This is kind of a redo from a post from last year. It’s time for me to go get scanned, something I need to do for the next few years since I had cancer two years ago. I only have to go every 6 months, and my last time was January. Normally I make my next appointment at the end of my previous appointment, but I didn’t do that last time, and I don’t have an appointment scheduled. I also have no idea how long it will take to get an appointment, and I am putting off calling to make one. I just hate going; it is really no big deal, it just takes a long time and involves lots of needles and iv’s, but really, compared with many of the other people in the cancer center, I am one of the easy ones. I thought maybe posting this again would inspire me to call to make an appointment.
One of the aftermaths of having cancer is needing to get scanned regularly to be sure there is no reoccurrence.
I go to the Johns Hopkins Hospital:
They have crazy colored windows in the hospital.
This is a separate part of the hospital, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center which is beautiful inside. But I get a little freaked out every time I see the signs that say “Cancer Center” because I really don’t feel like I ever had cancer.
But how can you not like a place that is painted purple?
So light and airy, and there are even trees. I have a card with a barcode on it, and I have to scan my card whenever I go to a new section of the center. When I first get there I scan my card and it prints out my schedule:
First I get weighed, blood pressure, temperature and pulse. Then a blood draw. The lab people are so good at their jobs, all they do all day is draw blood so they gets lots of practice. I can hardly feel it. They are pretty friendly too, if I try to make conversation, although it is usually really early in the morning, and I don’t talk much in the morning.
Next stop is hydration. I need two hours of saline fluid before my scans in order to help the contrast dye get through my kidneys more quickly. The dye isn’t good for kidneys, so the quicker it can get through, and the more diluted it is, the better. I get my iv here, and these people are really good at their jobs also. For me the worst part of the process is the iv, but the nurses who do mine are experts at it. I get a comfy chair that reclines, and a blanket.
Since it is only going to be in there for a few hours they do the iv in the bend of my arm, which is the easiest place to put an iv needle, but results in not being able to bend my arm the entire time it is in there. I once made the mistake of having them do the iv in my right arm, which was a big mistake since I am right handed and therefore couldn’t write or do much of anything for the next few hours.
Also at this time I have to wait for the results of my lab tests, because if my kidney function tests aren’t within the normal range they won’t do the contrast at all, and a CT scan without contrast isn’t really worth much at all. Luckily each time I have gone my kidney function tests were good.
This room I’m in is used for all kinds of iv stuff – people are getting chemo, platelets, and who knows what else. I am lucky that all I need is saline. I definitely get a new sense of perspective when I am in the cancer center and see the other patients. Some of them are incredibly sick, I won’t even go into what I see in there. There is no one dancing around singing “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”.
A nice gentleman sometimes comes around with a platter of snacks and fruit and offers me some, but I am not allowed to eat before the CT scan. I’m not sure if he is giving that stuff away, or if I would have to pay for it. My nurse checks in with me and keeps me informed about what is happening. One time it was really crowded there and there was no chair for me, so they stuck me out in the hall on a bench for a couple of hours with my iv pole. That wasn’t a good day for me. Luckily that only happened once.
While I am getting my saline, I watch stuff on my ipad, or read, or send emails. The hospital has good wifi.
Then it is off to get my CT scan. They leave the iv port in my arm, wrapped up in tape, because I need it for the CT scan contrast. In the waiting room a very friendly employee goes over paperwork with me. She comes to my seat, I don’t even have to get up to go to the desk. After the paperwork she asks me if I am comfortable and if she can get me anything. I always tell her I am fine, and she says if I need anything at all to just ask.
For some reason I am always freezing cold at this point, and she will bring me a blanket. There is a lot of waiting, things don’t seem to run on time here.
Then I go back to the radiology wing, and another person untapes the iv, and changes it to a different kind of iv, because the iv for the saline is different than the iv for the CT contrast. Then I get two giant cups of water to drink. I’m practically floating by now with all of the fluid in my body.
I get my scans, which hardly take any time at all, first without contrast, then with contrast, then the contrast iv comes out, they wait 5 minutes for the contrast to get to all of my parts and do another scan. When they inject the contrast it burns a little, but the worst part is feeling like I’ve peed in my pants. When they first told me this would happen I didn’t believe them, but it’s true, I guess it happens to everyone. It just feels that way, I don’t actually pee in my pants.
So the iv is finally out, and I can eat. By now I’ve been there for 4 or 5 hours and I am starving. I bring my own food, because the little shop they have there has really bad choices of food. I can sit in this lobby and eat.
Then I wait. And wait. And wait. I have so much fluid in me and I need to go to the bathroom about every 10 minutes. Eventually they call my name and I go into the doctor’s office. I always see the doctor’s assistant, and sometimes I actually see the doctor himself. He is a great oncologist who specializes in kidney cancer, and I am one of his most boring cases, luckily for me. He is also a really good lucking guy, which makes the day better. They tell me that my scans show no sign of cancer, and I am still NED – no evidence of disease.
When I leave I normally stop on the way home for lunch, because I am hungry and because I can’t make it all the way home without stopping to use a restroom. It takes a while for all of the fluid to get out of me. The last time I went I checked out a vegan restaurant in Baltimore that I had never been to.
This whole process from beginning to end takes about 8 hours, including travel time and lunch.
So it really isn’t that bad, I just hate doing it, and I am not worried about the cancer coming back, so sometimes I think I just don’t need to go anymore. But I know that is medically unsound, and I really need to just to do it. Maybe I’ll call today for an appointment.