Kicking Breast Cancer's Butt

Daily Archives: February 23, 2013

Our first day with the cancer team at Virginia Mason,  I could have sworn they said something about “free parking” while we were in this process.  Of course this means nothing on the large scale of things but still like on a Monopoly board, who doesn’t like free parking?  So today nuclear medicine validates with the “Patient Discount”  when I ask about it, she says that’s the only stamp then have.  But Cancer Center downstairs probably has the free parking stamp.

Ok, maybe that’s what I forgot.  We have to stop there for free parking.  Down we go and over to the front desk, near the peaceful water wall….and tell them we are in for a bone scan and were looking for a free parking stamp.

“Whose Your Doctor?”  the sddenly officious woman asks while the others behind the desk watch in silence.

My wife names her Oncologist and Surgeon.  I am never playing poker with this woman!  No change in expression.. either she doesn’t know the doctors names or she has been well trained to avoid all tells in any situation.

“Who did your biopsy?”

What? I think… how many more and more personal questions do we need to answer for free parking.  Doesn’t HIPAA prevent pulling a full medical history for a parking stamp?  I was about ready to tell Tina to whip out the boob and show Mrs. Officious the cancer lump.  “Hey lady we didn’t walk up from the flower show to scam you for free parking” would have been my next retort.. except…

Tina names another doctor  and the woman grudginly stamps the card.  Letting us know this is not how it is suppose to be. God forbid someone who is channeling thousands of dollars in business your way, get free parking.

ok.. its just parking.. it doesn’t matter  that much.. but… I guess it is worth quizzing your cancer patients to prevent too many freebies.

Sigh.. that is a small rant.

Today is the first day of my PET scan diet.  Low carbs.  I’ve eaten almonds, the egg and canadian bacon out of one of The Husband’s breakfast sandwiches, cheese, and now I’m eating spinach with tuna salad.  Still I feel so powerfully hungry.  It’s beyond hungry.  It’s like a black hole in my stomach, where everything gets sucked in, and it still feels empty.  So empty it HURTS.  I keep trying to fill the space with water.  Maybe I’ll try hot tea.  Sometimes that helps expand the food in my stomach, so that less feels like more.  Or maybe that’s only if the food is carbohydrate.

Oh my goodness, this is so hard.  How will I ever get through the PET scan without chewing on someone’s face?  Maybe they can sedate me through the whole process, then have a large pizza ready for me when I wake up?

Got up before 7am with The Child.  I can’t eat anything I normally do, and no cream in my coffee, but I’m not going to complain about that right now.  Coffee or any sort of caffeine/decaffeinated beverage was off the list in the literature I was reading on line last week.  But Virginia Mason changed the rules recently, luckily for me.  I don’t know if the research changed nationally, or if Virginia Mason just gave in, because Seattle is coffee town, and there was no way to get it completely out of their patients blood stream with only a two day detox.  Heck, my pee is probably as much caffeinated as radioactive right now.

Black coffee isn’t that bad.  I’m drinking Starbuck’s® Verona roast, which is my favorite, and which I happened to have in the house at the moment.

Now what to do about breakfast.  I can’t take the easy way out, and go with my usual bread and cheese breakfast.  I’m keeping the hunger pangs away with a few almonds so far.  I need to go to the grocery store for eggs.  I’m thinking veggie-cheese omlette.  For some reason milk is not allowed, but cheese is.  Go figure.  This might be a fun experiment.

Oh, if you ever need to have a bone scan, and the technicians taking your information ask you “Have you had any surgeries in the past year that involved your bones?” don’t forget to mention oral surgeries.  After my scan was complete, the technician came back and asked if I’d had any dental work.  I said that I had a tooth pulled recently.  He wanted to know when.  About a month or so ago, I replied.  Was it on the left?  Yes, I said.  Was it an upper, he asked. Yes, it was, I said.  I see that here, he said.  Okay.

