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The Gamma glow January 4, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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Having a potentially life-threatening disease means that you get to undergo lots and lots of very expensive tests. Tests that put you in weird positions, make you feel strange, and force you to lie still for inordinate amounts of time. So far, I’ve had:

ultrasound – $460
diagnostic mammogram – $630
ultrasound guided core needle biopsy – $14,750
regular mammogram (I’m guessing this was included in the price of the biopsy . . .what a bargain!)
chest x-ray $1100
MRI – (no info on cost, yet)
genetic testing – $500

Today, I added two more to the ever-growing list: CT scan and bone scan. And yes, they both were weird in their own way.

A CT scanner looks like a giant donut. The patient lays on a table that is then moved through the donut hole and pictures are taken as the patient goes through. This allows the radiologist to look at slices, or cross-sections of your body, allowing visualization of bones, organs and soft tissues. I had a CT scan of my chest and of my abdomen/pelvic region. For the latter, they gave me a drink called Barium . It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the tastiest thing I’ve tried. Barium acts as a contrast, making it easier to see what is going on in the abdominal/pelvic region and can help highlight any tumors. For my chest region, they injected iodine as the contrast. Hands down, this was the weirdest experience. The tech told me, “This is going to feel quite warm, you might taste it in your mouth, and you might feel like you are peeing your pants . . . but don’t worry, you won’t be.” Uh, okay. Two seconds later, BAM! Extreme warmth in my arm, warmth at the back of my throat, and a feeling like I’d had a major peeing accident. So, so weird! Thankfully, that only lasted about 10 seconds, and then it went away.

As they were moving the table through the donut hole, I was told to hold my breath. This happened 4 or 5 times. On the 3rd time, I took a medium-sized breath, only to find myself running out of air long before I was all the way through the hole. I was in a quandry: do I breathe and mess up the pictures, or not breathe and just die? Okay, maybe that was a wee bit dramatic of me. But are you really surprised? I AM a soprano, after all! 😉 Anyway, the next time I was instructed to take a breath, I took in much more air and made it to the end, but barely. This got me to thinking: 1) I’d be a terrible skin diver! 2) How in the world do I manage to sing such long phrases if I can’t hold my breath for very long at all? Hmmmmm . . . . ..

Once the test was over, the tech decided that I should hang out with the nurses for awhile since I was coughing (according to me this was due to my cold) and rubbing my eyes. She was worried I might be having a reaction to the iodine. So, they gave me juice and crackers and I sat in a big, comfy, overstuffed chair and read my book for about half an hour before they sent me on home.

The bone scan is done by injecting the patient with a radioactive isotope. I have a very limited understanding of how this works, so I’m sure I’m going to get this all wrong. But, the isotope then moves throughout the body and is attracted to cells that are doing alot of repair work. When they scan the bones, if they see an area that is all lit up, they know that lots of cell repair is going on there, which signals a problem.

Technesium 99m is the name of the isotope used. They injected it into my veins this morning and then I had the scan done several hours later, after the isotope had had time to move throughout my body. My arm got this weird tingly feeling as it went in, then it was fine. The bone scan was somewhat similar to an MRI in that I was in a somewhat enclosed space. I was laying on my back on a table and there was a camera thing right above me and below me. The camera started at my feet and then the table slowly moved until the camera was up at my head. This took about 20 minutes, and I’m pretty sure I took a little snooze =) I must’ve been pretty tired to have fallen asleep since I wasn’t particularly comfortable. They gave me a wedge to put under my knees for comfort, but then they held my feet together with a bungee. It was a really awkward position to be in!

Since they injected me with radioactive material, I’ve sequestered myself away from the family for the rest of the day to reduce their exposure to my gamma glow =) I will say, it’s kinda nice to have an entire afternoon with no interruptions! I’m already thinking about all of the things I’m going to get done =)


1. rlape85 - January 4, 2014

I can just imagine your mind going; thinking about all the projects you can finish. Hope you have a restful night. Love you.

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