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My Love/Hate relationship with PET scans

September 11, 2013



PET scans “Positron Emission Tomography”…A fancy name for a test that detects glucose uptake-in my current “position”, it is a test that is supposed to tell me whether or not there are cancer cells acting up in my body.  The test experience itself is something that can be pretty overwhelming. If you don’t know anything about PET’s, here are the basics-I sit in this little white sterile room, tubes attached to my chest, freezing cold (because the machines need to be in a room about 40 degrees) and I drink an interesting contrast for a few hours. (They say it is “peach iced tea” flavor, but I have to disagree) When this fun part is over, I lie in a small tube, with my arms above my head and follow an endless series of breathing instructions while they scan me for an hour (or more) from my head to my toes.  If I pick my head up just a little, I can look down the tube and glance over my feet- here, behind the glass, I can see the woman who is administering the scan-without fail, I always wait for her to look at me and give something away in her face- to somehow let me know I am passing the test with “flying colors- after about ten scans over this past year and a half, I have learned she is pretty amazing at not giving anything away, but I keep on believing one day she will.

  For the next few days, after the scan, they spend time analyzing the results. (As I spend time counting the minutes in the days) The areas of my body that “light up” are the potential areas of cancer. I use the word potential because a PET scan is not always accurate….there can be false positives, false negatives and all sorts of things in between. Basically, I have been told time and time again to take the results “with a grain of salt”…. MUCH easier said than done. At the end of the day, this is the best test out there to try and figure out what is going on with my cancer.

  My relationship with these tests has been rocky from the start and my emotions surrounding them are all over the place. In a nutshell, here is a glimpse into my chaotic mindset in regard to PETs-

…. I have moments when I can’t wait to have one

…. Moments when I feel lost without one

…Moments when I am petrified of having one

… Moments when I fear what they have shown

…. Moments when I thank God for what they have revealed

….Moments when I realize they are helping save my life

….Moments when I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to have them

… Moments when I begin to desperately want another one, and pray it will buy me three months of peace 

            Each scan over the past 17 months, has had an incredible impact on me-my life, my plans, my mind and my cancer. Some results have felt like miracles and others have felt like curses. I try and tell myself that I should not give these scans that much power- that I have the power, and no matter what the scans say, I will rise above, do what I need to do and keep moving on.  Yet every three months, a scan comes on the horizon and no matter what I tell myself, and no matter how strong I am, I have moments when I feel all my power is gone and that the scan is holding my life in its hands. It’s like someone pushing the pause button right before you watch the climax point in a movie… you have no idea what is about to happen and no idea how the rest of the movie will play out.

            Tomorrow is scan day…here we go again.

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