Wednesday, January 3, 2018

PETs and CATs and MRIs...oh my!

The Big One

PET scans are serious stuff, they are used to determine spread and location of tumors and other cancerous things. I picture my cancer as a cross between a lizard and one of those tiny dragon-things from Jurassic Park. I don't know how it got in there, but this "thing" is clinging on to my ribs for dear life and apparently left some unsightly egg-nests in my breast. All withOUT my permission. I'm drawing a cartoon of this thing sometime.

So to find where this repulsive dragon-lizard is really hiding and how big it is, I happily submitted myself to the test of all tests, the PET scan.
The doom-tube PET scan expensive thinguie

PET stands for something, I'm sure, but in essence it entails some nice techs injecting a perfectly sane "patient" (I now know why they call us patients) with serious nuclear stuff, and subsequently having them imbibe some repulsive stuff. When all that has thoroughly circulated through the hapless body, the "patient" is subjected to a slooooow scan inside a claustrophobic tube. I wish I could watch but I'm inside the tube.
Seriously, I thoroughly research these tests, mostly at the Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/ website with occasional forages into other medical websites.


PET scan demystified

If anyone is getting one of these rather pricey things done, I will try to explain minute by minute how it feels. Brace yourself...

Arrival at the Big Bad Diagnostics Mega Building at 7:40, exactly twenty minutes too early for my check-in which precedes my test by thirty minutes. I'm in for a long wait. You know how it goes by now, sign-in, wait, check-in, wait in a different room, admitted in, fork out bucks, wait, wait. Finally...Mariaaaaaa!

I trot along the nice tech who leads me along a labyrinth of hallways, would be kind of fun if I got a prize for turning the right way at each corner...WAIT, what's this room? I am in the interrogation room, a chair covered in a sheet in the middle of this huge room with nothing else in it. A tray by the chair has needles (truth serum?) and bandages (to cover up the torture scars?). A glass window with an observation room where a truth-seeking computer sits...I am very suspicious.

At precisely 8:30 I am made to sit on the torture chair--let me say I peeked under the sheet to make sure there were no gripping devices that would lock on my arms and legs upon my butt triggering an automatic switch. Nope, nothing but cheap leather underneath, whew!
"It reclines" I am told.
The lights are dim, there is enough space in the room for at least 20 interrogators plus the evil doctor that monitors my terror level.
The (other) nice tech explains the test to me, we nuke your veins, you gobble up goop, 45 minutes of "relaxation," empty bladder, 20 minutes of tube, turn over, more tube...
FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOOM! I want to scream like Braveheart on the torture slab.
I didn't do it! I swear I was never even IN Russia! 'Twasn't meeeee....aaaahhhhh...long live the Queeeeen!!!....

But the other Maria has been listening carefully and I merely and politely assent when she asks if I have any questions.
"Blanket?"
"Sure," I say not knowing the so-called blanket falls somewhere between gauze and a bedsheet that wouldn't keep a polar bear warm in Costa Rica.
"A little poke..." she says injecting nuclear stuff into my body.
I've been nuked...I'm radioactive, I'm sure...I wonder if when the test is over I could go to the airport and see if I set off some alarms!? While I'm in the airport running away from the radioactivity detecting German Shepherd, she interrupts me again...
"What flavor Barium would you like? We have vanilla and mocha."
"Oooh, mocha please, it will feel like a cup of coffee from Starbucks," I say.

Barium is a disgusting thicker-than-milk, feels-like-liquid-chalk type of goop they make you drink so you will tell the truth about Russia...or else it enhances "contrast" when you are zapped by the death-rays in the doom-tube. In other words, totally painless and tasteless. I drink the evil serum. Mocha?...sheeshhh...

Then I recline and sit in the chair for the apportioned 45 minutes with my jacket on my face so I am not blinded by the 24 spotlights (I counted them, what else was I going to do). After about 30 minutes some nice tech thinks of dimming the lights. Did I say the room is huge? I keep wanting to look over my shoulder to see the advancing evil doctor.
Meantime, I'm hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, sittin' at the edge of the Grand Canyon and just when I'm about to crest Everest for the first time...

9:20
"Ready?"
I politely throw off blankie and jacket and follow. More hallways... I could find my way in any forest, jungle or desert on a cloudy night but buildings! they disorient me immediately upon crossing the doorway. Not being able to make a run for it (just yet), I am obliged to follow my (other) tech...to a waiting room, of course!

Not long after, I enter the "tube" room. There it sits, waiting to eat my body with its big gaping mouth. I am given instructions again, sit still, arms by the sides, head on the pillow, knees up, over here...comfy?
Sure.
"I'll play some music for you"
Nice. Tech proceeds to play some inane music I'm sure HE likes a lot.
I got to pick nature sounds for my CT scan last week! I yell in my head.

I assure myself again I am NOT claustrophobic but just in case I shut my eyes tight and have the tremendous discipline of not opening them again until I perceive the lights of the room.
Head first I go into the doom-tube. I picture it scanning my body, detecting sugar metabolism, making pictures of my bones, organs...must be fun to be a doom-tube.
Twenty minutes seems like a long time but not when your mind wonders halfway around the world so easily. I picture myself face to face with the dragon-lizard...
"Ah ha! I see you now you little muncher, you're ugly as they come!"
"munch munch..." it replies eating another one of my ribs...without BBQ sauce
"You are history! hear me?" I threaten, "I command you off me, OFFFFF!"
Then I picture a waterfall...I am standing under this huge cascade of clear blue water and I feel it enter the pores of my head and cleanse my every cell...

"Turn around," he says rudely interrupting my cleansing. "Head over here...are you doing alright?"
Well I WAS...
"Doing great," says the polite Maria.

Another "few" minutes, feet first, no day-dreaming this time, just a short wait feeling the lights change through my closed eyelids as they move me in and out of the machine. Comfy.

10:35
And then it's over, just like that.
"You can go now," she says. And then she opens the door and tells me to go right...and THERE is the lobby!? The precious way to freedom was THERE the entire time and I didn't even make a go at it...
Mental note: I have to learn to orient myself in buildings

And now, another wait, this time for results to be posted...in my cozy and happy home.
Two more tests later this week, I get to learn my bone density and my awaited brain CT scan "just to see if there's anything in there" Laughing out loud...I wonder too sometimes!

(that is not me)
For educational purposes
CT scan, PET scan, both combined
from the Mayo Clinic website


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