Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Return of Radioactive Woman

G'day all!

I am totally zonked. That is Australian for exhausted.

So far this week, it's been Too Friggin' Hot. Sunday night, Nutmeg couldn't settle and kept me awake half the night (wash wash, jingle jingle goes her collar's bell, wash, jingle...argh! Rock rock goes the chair she was sitting on. Rock, jingle wash!). Monday night was hot. Tuesday night was hot. Wednesday night is promising to be hot. On Monday, they started digging up the curb on the other side of the road, work starts at 7am and they moved the equipment into place at 6:45am. They aren't allowed to do any work before 7am but apparently they can move their massive road (and curb) munching machine into place and also the big dump trucks (or lorries as we used to call them) can drive up and down and unload bobcats and stuff. I much prefer the men who just wheel down barrows full of concrete. Anyway, when one gets to sleep at midnight and the cat plays up and then at sunrise the workers start it is very tired-making!

Today was our curb's time. Yep, its number was up. I didn't see this happen cos I had to go off to be Radioactive Woman again. So when they started moving machinery at SIX THIRTY this morning, I was already awake. I had an appointment at 7:30am. Kill me now. I would like to say that I am not normally awake then but given the vagaries of curb munching machines and cats whinging as soon as it starts getting light.... So I hauled my poor sorry hungry butt off to a PET scan.

You have to fast for at least six hours before a PET scan - they told me 8 hours. PET scans use an analogue of glucose tagged with a radioactive marker to locate places with high energy use. Tissues that are metabolically active take up glucose to fuel their activities. PET scans have been used to examine brain function - when people are given various thinking or listening tasks in a PET scanner, the parts of the brain that are used light up (technically showing the blood flow to the various parts being used increases rather than glucose uptake increases).

PET scans are also used in oncology because tumours are very metabolically active - they are actively growing and need plenty of energy to fuel their growth. So radioactive glucose (analogue) is pretty useful in this field.

So this morning I hauled me in poor little Helmet to the hospital AGAIN. (We have to go AGAIN tomorrow and then chemo starts there on Friday.) It took nearly 40 minutes to get there due to peak hour traffic and one particular set of lights. Plus my bad, I went through on a yellow arrow cos I didn't see it had started to change and it went red before I was halfway through the intersection. I found a nice park under a shady tree in a side street (thus avoiding paying another $7.50 for car parking to the good folks at the hospital) and wandered in. Just as well I had my newest chemo cap in progress! 20 minutes later they called me in.

Before you do a PET scan, you must fast but you can drink as much water as you like. I only managed two glasses but that was enough. Thank heavens they have loos there. I was given two small cups of iodine contrast solution after going through the usual list. Are you pregnant or breast feeding? Are you allergic to anything? (You can't have the normal contrast if you are allergic to seafood.) Blah blah blah. They take some of your blood out (they put a cannula thing in for anything that would otherwise involve more than one puncturing of the vein) and run some tests, the most important being blood glucose. If you are diabetic the scan might be invalid as you have impaired glucose uptake. But I'm not diabetic - I had a blood glucose level of 5.4mmol/L, perfectly normal. Into the same cannula goes the radioactive tracer and Radioactive Woman Rides Again!

Then you get to take a nice nap for 50 minutes or so. There's nothing else to do in the room. You have to lay quietly, no reading, no knitting, just lie there. Even I had a bit of a nap - cat naps for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. It was pretty dull. I'm not usually good with naps.

At last I could get up and go to the loo, again, and get changed into a medical gown which I couldn't tie up due to the cannula in my elbow vein. Oh, btw, here's some more contrast medium (this time a bit stronger, yuck, drink it don't taste it!). Then onto the flat bed of the PET scanner (I think it also does CT scanning at the same time - the sphincter at one end looked very like a CT scanner whilst the tube part looked like another scintillation/radiation detector.) The scan head of what I think is a CT scanner started revolving and "vroom" I went into the bowels of the machine. The grey tube felt like it was closing around me. Just as I was starting to get a little claustrophobic I realised that it was an open ended thing and I could see out the other end, hooray! Then another quick pass, then back all the way so most of my body was not inside the scanner at all. Starting at my feet, I slowly moved through the machine. Scan (roughly 210 seconds) move down a bit, more slow scanning, move, scan, move, scan, move, scan until my head was well inside The Beast. Then vroom and I'm up and outta there! Via the loo, of course! The scans at this facility take about half an hour. Oh and again you have to have your hands above your head - thankfully supported this time cos the last CT scan was a PITA and I hurt for a day afterwards.

