Mar 13

PET Detective

March 13th, 2004.

Getting a PET Scan was a very interesting experience! By the way, PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography, which I thought was interesting in itself.

Delia scheduled my PET Scan for Saturday, March 13th, at noon. The next day, the hospital staff where it was to be done called and asked if I could make it for 11:30 instead. That was fine with me. The day before the scan, they called again to confirm my appointment, and to go over the requirements, which included 6 hours of fasting beforehand, consuming nothing but water, do no exercise, and that I should get there an hour early, at 10:30. No problem. They also suggested I wear warm clothes, since it can get pretty chilly in the PET scan unit. I planned on wearing joggers.

I woke up about 6:am, just in time to miss breakfast and my morning coffee, and spent the morning playing around on the computer here and surfing. About 10, we left for the hospital, which was only about 15 minutes away, and got there in plenty of time. It was sunny and warm, and there didn’t seem to be much going on at the hospital when we arrived. We got a parking space very close to the front entrance and walked in with the CAT scan film.

Inside, we were directed down a short hall to an area not far from the front desk, where I followed the instructions on a counter and filled in my name and why I was there on a slip of paper and dropped it into a box. Then I picked out a magazine and had a seat to wait. About 15 minutes later, one of the staff came out and called my name. I stood and she said that the PET staff had been notified that I was there, and that they’d be there soon to get me. I sat back down to read some more.

Another 15 minutes or so went by, and a woman in a white smock walked in from down the hall somewhere and called my name. She told us that I’d be about an hour and 45 minutes, and that mom should wait there. Mom was okay with that, and kept at the crocheting she’d brought with her while I followed the nurse back down the hall. As we neared a door that led out to another parking lot behind the hospital, another nurse that was standing there said, “I’ll trade ya…” The second nurse led me out into the parking lot and toward a trailer with the words “Positron Emission Tomography” on it.

The PET scan unit is built into a trailer that looks like it was made just for that purpose. The first indication that there was something special about it was that there was a platform we walked onto that was positioned about in the middle of the trailer. It had a rail around it and a gate, and the nurse indicated for me to step onto it with her. She pressed some control buttons, and the thing lifted us up about four feet off the ground and a door kind of like a small garage door opened to allow us into the trailer. I eyed the stairs a few feet away that led up to a regular door in the trailer, and speculated that this had to do with the ‘no exercise’ advice they’d given me the day before.

Inside, there were three sections. The largest held the machine, which looked very much like the CAT scan donuts I was used to seeing, though the hole in it seemed a bit smaller, and there were different looking controls and light panels on it’s face. Also, the table was curved on the bottom, like half a shell casing, which was a little different. The middle section, which we walked into from the platform, had the technician’s station, with a couple of computers set up at a desk built into the wall, and some chairs. She led me into the third section, which was the smallest of the three. In it, there was a comfy recliner, some medical apparatus for injections and IV set-ups, and something that looked a bit like one of those little refrigerators a college student might have in their room. A sticker that looked a lot like this was on it:

Radiation Warning Label Image

I had a seat in the recliner and noticed right away that it wasn’t an ordinary Lazy Boy. For one thing, it was up higher than a regular recliner. My feet didn’t even reach the floor. In any case, it was very comfortable, and I sat back, very relaxed.

The nurse said she needed to get some blood to check my sugar count before they could proceed, and asked which arm I prefer. I told her it didn’t matter, and said that most nurses can get blood pretty easily from either one. She was standing to my right, so I offered it up and she went to work. First, the tourniquet, then the poke at a vein, which wiggled away from her. She stabbed at it again, and it evaded her once more. A few more tries, and she called the other nurse in for a go at it. The other nurse started fresh, made a new poke, and got the same results. Eventually, they both gave up and decided to try the other arm, which gave up the Buck-juice just fine and without a fuss. They installed an IV, got the blood, and flushed it with some saline solution.

After a quick test on the blood, they were satisfied that they could proceed, and pulled a short, fat syringe out of the radioactive materials storage box that had a thick metal sleeve around it. I commented that it was a strange looking syringe, and she explained that it was to protect them from the radiation, which is what I figured. She said it was tungsten and that lead wouldn’t do the trick. She injected the material into me through the IV, then pulled the IV from me and said it would take about 40 minutes for it to travel my system. She said I should refrain from moving around, and suggested I take a short nap as she pushed the recliner back so I’d be lying down. With that, she shut off the lights and went back to the technician’s station, closing the door between us behind her. Without my morning caffeine fix, I readily drifted off for a few winks.

Forty minutes later, they came back in and woke me up, saying it was time for me to go urinate. Back out to the platform and down we went, crossed the parking lot back to the hospital, and I was showed the way to a restroom close to the entrance. The nurse told me that when I was done to just return to the trailer.

She was waiting for me at the platform when I returned, and up we went. Back inside the trailer, I was ushered into the room with the donut machine and asked to get up onto the big shell casing. I climbed aboard and lay down with my head toward the machine, my head and neck in a “U” shaped rubber headrest to keep it where they wanted. She had me place my arms at my sides, but the shell casing was too narrow to rest them on it. It was slimmer than my body. She took the sheet beneath me and wrapped me up in it like a cocoon, which held my arms in place, and I was quite comfortable.

The shell casing and I moved head first into and through the donut hole, until it was above my waist. Other than the hum of the machine, I didn’t hear another sound for about the next hour. Every 10 minutes or so, the shell casing and I moved another several inches into the donut hole, in the direction of my feet on the other side of it, then it was motionless again till the next move. Eventually, my head came out the other side, and a nurse came in and unwrapped me, saying, “Okay, you’re all done. Have a nice day.”

One last trip down the platform, and I crossed the parking lot, retraced my steps back to where mom was still crocheting, and announced that I was starving. We got some fast food on the way home, and then stopped off to get some lotto tickets. I’m feeling lucky!  :p

The doctor called the day after I saw him and said that he’s been thinking about Marvin, and it’s bothering him a bit that it’s not shrinking as expected. He wants a biopsy of it, and said he’ll get it set up and let me know when we’ll do it. It’ll be done right across the street from his office, at Washington Memorial Hospital. I told him I’m okay with that, and to just let me know when. I’ll pass the date and time on here in my journal as soon as I get that info.

Rituxan is scheduled for Wednesday, and chemo on Thursday. I’ll update again after them, unless something significant happens before that.