13 October 2009

Radioactive

Yesterday I had a bone scan and a CT scan. I wasn't sure what to expect with either of them, so I went online and checked it out. Both require lying on my back on a sliding bed and being inserted in some sort of donut like contraption while the bed slid up and down so that the scanning device could check the entire length of my body. They also both had my face about 4 inches from the surface above me. Real donuts are much more fun!

But, these scans really can't see anything until you have something called "contrast" inside of you. This was actually the worst part of everything. And let me parenthetically add that I am no lightweight when it comes to pain.

First of all, I had 8 children, with some of the longest back labors on record (56 for my first...no kidding, 22 for my second, 17 for my 7th, really!) Additionally, I had the first 5 all natural, with epidurals administered for the last three, with the last of said epidurals not taking. That was the most painful, because I wasn't anticipating needing all the breathing techniques to survive the dreaded transition portion of the labor. So I didn't practice my breathing. I know, bad call.

Second, I have suffered with fibromyalgia since 1992. If you don't know what that is, click on the link. You'll see just how much fun it is.

Oh, did I mention the 8 kids....well, I am throwing that in just for the emotional pain that is!! (sorry kiddos, you know I love you)

This year it has been incredible pain in my right shoulder and upper arm as a result from overuse from the work of baking and cake decorating.

You get the idea.

Patti picks me up to take me to Rex Hospital for my 11:00 a.m. appointment where I am to receive a dye injected into me in preparation for my bone scan. This is a radioactive dye. I have the worst veins. They are tiny and they are deep and they like to roll. A very nice young man named Bryan is the radiology technician. He can't find a vein in the usual places, so he is forced to use the top of my right hand. OH MY GOSH!!!! It hurt so bad. Fortunately, it only took about 15 seconds for the dye to be injected in, which burned like crazy.

I am to return at 1:30 p.m. for the actual bone scan.

Monday was our original lunch date. So we went to lunch during the waiting period. (I have the good fortune of having received the birthday gift that keeps on giving. Since 1997, each month Patti has taken me to lunch, and sometimes a movie too in celebration of my birthday. It's a great story of how this came to be, so just ask me sometime and I will share it with you.)

After lunch, I had to start drinking the contrast solution (also radioactive) in preparation for the CT scan at 3:00 p.m. For those who have not had the pleasure, this is TWO 16 ounce bottles of a thick white liquid they dare to call a smoothie. It was allegedly flavored apple. Quite honestly, it was horrible.

I had the very clever idea that the colder this stuff would be, the easier it would be to get down. So, I put the bottles in a small cooler of ice and brought that with me. When 1:00 p.m. came and it was time to drink the first bottle, I found that the liquid had actually started to freeze and there were ice crystals in the beverage. It was way too thick and yes, crunchy. YUCK!! Patti coached me through the process, encouraging me on. It took 30 minutes to drink that bottle.

We then go back to Rex for the bone scan. Not terrible, but I kept my eyes closed. Very early in the process I opened my eyes just to find the nearest objects about 3 inches away. I closed my eyes immediately and just imagined that I was laying on a beach. The scan lasted 30 minutes. They bound me up like a papoose baby so that I could not move. It was quite uncomfortable.

Now it's 2:00 p.m. and time for part two of the contrast solution. By this time, it had come to a normal cold temperature, since I had learned from the first bottle to take it out of the cooler. My stomach was feeling pretty full, but I got that bottle down in about 12-15 minutes. I am sorry, but this was worse than when I had to hold my nose to get the baby june peas or squash down at dinner time when I was a little girl. Gag. Really. Geesh.

Patti takes me to the Cancer Center for the CT where Doug is meeting me. Oh, great, MORE radioactive contrast injected into me. She tries the left arm which was holy cow so painful. It was like she stuck in the needle and was just trying to stab at a vein in hopes to get one. And then, the vein blew and she HAD TO DO IT AGAIN ON THE OTHER ARM!!! Just as bad, but it worked, thankfully.

This time I ask for washcloth to cover my eyes, lest I accidentally open them. This sliding bed was not cushioned like the last scan, but it would only be 15 minutes for the CT to be completed. At a certain point, the technician injects the contrast solution into the vein. She had warned me that it would feel warm. No, more like my insides are on fire. I felt the liquid move through the veins in my body, first up my arm and all into my chest and then into my brain. I felt light headed. Then, it went all the way down my torso. I didn't last long, only two minutes or less. I just laid as still as possible, holding my breath when prompted by the voice in the machine.

Done!

We got home shortly after 4:00 p.m. and I rested for a while before piano students came. Lucky for me, it was Julie Housley's kids, and Julie brought dinner. That was a blessing.

With all the stuff ingested and injected, my stomach was feeling pretty weird. I was pretty spent and didn't get any more unpacking done last night.

Dr. Hamad, my surgeon, told me that by the end of this week I would be glowing. She wasn't just kidding. I am radioactive. The Geiger Counter is clicking off the charts.

I get the day off from appointments today. But, tomorrow the fun starts all over again.

On a serious note, I keep thinking how unreal this is. I feel like I am just an actor in a play. Is this really happening to ME? How? Why? It's just still unbelievable. I think that facing the unknown is the hardest part. The big trials for our family since 1997 were always unemployment. It was so difficult, but when it happened for the 3rd and 4th and 5th time, at least I knew what to expect. And I could do something! I found ways to bring in more money. That's how and why I turned a little hobby into a successful wedding cake business.

I can't really fix this. I have to have faith in Heavenly Father and trust in my doctors and do what they say to make this better. It is truly humbling. I don't have the power to make this go away. But, I do have the power to face each day with faith and hope and love. That's the stuff true miracles are made of.

3 comments:

Catherine said...

That sounds worse than my colonoscopy experience with the solutions. But you made it through and Heavenly Father will provide a way for all. Love you, mom!

claireb said...

I'm a friend of Mary and Christian's, and have met you once or twice, although you may not remember. I just want to thank you for putting this blog up... I think it's a fantastic idea, and will help many people who go through what you're experiencing as well.

Speaking of experiences though, I've done the same exam when I was on my mission in Brazil. The contrast -gross, the jabbing with a needle to find a vein - that was torture, (I was pricked and gouged 8 times), and then the internal contrast which, I agree... BURNS. No fun at all. Hopefully that'll be the last one you'll have to endure!

My prayers are with you! Claire

Zoom said...

You are in our prayers Sally. I'm sad we didn't get to know you better (in the mere 3 months we've lived here) before your move. I understand all too well about being afraid of the unknown. I had a brain tumor 9 years ago. Hang in there. Your blog will give you an 'out' and give others an inside look at what you're going through and what breast cancer is. We love you!
The Pulsipher family

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