From the monthly archives:

September 2012

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First, a technician draws a vial of my blood, then he injects me with a sugar solution mixed with a mildly radioactive material. “Nothing dangerous,” he tells me. The PET scan works differently than the CRT or the MRI in that it looks at the mitotic activity (cell division) rather than at a particular organ. Cancer cells grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells and therefore need more energy – glucose (sugar) – than non-cancer cells. Somehow any cancer cells feasting in one of my organs will, with the help of the radioactive sugar solution, produce a sharper image than my regular cells.

After the injection, I have to sit in a lazy boy in a dark, quiet room for 45 minutes. I cannot even listen to music or read. The only activity allowed is relaxation and this is something I am bad at, especially in the middle of a regular work day.

Fidgety and a bit restless, but not anxious, I pull out my Blackberry. I check earlier phone messages and emails, then with no cell phone reception in the room, I am left with nothing else to do. I start to play Break the Brick Wall. I suck at it. Every game is over before I can get to the second screen. Try again! my Blackberry urges me. I read the instructions and start getting better when I realize my heart is pounding, my adrenaline pumping. I am hardly in the relaxed stage prescribed. What if I screw up the whole test? Reluctantly, I stuff the Blackberry back into my purse and close my eyes and try to force myself to relax.

The scan itself takes about half an hour. It is surprisingly easy to lie completely still as the bed slides back and forth through the Do-nut hole creating 3D images of possible cancer in the granuloma in my lung or in the lymph node under my heart. “We will send this to your doctor,” I am told, “but it takes 24 hours before he gets it. “Would you also please give it to Dr. Alpha I tell the tech. “Well, all our doctors have access to these. Does he expect it? Yes. Then he will have it an hour after it is done. That is how long it takes to transfer it via the net.”

So an hour after my scan is done, Dr. Alpha will know if I have metastatic cancer or not. If I do, how will he manage to tell me?


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