Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] Department of giant, radioactive spiders

So I was off for my PET scan this morning in the nuclear medicine unit up on Pill Hill. calendula_witch and I took a spin up there in the Genre car, top down in the pretty morning air. We managed to park in the wrong garage, but Bad Things did not happen other than a longer walk to the Kohler Pavilion, where they keep the giant, radioactive spiders. When I rolled into the imaging center, all three of my parents were already there.

We were about forty-five minutes ahead of my scheduled time slot, but the nurse took me in almost immediately anyway. calendula_witch was left with my folks to idle in the lobby — they wouldn't let her come in. I was taken back to a small room with a big chair (which sounds like the title to something). Sitting there, I felt like a little kid in mommy's office.

Various intake questions of the usual sort were asked, and some which were not so usual. Did I have any artificial joints, pins or staples inside my body? (No.) Had I been given any vaccinations in the past thirty days? (Yes.) What did I eat for dinner last night? (Chicken fajitas, which I split with calendula_witch.) The nurse then took a blood sugar reading.

The point of all this was that PET scans rely on imaging of tagged radioactives which are often (and in my case) delivered via an injected glucose-analog. This sugar then accumulates in metabolic hotspots such as the heart, the brain, recent injury sites, and, of course, tumors. If my blood sugar were too high, due to certain dietary intakes, or a diabetes problem, the test is ineffective because the hotspots aren't absorbing the marked sugars. This also explained some of the odd pre-procedure instructions, which centered around low activity levels, keeping my body warm, and not consuming sugars or carbohydrates.

She also fixed me up with an IV feed. I should just have one of those permanently installed, I guess. Once my blood sugar had been measured — 104, if anyone cares — the nurse set me up with a small amount of saline, then went to fetch the tracer. She came back with a lead box about the size of a small loaf of bread. I commented that any medicine which requires lead box gives one pause. The nurse pointed out this was more for her sake than mine. I wasn't getting a high enough dose of radiation to be endangered, but she handled the stuff every day.

She then pulled out a metal-jacketed syringe. Stainless steel around lead, I believe, with a more ordinary hypodermic inside the jacket. Using two different syringes at once, she pushed several hundred ml of tagged sugar into me, alternating it with saline every little bit. I was then required to sit motionless in the darkened room for an hour while the tagged sugars worked their way through my body. Her point was if I read, watched tv, or carried on a conversation, the brain activity would draw the sugars out, and there would be less of it at the suspected tumor sites. Essentially I had to hold still and be quiet for an hour. Those of you who know me IRL are already falling out laughing at that. So I went into my usual dental chair light self-hypnosis, and the hour passed in about 20 subjective minutes.

The nurse had me urinate, to pass out any of the tagged sugars which had accumulated in my bladder. I asked her if my pee was supposed to glow blue. She said, "no." I said, "well, actually, it didn't." She then had me change into sweat pants, due to the metal in the zipper of my cargo shorts. We went down the hall to the PET scanner which was (I believe) coupled with a CT scanner. Two gigantic beige plastic donuts with a motorized table that inserted me into them like a torpedo into a tube. We did a little calibration on how I fit on the table, and had a discussion about the placement of my arms. I've been having some mild pain and range-of-motion issues in my left shoulder lately, and I would (again) be required to be quiet and complete still for 25-35 minutes during the scanning process. We wound up with my arms above my head, elbows bent, my hands wound through a strap. She dimmed the lights and went into the booth and I began my journey into the beige vortex.

Self-hyponosis was right out because my shoulders were uncomfortable. Within five minutes they were actively painful. I concentrated on admiring the machine, until I realized I was staring at a small black port labeled "Laser Aperture". The classic instruction, "Do not point laser at remaining eye" occurred to me, so I tried not to do this any more. Since I wasn't supposed to move my head, this didn't give me a lot of options. Besides, not staring at the most prominent element in your field of vision is a hell of a trick.

Whilst attempting not to burn out my retinas on the Netherland's finest medical equipment (thank you, Philips) I realized the beige casing on the second donut was pulsating faintly in various primary colors. I wondered if I was having visual hallucinations as a side effect of the radioactive tracers. I wondered if I going nuts. I wondered if I had instantaneous brain cancer in my vision centers. Finally, my peripheral vision revealed that the indirect mood lighting in the scanning room was cycling through the colors, and I hadn't noticed because during the first part of the scan my head was inside the beige donut.

Eventually my body was read out in bread slices, my arms were burning agony, and the tech reappeared. This go-round subjective time was much longer than objective time — there really ain't no such thing as a free lunch — but she confirmed the imaging was successful and walked me out. I was urged to urinate again, presumably to be less of a danger to myself and others. Still no blue glow, sadly.

After that, I was back out with calendula_witch and my folks. We hied off to lunch, though I was too goofy to drive, so calendula_witch took the wheel of the Genre car, while tillyjane rode in the back. We met mom and dad at the Lamp, and on the day went from there.

Results? No idea yet. My cancer doc will get back to me when he knows what the nuclear medicine types found. It will be a while on the path report for my polyp as well, so, everything's in limbo.

Emotional state? Complicated and difficult. I'll write about that when I have a little more clarity on where my head is.

For now, I'm just glad my trip to the giant, radioactive spider lab didn't give me superpowers. I'm busy enough as it is with crawling walls and fighting crime.
Tags: calendula, cancer, health

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