An image showing an MRI, injections, and food and water with a cross through them

Scan Day Antics

Last updated: January 2021

The hopeful yet anxious filled day known as scan day. In November, I embarked on scan set number 10. I don’t know why I count them. I just have. Because of my rare form of lung cancer being miliary adenocarcinoma, I have brain to pelvis CT scans. Upon diagnosis, my tumors were 1 mm or less and too small to show on a PET scan.

The ins and outs of scan day

I have made friends with the staff. They know me by name rather than a number and it’s quite comforting to be honest. The nurse that does my IV for contrast now shows me pictures of her kids, the techs are usually different and many very intrigued by my story. I’ve learned what to wear to avoid that silly toga gown that I can never figure out as I hide behind the curtain thinking I’m just going to wrap this thing around me like a towel and prance out of here because I cannot figure this out. It was truly embarrassing the first time that they handed me one of those things. Now I just dress for the occasion -- sports bra, leggings, and a comfy top and sweater because it’s always frigid in there.

Prepping for my routine scan

They all get to work on me. Techs chatting to each other and me. In and out of the room. Here comes the IV stick for the contrast from the nurse. The knee pillow, the occasional warm blanket, and “are you ready?” They make a test run and here we go. There is the robot voice that says “inhale and hold your breath” while a little pac man looking thing with its cheeks puffed out demonstrating breath-holding comes on as you feel your face turning red before it says “breathe normally”.

Oh and my personal favorite -- this is a mind game for sure when the little guy says “do not swallow” my brain goes nuts because I just want to swallow. Nobody was talking or thinking about swallowing and now you’ve told me not to and this is the longest five seconds of my life because now all I can think about is needing to swallow. Can we just not mention it because I probably won’t do it?

"Here comes the contrast"

Then the techs come on the speaker and say “here comes the contrast” when in actuality, they should say “here comes the heat” because the body feels quite toasty for a few seconds. I used to get the spill about it being a warm sensation and often feels like you are emptying your bladder. I finally quit getting that. I am earning lots of frequent flyer miles on this journey and so they have quit warning me of the odd body response to the contrast.

Finally comfortable with the process

Then the scary question once all the pictures are taken from the tech -- “are you seeing him today?” Panic sets in and I think horrible things for a split second. There’s something really alarming in there and they need me to get to my doctor like now. I respond as confident and dignified as I can as my palms start to sweat and my heart beats louder than the one talking to me and I respond that I will be seeing my doctor within about two hours of my scans for results. Then they say “ok we will get this to the radiologist to read and pass on over to him”.

After about the 3rd round of this, I finally became comfortable with that question. They’re only asking to know how quickly this thing needs read and passed up. Whew. A tech can’t say a word as to what they might see or not see, but that question sent me into a tailspin the first few times.

The nothing by mouth (NPO) rule is difficult

The whole no NPO beyond midnight is trickery in itself also because at 1:00 in the morning I’m parched and just want one sip of water -- just one. Then morning comes and I smell coffee brewing and act like one cup of coffee is my last wish before heading off to war or something. Then before the scan, I drink that potion like it’s the first drop of anything I’ve had in a week while stuck in the desert. It looks and tastes like water now and they at least chill it for us.

Scans are a norm in my life

Modern medicine is super intriguing. I mean this machine looks inside my entire body except for my arms, legs and feet and takes pictures of my organs from the outside of my body. This blows my mind. Think about that. What if we didn’t have these options of imaging? We’d never have a roadmap for our care and treatment.

Scan day is quite eventful. It’s now a norm in my life. For now, every four months I show up with gratitude and do the thing. May we all have many more good scan days.

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