Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 11, 2009 - Time: On My Side?

Today’s my PET/CT scan. It’s routine, but – as always – there’s low-level anxiety as I prepare to await the results.

At Jersey Shore University Medical Center, the PET/CT machine sits on a trailer pulled up to a sort of loading dock at the hospital. It’s here a few days a week, and at other hospitals the rest of the time. (I think I heard a tech say this one migrates between here and Massachusetts.) That’s how expensive these machines are – nobody can afford to have them sit unused for any length of time, so they take them on the road. Deals on wheels, for the hospital bean-counters.

I think it’s a pretty ingenious solution, actually. You know, bring the mountain to Mohammed, that sort of thing.

My visit is utterly unremarkable. I’ve had 3 or 4 PET scans in the past, so I know what to expect. First, I get jabbed in the fingertip to have my blood sugar tested (no diabetic worries, the tech tells me, peering into her little handheld device: my blood sugar is 94, which she says is excellent). They have to do the blood sugar test because the PET scan centers around an injection of a radioactive glucose solution, which – the theory goes – gets sucked up by any ravenous, fast-growing cancer cells, which are subsequently revealed to the scanner’s inquisitive electronic eye. (It wouldn’t be a good idea to send sugar solution racing through the bloodstream of a diabetic, which is why they do the precautionary test first.)

Next is the injection itself, which is no big deal: an IV line inserted for a few minutes, to receive the injection from a syringe enclosed in a shiny, lead-lined cylinder (this, to protect the technician from frequent exposure; we patients – who are getting the radioactive slurry injected right into our bodies – are on our own).

After that, I sit quietly in a chair for 45 minutes or so, while the stuff makes its way through my body. Then, it’s time to lie down on the narrow, sliding table whose motorized works will trundle me in and out of the donut-hole of the scanner.

The hardest thing is lying on my back absolutely still for a half-hour or so, with my arms extended over my head. It’s not the most comfortable pose to hold, despite the best efforts of the PET-scan techs to position me just right. (Fortunately, I have no claustrophobia problems, which could be an issue for some people as they lie inside the scanner, looking up at the top edge of the donut-hole just a few inches in front of their nose.)

On other visits, they’ve had relaxing, new-agey mood music playing through the unit’s PA system. This time, they’ve got the thing dialed to some classic-rock radio station, complete with commercials – not the most optimal programming for getting through the long minutes of lying still. I find the best way to get through this sort of experience is by seeking to go somewhere mentally far away, which soft instrumental music helps me do. No help from the rock-music deejays, on that account.

One of the songs that comes on is the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side.” “Time, time, time is on my side, yes it is," croons ol’ Mick.

Is it, I wonder? Am I continuing to stay ahead of the curve, on this cancer thing? Or, will this scan reveal something new and disturbing?

No way of knowing, at the moment. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)


dr. sheltie said...

Hi Carl,
I just came upon your blog while searching through the Presbyterian Blogger site. I'm a Presbyterian minister who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in November '95. I had surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Things have been okay.
My wife and I served as co-pastors in Nebraska for 3 years in the late 90s (our first church out of seminary). The hospital I went to for MRIs had a trailer similar to the one you pictured.
Since 2000, we've been in western New York. I've been pronunced "cured." I'm praying that you'll get a like diagnosis!

Carl said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad to hear of your positive progress!

I appreciate the good wishes for a cure, but "cure" is not a word I'm likely to hear for my "incurable but treatable" lymphoma. But I'm glad of the positive vibes, all the same!

Keep the faith.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Dear Carl,
Glad that you are done with your scans and hoping you get good results. With hope,