Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait...or "Wish I Had a Few of Those Valium Right Now"

So...the big PET scan day has arrived.  One of the girls asked, "why do they call all these things 'animal names?'"  I said, "Huh, what are you talking about?"  She said, "You know, CAT scan, PET scan, etc.!?"  Kids...!  :-)

Alright, ya'll can read a lot more in-depth about PET scans by Googling, I'll leave that up to you.  This is my version, simplified and in lay terms (unless I know a big word I want to drop in here and there to impress!) [It's MY blog, you know!].

The basic premise behind PET scans is that you fast for at least six hours prior (but you can drink water).  Thus your body has no food in it which can be turned into fuel for your cells, so they are "hungry".  Your blood is tested to make sure your blood sugar is OK, and if it is you're given an IV of glucose with radioisotopes bound to the sugar.  The sugar travels to the cells which are most rapidly multiplying and therefore metabolizing more than other cells.  This means that the areas that should end up with most of the IV solution are those which are affected by cancer.  Apparently when the Dr. reads the PET scan, the areas almost "glow" where the concentration of the sugar is, so that it's readily apparent where the cancer is.

So, they run the IV, pump in the fluids, and then leave me in a waiting room with most of the lights turned out and tell me I need to stay completely still and rest while the solution moves through my blood stream.  So, iPod rocking in my ears, I take a nap.  Except that this is not a nice comfy bed, it's a chair that reclines back somewhat, but not flat, and I'm all bent here and there.  But, I've never been one to back down from a good nap.  Bring it on!

An hour later they wake me, and make me empty my bladder before going in to the scan room.  Good thing, cause I was in that dang scan for over 40 minutes, was told to be completely still, and was glad to not have to worry about needing to relieve myself!

So, they have me lie down on the "bed" of the scanner.  I say "bed", because you're thinking pillow, blanket, nice soft mattress, etc.  Yeah, right!  We're talking a pad 12 inches wide or so, with a place to lay one's head.  Then they put a block under the knees to help you be a bit more comfortable, and put a blanket over you so you're not too cold.  At this point I'm down with all this, no big deal.  But, you can't fold your arms over your chest- they need to scan under where your arms would be.  So, you place your arms to your sides, rest them as best as possible on the "bed" (kind of under/next to your rear end) and they come out with a wide "strap" that they wrap around you and Velcro closed.  Yeah, this is gonna be FUN!!  They then proceeded to run me into the scanner (which is probably the correct medical term, I prefer to think of it as the "tube from ____").

At this point a little history might be in order.  Last fall I had to have an MRI for the first (and, believe me, LAST time).  Have any of you had one of those little joyful experiences?  I'm not as claustrophobic as some, but I don't like to be in tight, confined spaces with a feeling that I can't get out on my own.  When I went into the "tube", my shoulders are broad enough that they brushed the sides.  No kidding!  Can't we size these things?  "I'll take an XL MRI, please?"  I asked myself what a larger person than I would do- don't want to think about it.  Anyway, I digress.  The doctor had prescribed two valium for me to take just prior to the procedure.  I'm pretty susceptible to drugs, so I took one thinking it would be enough.  WRONG CHOICE!  No sooner had the lady slid me into the "tube" than I freaked and had her bring me out.  Long story short, a combination of some psychotherapy on her part, prayer on my part, the single Valium kicking in and sheer willpower and I go through it (mostly the prayer and the Valium I would say!).

So, shades of MRI today.  I was nervous, and the first part is a CAT scan before the PET scan begins.  Needless to say I flashed back, and got all nervous and sweaty (partly because they don't explain it to you, and don't give you a preview.  They also don't put you in far enough to know you'll come out the other end).  So, when all was said and done, it was NOT as bad as an MRI, but certainly wasn't very enjoyable as I'm stuck in this tube, with my ARMS BOUND TO MY SIDES- for forty minutes.

When the test was complete, they sent me on my way.  By now we should also have the results of the LDH test (which you may remember was to indicate how aggressive the cancer is), so Thursday we'll get the results of the PET scan and the LDH test.  Again, our hope is that the PET scan shows that the cancer is localized, that the LDH test shows it's not aggressive, and then that we'll do a bone marrow test and find that the cancer is not in the marrow.  All of this will then enable Dr. Glenn to go to the radiological oncologists and have them determine if they can irradiate the area- which could lead to a "cure".

So, all in all a good day.  It just feels like "hury up and wait".  Thursday 9/24 was the diagnosis.  Wait till Thursday 10/1 for Oncologist.  Wait for 10/8 for results.  I'm assuming some waiting after that for bone marrow test results.  I always imagined when one was told one had cancer that the wheels started turning and things started happening.  Had no idea that indolen follicular NHLs could actually be characterized like a "chronic disease" and could simply be monitored over time. I guess that's not all bad, but it's also strange to thing that I have cancer in my body, and we may simply "wait and watch", perhaps for years.

Lisa and the girls and I are optimistic and faithful.  So many are praying with and for us, and we know and feel it.  Thursday will be a good day, and no matter the results, we know the Lord is with us and will continue to guide and bless us.


  1. Todd- I would be a mess with the MRI and PET scan, too. Besides being in a little tube, and feeling claustrophobic, having my arms pinned down....it makes me nervous just thinking about it! I'm glad it worked out okay though. I love your attitude, and am sure that alone is going to go far in your treatment. Our prayers continue to be with you, Lisa and the girls. Good luck with your appt. on Thurs.