On Thursday I had my third PET scan, which will hopefully also be my last PET scan. I have heard rumors that I might continue to get scans over the years to ensure that the cancer has not returned, but I believe those will be of the CT variety, not the PET. Over the course of my drama with Lumpy, PET scans have been a consistent marker of time.
My first was completed before I started chemotherapy to determine whether or not the cancer had spread beyond the lump in my neck. Fortunately, it had not. The second PET scan was taken after two rounds of chemotherapy, as the original plan for my treatment was to be two rounds, a clean PET scan and two more rounds for safety’s sake. As I have lamented many times, that second scan was not clean enough and I was ordered to have four more rounds of chemo.
So this is it. This third PET scan will show whether or not the chemotherapy has done its job and if I can join the 90+ percent of people who are cured of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At least the odds are ever in my favor!
Theresa and I got to the hospital around 7:15 a.m. for our appointment yesterday, returning to the radiology department that I frequented so often during “Matt Takes Test Week” so long ago. We often joke about how this entire experience has actually been a new TV show called Down With Lumpy, featuring numerous plot twists, guest stars and recurring characters.
One of my favorite recurring characters actually came back for a curtain call in this final season of the show—Andy, the European-accented radiologist who had administered my first PET scan as well as my MUGA heart scan. At first I wasn’t sure if he remembered me or not, but it soon became clear that he did.
“You love needles, right Matchew?” he joked, no doubt remembering his previous anxiety-inducing attempts to stick my veins and also reminding me of his hilarious pronunciation of my first name.
We arrived at the PET scan waiting room where I would be injected with radioactive glucose and then spend 70 minutes sitting in the darkened room waiting for it to spread through my body and fail to find any cancer cells. But first he would have to insert the IV.
“Can’t I be there while you put the needle in?” Theresa begged, when he told her to wait outside. “They let me do it every other time.” He eventually relented and let her come in for moral support.
“Do you want to get it started?” he quipped to her, gesturing to his tools of vein pain. “I thought you were going to help with the IV…” He eventually went to work, tying the rubber band just above my elbow and tapping on my arm to make the veins pop. I had followed all the advice about drinking 16 ounces of water before the appointment, but I’m convinced that my no-glucose diet has a negative effect on my veins’ ability to pop. No PET scan IV insertion has gone smoothly and today was no exception. He put the needle into my arm and it felt like things were proceeding, but sure enough, I quickly heard him say, “Oh, we’re in trouble, Matchew.”
He was able to get some blood out to test my glucose level, but he couldn’t get anything to enter my vein. He presumed that it was because they used this vein often and that it was “clotted.” I don’t really understand that, and I don’t really want to. As usual, my body had already covered itself in sweat and my head began to spin. He brought me a cup of water and a towel to wipe myself down.
Once I had regained my equilibrium, I asked if he wanted to try again and he said that they only get one attempt and someone else would have to do it. I guess I should have remembered that from last time. At any rate, another woman came in (whom he dubbed “the best”) and she started examining my arm for a more amenable vein. She found a very prominent one on the inside of my wrist and wanted to prick me lower down on the inside of my arm. That sounded incredibly painful to me, but she said that she would definitely be able to hit it, so I told her to do her worst on my inner wrist. It wasn’t pleasant, but the pain was mercifully quick, and the vein was thankfully functioning properly.
After that, the original doc took over and tucked me in with pre-warmed blankets for my hour-long winter’s nap. I tried hard to fall asleep, but to no avail. Eventually he reopened the door and it was time for the scan. The hardest parts were over, so all I had to do now was lie down, pull my pants down to my knees, cover myself in blankets, hold still and hope for the best. As I left the PET scan area, the tech shook my hand and left me with the best parting words of any character on my TV series: “Good luck, Matchew. I hope I never see you again.”
So now I just wait until my doctor’s appointment on Monday afternoon when I’ll hopefully get the results. The nervousness hasn’t set in yet, and hopefully it won’t until I’m actually sitting in his office waiting for him to deliver the hopefully glad tidings. In other news, I returned to work today for the third time this week and I still feel really good. I’m heading to back-to-back concerts at Ravinia tonight and tomorrow night, and hoping to christen my new bicycle on a bike trail ride this weekend. Life is slowly returning to normal and I’m remembering just how awesome my version of normal really is. Here’s hoping my medical chart will soon read “normal and awesome” as well.