Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, 2008 - Scanner Doubleheader

Today I go for a scanner doubleheader: a PET scan and a CT scan at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

I’m using Jersey Shore this time (a Meridian Health hospital), rather than the for-profit Atlantic Medical Imaging (where I had my last PET scan, a PET/CT fusion) because my insurance situation has changed. Because Claire’s now working full-time for Meridian (as director of the Bereavement Program of Meridian Hospice), I’ve now got secondary medical insurance through QualCare (Meridian’s employee health-insurance provider). They reimburse at a higher rate for services performed at Meridian facilities, so it makes sense to switch providers.

I checked with Dr. Lerner about this first, of course. The message came back, through one of his office staff: if it would save me money, a PET scan at Jersey Shore, followed by a CT scan, would be fine.

I’m just as glad. I had a good experience at Atlantic Medical Imaging, but I’m aware of how much of a financial threat these physician-owned, freestanding diagnostic and surgical facilities are to hospitals. They skim off many of the most profitable portions of the hospitals’ trade, leaving them to handle less lucrative procedures – not to mention the charity-care patients who cannot pay. I went to Atlantic initially because they were the only facility in the area offering the PET/CT fusion scan, but since Dr. Lerner wants me to have a regular CT scan along with the PET scan anyway, it seemed like the right time to go back to patronizing the hospital.

Things go well, all in all. The PET scan technician tries and fails twice to get my IV line in properly, then has to call a nurse – but that’s a small matter. The PET scanner itself is located on the back of a tractor-trailer truck, that pulls up to a special access bay at the side of the hospital. The truck shuttles this expensive machine between several hospitals on a regular basis. Once you step aboard, though, it feels no different than any other room – a little smaller, that’s all.

It’s not pleasant to lie on my back, absolutely still, with arms extended over my head, for the 30 minutes or so the PET scan takes, but I get through it. Fortunately, the tech guides my hands to a mesh strap that some thoughtful designer included at back of the headrest. By hooking my thumbs through the strap, I’m able to take some of the pressure off my upper-arm muscles. Ah, the little things – they make such a difference. After the protracted PET scan, the CT scan is a piece of cake.

I’m not sure to what extent these scans are routine, for me. Last time I met with Dr. Lerner, he said he wanted me to go for another CT scan before our next 3-month appointment, but he was going to wait to decide about a PET scan until he’d seen the results of my detailed blood work. I guess there must have been something in those results that makes him want to err on the side of caution – though his office staff provided no details when they told me the doctor’s written instructions indicated a PET scan as well as a CT.

Maybe this is cause for concern, or maybe it’s not. I’ve been feeling a little anxious about it. I’ll find out for sure at my next appointment with him on October 1st – or maybe sooner, if I get a phone call reporting on my test results.

In the meantime, I’m in that medical-test limbo that’s so familiar to anyone who’s gone for a radiological scan: nobody can tell me anything until after the radiologist has examined the signs from the oracle.

(In case you're wondering about the picture to the right, it's the Oracle at Delphi - obscure mythological reference.)


Carrie said...

I'm praying for good news when you get your results, Carl!

Carl said...

Thanks, Carrie!

Bryce said...

The joys of having medical tests
under the guise of helping the patient, when it's all about making money for the insurer. Government funded and paid for insurance is so much easier. It just gets done. Maybe not on your schedule however it does get done. As to PET scan machines, there are few in Canada. Medicine here is not for profit, so those machines that work and function are used. CT and MRI machines being the norm.

My own NHL is in remission, however
am still technically on chemo, Rituximab every nine weeks for at least another year, or more. Preventive medicine as it were. My diagnosis initially of Lupus/Sjogren's Syndrome combined with my NHL stage III means best to make darn sure the disease does not return, if ever.

Mind what the doctors don't tell you are the far-ranging side effects of certain drugs. Am now suffering from congestive heart failure brought on partly by the drugs ingested. After all removing the threat of cancer is all about poisoning you, the patient!

These days more pills for the heart problem, and relaxation pills to help me get over some of the humps.

Suspect the worst problem though is the lack of stamina. What I used to be able to accomplish now takes twice as much time; I must be getting changing! My own family physician suggested with a smile on her face that I am now considered a senior citizen!

Carl, did you find your stamina
decreased with your treatment?

And if yes, has it returned albeit slowly?

Ronni Gordon said...

Hi Carl,
Just discovered your interesting blog. You've done such a great job putting it together. I too am a cancer survivor with a blog. I had three transplants for leukemia (AML) and am now in remission. My blog, "Running for My Life: Fighting Cancer One Step at a Time," is about various ways of coping and coming back. I hope you'll "visit." I'll be checking in on you too. And good luck with your test results.

Carl said...

Yes, Bryce, I had problems with constant fatigue towards the end of my chemo treatments a few years ago.

I gradually returned to something close to normal - though I suspect I lost something in overall strength and vigor that I'm not likely to get back.

Carl said...

Thanks for the good word, Ronni. And yes, I did visit your blog. A great site, there. I'll visit again.

Hang in there.