You say you want to scan your pet?

Actually, what I said was that I was going for a pet scan.

In one of our previous adventures, BS (Before Surgery), yours truly underwent a PET scan. The only thing interesting about the first time was getting the results back to see just how much cancer had invaded my head and neck.

This time around, however, being in Recovery ModeTM, the start of the process and the scan itself was more interesting. There’s also the added bonus of me paying more attention this time, since no Mask of Doom was required for this scan like there was for the first, so no calming potions courtesy of modern medicine were necessary..

For those who don’t know and don’t care to click through to links, when you undergo a PET scan, it’s a lot like going through a contrast CAT scan, except instead of loading you with the contrast agent immediately before the CAT scan (which really does make you feel like you’re about to wet your pants for a few seconds), for a PET scan, you’re injected with a radioactive glucose and then have to wait about 45 minutes while your body goes through the uptake. High metabolic areas are what they’re looking for on the results, as cancer cells have a higher metabolic action than normal, healthy cells.

So, as I said, another PET scan. I hadn’t noticed the first time, but the radioactive glucose they injected is a bright neon green, just like something right out of a comic book. Unfortunately, even after two of these, I’ve yet to develop any super powers like those characters in the comic books, which I think is a crying shame. Between these injections, the chemo drugs, and the radiation, I’d really have expected to get something out of it all. Oh, yeah, besides that whole “surviving cancer” thing.

I kid.

After about 45 minutes, the tech comes around and tells you it’s time for the scan. Before getting on the table, though, a side trip to the bathroom. Since the scan takes anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, they don’t want someone’s weak bladder creating issues. Once you’ve taken care of your business, it’s off to the machine. No mask this time, thankfully, just a cradle for me to put my head in. The tech goes out and tarts things up. One thing I’ve noticed about the scanner is that it really is fairly quiet. The MRI I had many years ago was in an enclosed tube that sounded like someone was on the outside banging on it as hard as they were able with a sledgehammer. Not so with this: at worst, there’s a loud whirring sound in the open-ended tube. The most difficult part is lying as still as possible, even as the table moves back and forth within the tube when the scan proceeds from area to area. For mine, the scan was done from the top of my head to my abdominal area, with one long scan as I entered the tube, and then further partial scans as the tech brought be back through in increments. All told, the scan took about 25 minutes.

The results? Since my mouth is still healing and there’s still quite a lot of inflammation, not an all-clear, but the results were quite good: the left mouth area went from a metabolic activity rate of over 20% to just around 7%, which is almost certainly due to the aforementioned inflammation and continued healing. The neck showed nothing. Nada. Zilch. So the surgery, the drugs, the radiation, the pain, the vomiting, the scars, the eating via tube: all worth it.

Now, if the healing would speed itself up just a bit so I could eat again…but, as everyone keeps telling me, time will take care of that. And thanks to the most excellent care I’ve had, time is something I do have.

3 thoughts on “You say you want to scan your pet?”

  1. I would like to speak to you via e-mail about your experience with oral cancer. My husband is a patient at present. Amy

  2. Amy, feel free to drop me a note at muse[AT]musable.com. Substitute the appropriate symbol there in the email address. You might also want to check out the Oral Cancer Foundation site at http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/ as well. There is a wealth of information there, but also a fairly active forum for both patients and caregivers.

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