Friday, March 26, 2010
The hardest part of scans is not having my morning coffee. As soon as I get out of that tunnel I make a beeline for Starbucks! I have to starve myself for 4 hours before the scan. The other annoying part is the sheer time I must devote. I have to arrive 90 minutes before my actual appointment time. I've never understood why they don't just schedule the scan for the hour when I have to arrive, but I'm not in health care. There must be some bureaucratic explanation.
When I arrive 90 minutes early, I am given a lovely little cocktail of Crystal Light and Barium. They are so nice as to ask my preference- Iced Tea or Fruit Punch. I've tried Barium with any number of things and unless its a stiff alcoholic drink strong enough to overpower the metallic taste of the medicine, it is no difference. I sit there for 90 minutes and drink three whole bottles of this stuff intended to coat my insides with "contrast". The Barium tastes like a mixture of metal and dirty feet. It's not so offensive as to make you get sick, but there is a gag reflex.
Now you may recall, I was diagnosed as a senior in college. While some may think that is incredibly unfair, I actually see that timing as a gift from God. Why you may ask? Well...I bring my college drinking skills to the table at scan time!
While all the other old ladies are sipping their contrast with straws, I take a deep breath and throw that baby back. The nurses tell me my nauseousness after the scan is over would be better if I sipped, but I'm young enough to still have my eyes on the prize. I'm 26, I'm allowed to throw caution to the wind when it comes to thinking about the end results of my actions. And so I chug. I want to go to Party City one day and find a pink beer bong and bring it with me to my next appointment. I can picture it now, I am going to be going down on one knee in my gorgeous hospital robe holding the beer bong up high and downing that Crystal Light in two seconds. Then I'll teach the rest of the waiting room!
After 90 minutes of waiting, you would expect the actual scan to be a big deal, but it is actually like that roller coaster ride at the amusement park. You wait hours in line and then the experience is way underwhelming and only lasts for .3 seconds. I have timed the CT scan, and it is never more than 10 minutes long.
But then the real waiting begins.
At the beginning of my cancer journey, when I first moved to Boston in 2006 and began going to Dana Farber, I would spend a whole day at the hospital. I had my scan in the morning, break for lunch and then go see the doctor for results in the afternoon. But then one time, the results came back bad. I had probably only been in Boston for 3 months. My hair was just sprouting. I was joyfully cavalier that I had beaten it. This cancer thing was just one year of my life. Just one horrible year. And then, the scans. I came to the results appointment alone. That was the last time I ever spent scan-time alone.
Since my journey has been so unpredictable and outside of the usual realm of cancer patients, my doctors tend to get creative with my treatment plan. Many doctors weigh in on statistics and treatment options and then my doctor and I get together and usually end up with a plan that is some where in the middle of the whole spectrum. I really enjoy being a partner in my care and knowing all of the options and all of the pros and cons. Well that first recurrence back in 2006, they saw the tumor in my liver grow. My doctor had just gotten the results minutes before my appointment and she came in unsure of how we would proceed. She had not had ample time to think about a game plan. It was an all around unpleasant experience because the news was bad enough but leaving without a game plan is enough to send me over a steep cliff. I must always have a game plan. Knowing that I have options keeps me sane.
So now, I get the scans on Friday and get the results on Monday. It makes for a difficult weekend, but my mom flies up to play with me and we fill our time with all sorts of fun things. This weekend, mom is teaching me to garden. We are also going to get the usual mani-pedi action. We have a list of shopping we need to get into on Newbury Street. The Big Man and I will take Mamma to our favorite restaurants. The days with mom fly by and I find that I forget about the impending appointment that could potentially take this beautiful life and throw it all to pieces again.
I don't remember until I'm sitting in the waiting room.
So everyone, enjoy this weekend for me. Get out there and take a brisk walk. Go to a party. Go to a hip restaurant. Dance. Have an amazing weekend. Love Life. Because on Monday, my life could change. I will of course update everyone as soon as I know anything.