP, not my haematologist.
So, I took the films and headed out to the car. I tried not to look but I couldn’t stop myself. I pulled out one of the several sheets in the envelope and it just happened to be scans of my neck, where most of my enlarged lymph nodes were in the beginning. It looked to me like there were a lot of prominent lymph nodes which had taken up contrast. Shit! I told myself not to be stupid, and to wait, and I didn’t look at any more films. It was only a matter of hours until I would see the haematologist.