Wonder what different bits of my body lit up? Kidneys, brain, bladder are certainties, along with the boob tumour and the nasty lymph node (or two or 10). If it is fairly accurate, it might show that I was startled by a noisy nurse loudly discussing the stupidity of giving someone with impaired renal function a PET scan and also several times by the laser printer waking up and doing things then running out of ink or paper.

I just found the results of a precursor to the study I am taking part in. You can read more about the old study here. The same guy, Vinod Ganju, led the previous study. (If you read that study, wish me in the group with high uptake that falls during chemo! I certainly will be 8-)

Anyway, the rest of the day involved being hot and sweaty. My good friend V came around and helped clean stuff and washed yucky kitchenwares like a champion and scrubbed the bath and the shower screen with her Enjo powdered marble cleaner. No it doesn't just clean marbles, it cleans polished surfaces gently using powdered marble. I saw some Method cleaner in the US that was quite similar. I miss my Method cleaners - I don't know that they were particularly great but they smelled good! (Eucalyptus and mint, cucumber, pamplemousse. Mmmm. Fresh food/fruit smells and Australian bush smells, the nice ones at least, are my sorta stinks. Not perfume.) I think I've seen some of the cleaners here but I haven't gone back to look for them. They'll be horridly expensive anyway, being imports, and I should find locally made stuff. I can always add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil and peppermint oil to a local cleaner.

At least we are nearly ready to redistribute furniture around the house again rather than in two rooms. The floors are ok, the bedroom can be bedroomed instead of storing lots of stuff, oh and in truly exciting news, Nathan tracked down the fault in our lighting circuit with the help of a sparkie mate. Now we have lights that switch on when we hit the light switch! The wonders of modern living! (Much better than having to carry a torch everywhere or move one of the lamps :-)

Only two sleeps to go. Yikes! Then I start better living through chemistry. Or even just trying to live through chemistry. Maybe living despite chemistry. I am terrified of the whole thing but I have to do it. The alternative is worse than the idea of chemo. Tomorrow I see the chemo nurse at 11am, get some bloods done and also a 12 lead ECG. Crap. That has to be at a different facility and I have to do it before chemo starts. We are in such an uproar here that I forgot. Plus I can't find the paperwork (see aforementioned uproar). And I am hot and knackered and there is still so much to do.

And I am totally over not having a future. For 2.5 years in the US I had no future, then we move back home and I've had to diddle around for nearly two months, and now I have no idea of what is going to happen over the next 5 months of chemo. I can't make any plans, I can't look ahead, except possibly to the end of chemo, I have to take things day by day, minute by minute and I am reallly bad at living in the Now, particularly when the Now is crap. Will I be ok, will I spend most of my time in the loo either throwing up or having problems at the other end, will I have vicious mouth sores or bone pain, will I have any energy, will I be ok? Life was so carefree three months ago, now it's turned into some sort of nightmare.

anon!

4 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear things are happening (and also that your house is clean again!). I am finding your detailed descriptions of your treatment really interesting - hopefully it's in some way theraputic to write it all down. Alison

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  2. I'll be thinking of you on Friday - good luck and thanks for all your blogging!

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  3. Just remember to take a breath on the odd occasion. In through the mouth, out through the nose, you will do your best to survive your cancer and you will be the stronger for it. Just breathe.

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  4. I hope today was ok. I'm thinking of you.

    I buy method cleaners, but I didn't know they were imports. I also make a potion of vinegar, eucalyptus, metho and water (in different ratios, depending on what for, you gotta be careful with the eucalyptus it's strong) and use it for benchtops, floors, everything. Maybe I should market it?

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