First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who came to our Hawkettes happy hour fundraiser last week, and to everyone who donated online to our Revlon Run/Walk page. We raised $700 at our fundraiser, and last I checked our team's online donations had raised another $1100, so that is $1800 we've raised for this good cause! I'll be walking proud on Saturday at the Run/Walk. Thank you all again.
Yesterday was my long day (almost 6 hours!) of tests, but the true "test experience" really started the day before.
To prepare for a PET scan - one of the three tests I had yesterday (the other two being a breast MRI and a CT scan) - I had to follow a low-carb diet the day before. It's restrictive enough that instead of giving you a list of things you CAN'T eat, they give you a list of the things you CAN eat. If it's not on the list, chances are you can't have it. I couldn't even chew gum!
Here's the list (yes, it's short enough that I can type the whole thing pretty quickly):
Veggies: green leafy veggies, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, beets, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and cauliflower.
Protein: tofu, beef, poultry, seafood, goat (Seriously? I can't chew gum but I can eat goat?), lamb and pork. (Note, being a vegetarian who doesn't really like tofu, this entire category was eliminated for me.)
Dairy: cheese, butter or margarine, milk, cream, fat-free yogurt and eggs.
Fruit: lemon, tomato, avocado, apples, plums, blackberries and olives. (NO fruit juices)
Yep, that's it. Actually, it wasn't really that bad. I had to forego my usual oatmeal for breakfast in favor of yogurt and blackberries. I had a salad for lunch (balsamic vinaigrette is the only dressing allowed, and that I only found out via Googling, since there were no dressings on the list), and I even went to a couple different places near my office before I could find milk sold in a single serving (since Diet Coke was NOT on the list). And then I made an omelette with cheese and veggies for dinner. Special thanks to my brother-in-law Kevin for giving me "omelette lessons" over the holidays this year - who knew they would come in so handy!
So anyway, I followed this diet on Tuesday, and then I wasn't allowed to eat anything at all after midnight, and couldn't even drink water in the 4 hours prior to the exam.
My appointment was early - 8:45am, though I somehow managed to get there 15 minutes early. The imaging place occupies two floors in the same building - my MRI was to be done first on the 9th floor, then I would head down to the lower lobby for the PET/CT scan. I pretty much knew the drill because I'd had all of these tests before when I was first diagnosed (though not all on the same day).
So after filling out a lot of same paperwork I had to fill out last time I was there, I was called pretty quickly for the MRI. I was given a room to change into a gown, and told to take off all my jewelry and any other metal I might have on me. That morning, I threw one of my "chemo caps" (a pretty blue one that my Mom knit for me) into my bag because I'm pretty sure my wigs have small metal tabs on the sides. So when I changed I took my wig off so the metal wouldn't interfere and went with the chemo cap the rest of the day.
I was brought into the MRI room and then given an IV in my arm, so they could inject the "contrast" - the stuff that makes my insides light up and show on the scan.
The thing about MRIs is that they are LOUD. The first time I had one, they gave me the earplugs and I remember thinking "Earplugs? Really? How loud could it be?" Yeah, it's that loud. And you have to stay still. But the breast MRI is not really that bad. At least I didn't have to hold my breath on cue like I did with the liver MRI that I had a few months ago (you have to hold your breath for each "picture" so they can ensure your abdomen is still). That went something like this: Machine: "Breathe in. Hold your breath." Me (in my mind): "Holding... this is not too bad... Oh crap, I have an itch. Just ignore it. OMG how much longer are they going to make me hold it! I can't--" Machine: "Breathe normally." Me: "Whew! That was close."
The most awkward part of the breast MRI is when you are lying face-down, with your boobs in two square holes, and the technician reaches underneath the table to make sure all the breast tissue is in the right position. At this point, I'm pretty comfortable with the boob flashes, but it was still kind of weird!
The breast MRI lasted about 20 minutes or so, and then I was told to head downstairs for my PET/CT scan. Luckily, they were able to keep my IV in (rather than stick me twice), so I had to ride the elevator with a needle sticking out of my arm, but I didn't get any funny looks.
After waiting for a little while, I was called back and I could tell from the technician's furrowed brow as he looked at my chart that something was wrong. Apparently, Dr. Sara had ordered a "triple-phase" CT scan, but the CT machine that is connected to the PET machine does not do "triple-phase" scans, or at least doesn't do them well. He made a few calls and then sent me back up to the 9th floor to have the CT scan done there, since apparently that machine can do the "triple-phase" thing.
This was supposed to be quick - they were going to get me in, do the CT, then I'd head right back downstairs for the PET. But, of course, that didn't happen. Instead, I waited and waited because they needed to get prior authorization from the insurance company before I could have the scan. Luckily, I had the good sense to bring a magazine with me.
Finally they got the authorization they needed and then it was time for scan #2. Once again, I had to be injected with a new contrast, and this one was quite an interesting experience. It makes you feel warm all over and you get the sensation that you, um, how can I put this... well, I'll just say it - you feel like you are peeing your pants. But you aren't! I'm really glad they warned me about this before injecting me the first time, because it would have been quite traumatic otherwise.
This scan was pretty quick, and then I was sent back downstairs again (that's 3 elevator rides with a needle in my arm) for the PET scan.
First, they injected me for a third time with yet another contrast. I am not sure if it's the PET contrast or the CT contrast, or both, but at least one of them makes you radioactive. I am not kidding. I was told to stay away from pregnant women and babies for at least 8 hours after the test! My sister emailed me last night to ask me if I was still glowing in the dark. Ha.
This was my last injection of the day so finally I was able to ditch the IV. Then, I was giving an oral contrast. I had my choice of berry, apple, vanilla, banana or mochachino "smoothie". I chose vanilla. I was then placed in a little room with a "Caution: Radiation" sign on the door, and I had to sit there for about an hour with my smoothie while both the oral and IV contrast made its way through my system.
The vanilla smoothie tasted just fine. I mean, it's not like I'm going to start lobbying my local A&P to start carrying them, but it could have been a lot worse!
And luckily, this time I came prepared with plenty of reading material. Last time, I didn't bring any books or magazines, and I had my choice of: a More Magazine from August, a TIME magazine from June or a Rolling Stone from July (which I'd already read...last July when it came out). And three months later the magazine selection was exactly the same so I'm really glad I brought my own.
After my hour in isolation, I was brought into the PET scan room and the 30-minute scan began. I think I actually fell asleep during this scan because at one point I heard them calling my name to tell me to hold my breath, and I don't think it was the first time they were calling me! Oops. Well, it was a long day, and of course, I hadn't eaten anything at all except for my "smoothie."
Finally, around 2:30pm I was done. I will find out the results next Monday when I see Dr. Rosenbaum Smith. I am optimistic that they will be as "beautiful" as Dr. Sara expects them to be, but it will be reassuring to know for sure!