One of the aftermaths of having cancer is needing to get scanned regularly to be sure there is no reoccurrence. I had my first scans in December and I went back today for my second round.
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.
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 nurse who did mine was an expert and again, I hardly felt anything.
This room is used for all kinds of iv stuff – people are getting chemo, platelets, and who knows what else. I was lucky that all I needed was saline. I definitely get a new sense of perspective when I am in the cancer center and see the other patients.
A nice gentleman came around with a platter of snacks and fruit and offered me some, but I am not allowed to eat before the CT scan. I’m not sure if he was giving that stuff away, or if I would have had to pay for it. My nurse kept checking in with me and keeping me informed about what was happening and that she was in touch with the doctor to be sure I got the right amount of saline.
Then it is off to get my CT scan. They leave the iv port in my arm, taped up, 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 tell her I am fine, and she says if I need anything at all to just ask.
Then I go back to the radiology wing, and another person changes my iv around, and gives me two giant cups of water to drink. 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. That is it.
Finally I can eat. It is now 12:05PM and I have been there since 7:15am, I am starving. I had brought a thermos of coffee and some snacks, and I sit in the lobby for a few minutes and have my breakfast.
Then I wait. And wait. And wait. I had so much fluid in me and I really needed the bathroom, but I was afraid I would miss my name being called. Eventually I gave in and went to the restroom. Finally at 1:15 my name was called, and I went into the doctor’s office. It turns out that the physician’s assistant that I usually see has left the hospital and there is a new one. This new PA was so bubbly and friendly and she laughed the whole time. She said my scans showed no sign of cancer, I am still NED – no evidence of disease. I assume she is more subdued when she is working with patients who are sick. I hope so anyway.
She told me that she was with the radiologist when he checked my scans. This is what she told me:
“The radiologist said that these scans must have come from a very tiny person. I asked him how he can tell that from the scans and he said there is no fat.”
Well, that isn’t true, there is plenty of fat, especially around the abdomen which is where parts of my scans were taken. She said compared to most people who get scanned there, the fat is negligible. So apparently on a CT scan, I am tiny. That made me feel good. I didn’t even know that fat shows up on a CT scan.
I never actually saw my doctor – I didn’t really need to see him, but I like to see him because he is a very good looking guy, and also very nice. Then I scheduled my next visit, went to the restroom a few more times, and left. By then it was almost 2:00pm. It’s a long day, but all in all it’s not so bad. I brought my new iPad and watched and listened to videos from my new school, and some YouTube cooking videos. Also caught up on some email and blogs. The people at the center are very caring and friendly, and it is always a relief to be pronounced NED. And hopefully things will stay that way.