That gave me a hint that probably my bone scan would be alright, if the most glaring thing was my pulled tooth and jaw that must have been obviously in bone remodeling mode.  That’s why the radioactive stuff they give you works for scanning your bones.  Your bones recognize it, and say oh goody, more building material!  They hold onto it, and any recently broken or injured bones, including your jaw, must light up the scanner like crazy.

I’m so grateful that was ALL that lit up my bone scan.

So the bone scan injection was pretty non-traumatic. I had a student and her supervisor who each had a shot at inserting my IV so they could give me the sodium phosphate (or whatever it was).  Natalia was the student, her supervising tech was Yuri, and they were both wonderful.  Once the needle was inserted in my vein, Yuri gave me the injection before I even knew it.  I was expecting the injection to be cold and said as much.  Yuri said he’d warmed it with my blood, and my first thought was he was joking, but I knew he was serious.  There is a little tube attached to the IV needle, and that collects a little of your blood, and I guess that’s what he used to warm the injection, then pushed it into my vein.  Cool, huh?

Then The Husband and I had a couple of hours of sitting in the hospital cafeteria, me sucking down LOTS of water.

Back to Nuclear Medicine, time for the bone scan.  After visiting the restroom yet one more time, the technician told me how the scan worked.  I take off my jewelry and my glasses, lie down of the very narrow scan bed, have a wide padded strap around my arms, and a big rubber band around my feet.  Then they slide you through a less oppressive looking white tube, less oppressive than the breast MRI anyway.  They start with your head and move down.  They also raise the tray up, so that it’s about an inch from your nose.  I had my eyes closed, and wouldn’t have thought about it, but my tech happened to say “It will stop” which is when I opened my eyes and looked at how close the scanner was to my face.  Yikes.

I had taken a half tablet of my anti-anxiety medication.  About 5 minutes into the scan, I realized I should have taken a full tablet.  My right shoulder, around my collar bone, started to sort of tingle.  I am certain now that it was the beginning of an anxiety attack, but at the time I thought it must me the radioactive agent in my blood, and I was going to be enacting a scene from Alien, my radioactive blood and tissue leaping out towards the scanner.

After about 10 minutes the tech was able to unstrap my arms so that I could relax a little more.  As the scanner continued, thank goodness it was mostly quiet, save for the scanning table tray sliding back under my arms.  Every noise, every sensation, I was nervous, anxious.

Pretty soon, the technician said “10 seconds”.  By the time he took the rubber band off my feet, I was rather nauseas.  The technician helped me sit up, and after a moment I went to sit down while he consulted with the radiologist to learn whether or not our images were good, or if we needed to take more.  I took the other half of my anti-anxiety medicine and sat down to wait.  Praying to God that my bones were clear, and that the images we’d just taken would be enough.  I felt rather sick to my stomach, and it felt like my bowels were about to let loose.

They didn’t thank goodness, but when the tech came back and told me we were done, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  All my stiff-upper-lip cheerfulness was about spent, and I think the full effect of my anti-anxiety was starting to kick in.  I almost walked out of nuclear medicine without The Husband.  Not intentionally, but the Nuclear Medicine section of radiology is in rather a small space, and you’re past the waiting area and at the reception desk before you know it.

Managed to remember myself, and The Husband and I left the medical center.  Back in the car, I burst into tears.  I had been keeping hold of my fear and anxiety, and in the safety and relative privacy of our parked vehicle, with my husband, I could let it all out, let it go.

On the drive homeward, heading to a late lunch of fish and chips and beer for me (no carb diet starts Saturday!), the call comes from my current favorite person at Virginia Mason, Rita.  My bone scan is clear!  I’m so happy, I’m telling everyone at Red Lobster, emailing work, texting my sister, everyone.

It’s 11 hours later, and can you believe it, I’m still sucking down water.  All of a sudden I can’t get enough.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and so begins my extreme Atkins diet.  Then the PET scan on Monday, for which I will definitely need my anti-anxiety medication.  I can’t look at IVs or needles, it’s true.  But scans are apparently my true kryptonite.