Kicking Breast Cancer's Butt

bone scan

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.

How Are You Today?

It’s a toss-away phrase.  Friends and co-workers say it.  Grocery clerks say it.  Your favorite barista says it while taking your order for the brown gold that wakes you up each morning.

I actually never had a good answer….

“Fine”…  Am I fine?  Is that a sincere answer? Was it a sincere question?  Often I come up with little quips that have real info in it.  “Glad it’s Friday”  “Keeping busy!”  “I’ll know after the coffee”  Sooo true.

Of course these days we are getting the other “How are you doing?”  from people who we have shared the news with.  It comes with the touch of empathy that is sincere, but makes me want to answer “We’re doing OK.”

What if I answered all of them with THE TRUTH?

“My wife has cancer, I am trying to keep up with my promises to people in my life and work enough hours to get my projects done before the FINAL deadline and earn money And there are three white rabbits living in my backyard.”

The grocery clerk stands frozen…now they don’t know how to respond.

Better to say “ Glad I am heading home”  and that also is the truth.

How are we today?  For now better than expected.  Virginia Mason is like a part-time job we work together.   I am learning I would be very happy working with my wife all day.  I like being with her, even when she was in “The Loud Donut” She gives me peace… Odd she is preparing to battle cancer and she gives me peace, but she does… We feed off each other in a good way.

How are we today?   There has been laughing and crying and anger and busy and life and preparing to demand that life continue.

How are we today?  We are focusing on “The Now”  Today and Monday are more tests.  One cancerous node, opens the gateway to a full body bone scan and a PET scan.  First reaction was scary.  That is looking for cancer that has moved to someplace where it can do real harm!  Then we come to the realization.  That ”the cancer is where the cancer is” we can’t change that today.  And many times it can move without using the lymph nodes.  So we are learning more and lucky to have this new data source.  The cancer is what the cancer is, and more data gives us power to change what will be, it lets us choose the level of medicine needed to kick this thing’s butt.

How are we today?  Saturday is date night at the school auction and then a room at the Marriot with a whirlpool tub!  Ooo La La!

How are we today?   We are in love and fighting this war together.  We are good.


The Husband and I are sitting in the cafeteria between my radioactive injection and my bone scan.  They have you wait two hours between the injection and the scan so you have a chance to drink as much water as you can stand, and flush out the injection from your soft tissues.  If you don’t, all they see is an outline of your whole body, and they can’t see your bones at all.  No other dietary restrictions are necessary, thank heaven, or I’d be in trouble, because I ate a bag of pop chips and then had a coffee and a sundried-tomato-basil bagel with TWO mini tubs of cream cheese.  Tomorrow I begin the prep diet for the PET/CT scan.  Today is my last day before Monday afternoon when I may indulge in bagels, and coffee with cream and sugar.  So of course I’m giving myself a free pass (well, I always do, but now I am open about it) to eat bagels, pizza, and drink beer.  Because I won’t be able to do that again until Monday afternoon.

It’s pretty easy to “be good” today, I’ve put away 60 ounces of water, and peed three times.  I’ve started another 33.9 ounce bottle of water, so I feel like I’m making good progress, pee-wise.  We’ve got another hour to go (oops, have to go again!).  I’ve still got a little headache, and I’m a little jittery.

This Friday is the bone scan.  I’m expecting radioactive pee.

Next Monday is the PET/CT scan, for which I start an extreme version of Atkins on Saturday – low carb, high protein.  No bread, no pasta, no fruit, and no sweets.  Our weekend plans just took a hit.  I can enjoy my steak, but no garlic-mashed potatos for me, and no WINE.  WHAT??