After the call from my Pulmonologist that he and my Oncologist had decided I needed at PET CT, I worked every avenue to try to fit the scan in before I went on vacation (may sound silly, but a few days away to process either response while I was away sounded good to me). Unfortunately, PET-CT scans aren’t inexpensive, and the insurance companies take a few days to mull that one over.
I was at least able to schedule my appointment before I left town (thanks to my friend Gentry on the inside) and the lovely PET-CT scheduling lady. This way, I at least ran away to tropical places, knowing when I would come back and make every effort not to glow at an exact date and time. Which is funny after all of my efforts for super powers – I DON’T want to glow. I forget that cancer people know what this kind of test is and what it does, but it is confusing to a lot of people, so here is how it goes down:
- I arrived half asleep in comfortable clothes (slippers are better than shoes, seriously, no metal – there is a reason I look like I just woke up when I have scans) knowing it would be a wait, but I was 30 minutes early, no worries, when you are the first of the day they can squeeze you right in
- They took me back and let me know that I can only get the Valium on an MRI (which I never take), not the PET-CT, because… well? I normally don’t ask for it, but, somehow 30 minutes won’t make you claustrophobic. Even though you brought someone else to drive the car… (the part I was worried about is the 90ish minutes you are supposed to “sit still”), because this is certainly not stressful. It is ok, I only cried twice while I waited for the scan. I was totally fine. I actually asked for the anti-anxiety medication based on reading about brown fat that showed up on my previous scan in 2011 can be eliminated with anti-anxiety meds (I spend too much time on Dr. Google). I pulled out my cancer book this evening and discovered I don’t have a copy of my initial PET-CT scan, but I had brown fat show up, and now I want a copy explaining where it was.
- They took my blood and checked my glucose level and make sure I am not pregnant before they injected me with radioactive particles
- They inject me with the radioactive glucose and told me to sit still and be stupid (I exaggerate. I had my phone, and I planned on reading – it had been while since my last test like this, they aren’t exactly common – reading draws radioactive glucose to your brain, so it can mess up a clear view of the brain, so little to no brain activity is required)
- They then handed me two bottles of Barium Sulfate suspiciously flavored as a “berry smoothie” compound and told me they will come in and tell me how much to drink every 15-25 minutes
- 90ish minutes later I was supposed to be properly glowing and then they threw me in the machine (after a lovely photo with my pet fish)
- After a quick CT run, they gave me IV contrast, don’t worry, I didn’t really pee my pants. Twice… (it just feels like that)
- Now goes a long slow process of moving through the machine. Head, neck, chest, etc.
Cancer cells metabolise glucose at a higher rate than other cells, so they tend to pull in the radioactive glucose around them at a greater rate, so they glow in the images from the test.
My CT team was a wee bit less chatty than the usual teams (possibly because I showed up early and we started the process at 6:30 in the morning, which I figured was the best bet since I had to fast and a woman can’t go too long without coffee… which I actually rarely drank coffee on our Grand Cayman trip which I will update about in another post when my brain is less obsessed with radioactivity). Maybe I should buy them coffee? I have friends on the inside now.
I have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow afternoon. We should maybe know more based on the scan, but you just don’t know with these kinds of things. “Too small to biopsy” is a weird language I am trying to figure out..