February 6, 2009
Because of the fact that 17 out of 25 of my lymph nodes dissected had cancer, my doctor sent me to get a full body PET CT. This would "light up" any other part of my body (organs or lymph nodes) that could possibly have cancer. Of course the chemo works systemically (through my body through blood) so it should kill the rogue cancer cells, but they wanted to check because more lymph nodes were infected that we first thought. So on Friday at 1pm was my PET CT.
I got two containers of Barium a couple of day prior to my exam and kept them in my refrigerator (I was told they tasted better when they were cold). My flavor choices were berries, orange cream, vanilla or banana. I chose banana. After my first post-op appointment at Dr. A's (see previous post) I cracked open the first container and at 11:30am drank half. I asked my mom if she wanted to go to the mall for a couple of hours since my exam wasn't until 1pm. Nope, she said for two reasons... 1) She wasn't going to drive anywhere, so unless we could walk she wasn't going; and 2) Just in case the Barium gave me diarrhea, she wanted us to be in a place where we had restrooms close by. So we ended up sitting in the lobby of Suburban Outpatient Hospital for two hours. While there we were joking about blog and brainstorming ideas when a lady next to us interrupted our conversation...
"I take it, from overhearing you, you have breast cancer?"
"Yes, I just had surgery." I said to her.
"I am just so sick and tired of people asking,"How are you feeling?" How the heck do you think I am feeling. I am dizzy, I get nauseous, I puke all the time and am lucky if I get one meal down. What do you say to these people."
"What do you tell them Laurie Jo?" My mom asked.
"Like CRAP!" I said.
"You say that?" She asked me.
"Yup. Two things happen, people will either stop asking or avoid you all together, then you don't have to answer that anymore!" We all laughed.
She told me that she had she had Stage 1 breast cancer and although she didn't have cancer in her lymph nodes, she was tested for OncoDX (a new test to show percentage of recurrence) and required her to have chemo anyways. She only had to do 4 sessions of chemo and had only two left. She wished me well and left. Mom and I both agreed that she had a wig on. She only had four sessions, two were finished and had already lost her hair. How long would it be until I had no hair?
I drank my Barium at noon, 12:30, and 1pm. By the time the 1pm drinking came up, we were waiting in the Radiology waiting room and I was SICK of banana!!! Why can't they shake it up a bit and give me one banana, one berry. I don't know, but I felt nauseous. A tech called my name, his name was Brian. I asked him if we were going to have to get undressed (I still cannot get dressed by myself and my mom was there to assist me)?
Brian looked at me funny and said, "Well I don't think "we" will get undressed, I really don't feel like we know each other well enough, but maybe next time." He winked at me.
"No, I mean if I need to take anything off, I will need my Mom's help." It is not often that I get flustered.
"Yeah, bring her in." He smiled.
My Mom and I followed Brian to the changing rooms. He stopped at a door with a radioactive sign on it, "This is very important, this is only your bathroom. You can only use this bathroom and no one else can use it." What the hell were they going to do to me??? Brian brought us to the changing area. I could keep my clothes on (and left my jewelry at home) but I had to take off my bra. So Mom helped me and once done, Brian brought me to another "Radioactive Room" This was my quiet room. Brian explained to me about the test...
"We are going to do a function study test. This is to see if there are any lesions anywhere in your organs. The lining is so thin that the Barium coats everything in your digestive track to get a better view on where the lesions are. I will be giving you a radioactive contrast that will light up if the cancer is anywhere else in your body. You are to be very bored today. I am going to give you the contrast in the IV and then you will sit here for 45 minutes doing absolutely nothing. No reading, no opening the blinds to look out the window, no cell phone talk, that way the contrast will distribute equally throughout the body. Then we will do the scan." Brian brought in the radioactive box that holds the radio-acive material. He told me that the box (which I saw on the last episode on House) was called a coffin. Well the seems appropriate huh? He thought it was poor form. I thought it was funny.
After Brian put in my IV and injected me with the radio-active material, he took out the IV and wrapped up my arm. During my 45 minutes to do "nothing" I took a nap. Then he came back and brought me to the PET CT room. There was a tube-like machine that looked very much like a MRI machine. But his one had a long bench that had a head-holder/clamp. He figured out that due to me recent surgery I would not be able to lift my hands above my head. I laid on the bench and Brian gave me a pillow that I wrapped my arms around the pillow then he strapped me in. I was pushed through the machine and then the machine was calibrated. Then I was pushed all the way through and the scan started at my feet and every 5 minutes I would automatically get pulled through the scan until my whole body had been scanned.
You know there is really nothing to think about when you are just laying there with your eyes closed (you don't want to open your eyes cause the tube is so closed in). So my mind started rambling on it's own. First I prayed for a friend of mine, Julie. Because of my current situation, she went in for a mammogram and was called back for a follow-up.
Side-note: Julie is fine, when they did her first mammogram some breast tissue folded up on itself, when they did it again, it was fine (thank goodness).
Then I started thinking of "what ifs". What if half my body lights up? What if they tell me that I only have six more months to live? What would I do? Oh my goodness, I need to write all my requests down. But who would I give it to? Hmmm. I couldn't give it to Chris, my mom or his mom, they would be completely distressed. I could give it to my sister, but what if she cannot afford to come out (which she later told me she would mortgage her house to come out here). What would I put in the letter? The table moved again, so I was further in the machine. The light around me was getting darker and darker. Keep yours eyes closed. Keep your eyes closed.
Oh I would definitely have to put in what I want to wear for the viewing. I wouldn't want Chris to pick it out (it might not match, hahaha). My wedding dress? No, I want my girls to wear it when they get married. What about the teal and brown shirt I wore for my baby's baptism? Then it hit me... I want to be cremated, do they dress you when you get cremated or just do it naked? Once cremated, what do I want to with my ashes? I know I don't want to be buried. I think I want to be put in a urn and have Chris keep me with him and the girls. When my Grandpa passed away, there was a set of six little urns (my sister called them chachkis). That would work for me. Everyone could have one, Chris, the girls, my sister, my Mom and Dad. But what about everyone else?
The table moved again. What if I got little vials and put a ashes in each one, then make them into key chains. I could put a little metal tag on them. One side would say, "In memory of Laurie Jo N___, 1973 - 20__" The other side would say, "You wanna piece of me?" My sister suggested, "A little piece of ash" hahahah I like them both. It was funny. Here I was deciding on what music I would want played at my funeral, and it wasn't wasn't morbid (okay it WAS morbid), but I wasn't sad, I wasn't upset, it was actually kind of calming.
The table moved again. "Only five more minutes. Laurie Jo and then it will be done." I had to take a deep breath, don't open your eyes, don't open your eyes. I want Chris to get a tatoo of my face on his body. I want him to always remember me and every other woman in his life to know me. Oh, and I want him to put on the back window of his truck one of those "In memory of stickers." Hahaha.
After the exam I got dressed and it was over. It wasn't so bad. I should find out my results on Tuesday at my Chemotherapy Consultation.
I shared my thoughts with my sister and she put in for a chachkies. Any other takers? A key chain or chachki?
I was told that the next time I go in for a test like that, I will be given a list of other things to think about.... hahaha.