Kicking Breast Cancer's Butt

Daily Archives: February 26, 2013

I survived the 12+ hour fast and the PET scan.

The professionals who work in nuclear medicine at Viginia Mason are really wonderful, compassionate people.  When my name was called, I was taken to a room with a large, comfortable (though still obviously medical) recliner.  I was shown where the bathroom was (which was timely, as I’d been drinking water since midnight), then I was seated in the chair, and a warm blanket put over me.  My technician asked me some preliminary questions to make sure he had the right patient, then quizzed me about how I did on the low-carb diet.  Then he explained the procedure.  First we tested my blood sugar.  Then we put in my IV, which went pretty well, I think because I’d been drinking water all day, so I was definitely well hydrated.  I don’t know how it is for you, but I know that my veins are more willing to come out for an IV or a blood draw if I’m not dehydrated, which makes it easier for both me and the person with the needle.

Once we had the IV in place, it was time to talk about the barium sulfate vanilla smoothie.  I had to drink two.  The first half of bottle one wasn’t so bad.  But after the first half of the first bottle, you’re kind of over it.  I had 10 minutes to get down one bottle and one half of the second one.  I did it, with about 6 minutes to spare, but UGH.  Then I felt kind of bloated, like I’d had a huge soda, but without enjoying it much on the way down.  About 90 minutes later I would have to down the last half of the second bottle, and I was to learn that the flavor does not improve when it becomes less cold.  But still, not as yucky as I expected.

Next was the radioactive injection.  Again, not cold as I expected.  My technician said I had to remain quietly where I was for the 90+ minutes I would have to wait for the barium and the injection to do their thing.  He returned about an hour or so later so that I could take my anti-anxiety medication.  He left again for 15 minutes and returned to tell me it was time for the barium smoothie.  He told me that after I finished that I should use the bathroom once again, as they need to do the scan with an empty bladder.  You don’t have to tell me twice to use the bathroom.  I’d been waiting for 20 minutes to get out of that chair to do exactly that.

When he came back again in a few minutes, we went across the hall to the scanning room.  He must have gotten a chuckle out of me, as I was worried about every little detail.  He said I could put my things on the counter, I worried about making the counter unsanitary.  I asked him about the rivits on my pull-on jeans.  He said we’d deal with that.  I asked about my ring, he said as long as my hands were outside of the scanner (my arms would be flung over my head during the scan) it should be fine.  I took the ring off, beause as I say, I’m a worrier.

He had me lay down on the scanning table, and I said “Oooh, stars!”  They have these teeny, tiny winking lights that seem to be part of the blue ceiling tiles.

Once I was positioned correctly on the table, he put a wedge under my knees, covered me with yet another warm blanket, and told me to push my pants down to my mid-thigh, which should make them clear of the scanner.  As I’m a worrier, I moved them to my knees.  I was covered with a blanket, so I didn’t feel weird about that.  I got yet another warm blanket, and we started the scan.  He lined up the scanner using some kind of a laser  scope (he did tell me to keep my eyes closed), then he scanned my head for two minutes, then I went all the way through the scanning tube and came out the other side.  Then we started the 23 minute PET scan cycle.  I wasn’t able to remain completely still, my arms kept slipping little by little off the pillow, and I flexed my fingers a little to keep them from completely falling asleep.  Despite the fidgeting, I was able to get through the whole scan without a heart palpitation or the feeling that I was going to have an anxiety attack.  Thank heaven for anti-anxiety medication!

The technician told me to wait a few minutes while he checked the scan.  I was expecting that, because my bone scan was the same.  They want to make sure they have good images before they release you.  First you pray that the images are good, so you don’t have to go through it again.  Then you start praying they only see the cancer where you expect it to be, and no where else.

The technician came back and said I was done – hooray!  Now I can get food!