Friday, July 11, 2014


Once you’ve been treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma you are subsequently monitored for recurrence over the next five years.  The monitoring includes check-ins with the oncologist, as well as bloodwork and scans.  It’s been well over a year since my last scan of any kind – in fact I think the last one may have been late summer of 2012.

So a few weeks ago, I received in the mail appointments for bloodwork, a CT Scan, and a visit with the oncologist.  I went and had the bloodwork done on Monday and this morning I went for the Scan.  My previous scans have all been combo PET/CT scans.  They use a nuclear contrast and it’s a bit of a different process from just a CT (often referred to as “Cat” Scan).  Today I had to go for a C/P/A CT Scan.  When I got the appointment, I didn’t understand all the acronyms, but I have since learned that I was going for a pretty comprehensive CT Scan that included my chest/neck, pelvis, and abdomen. 

My appointment was for 8 AM and I thought I’d be out of there by 9 AM at the latest.  I was so very wrong.  First, I had to argue over insurance.  I have a pretty common brand of insurance, but my policy is out of California, not North Carolina (NC).  Because I live in NC though, it seems all the systems are set up for the local insurance so there is frequently back-and-forth about what is and isn’t covered.  The woman I had to meet with to check-in for my diagnostic was quite insistent that my procedures were only 80% covered and that the costs were also subject to the deductible.  I had actually called my insurance company yesterday to verify and I am certain it is covered 100% and that the deductible is waived.  But after much back-and-forth and no wavering on her part, I reluctantly paid the estimate so I could go ahead and get the scans.  I was already dreading the appointment and knew that if I put my foot down and rescheduled, I would drag my feet and not do what I know is important.

She then informed me that someone would be bringing me a smoothie that I needed to drink.  The smoothie helps make my insides show up better on the scan.  A barium banana smoothie.  Yum.  I headed back to the waiting room, and as promised out came a technician with a cold smoothie and a cup.  She poured half in the cup and told me to drink it.  And told me to drink the other half twenty minutes later.  I took one sip and began to gag.  I was already cranky and frustrated which put me in no mood to conquer the barium banana smoothie.  I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths.  I whispered to myself “I can do this.”  Nothing like trying to find your Zen in a waiting room at a medical facility.  I began to drink one swallow at a time.  I could not chug, but if I did one swallow at a time I could suppress the gag reflex.  I finally got through the first cup and by the second round was able to do it without gagging at all. 

By this time I had been there almost two hours, hadn’t had a bit of coffee, and needed to pee desperately.  Except I didn’t know if I was allowed to pee – being full of barium banana smoothie and all.  Finally someone retrieved me from the lobby and as we were walking back asked if I needed to use the restroom.  I was SO HAPPY to pee.  It’s the little things.

I wore my scan outfit (gym pants and T-shirt) so I didn’t have to put on a gown.  If you ever have a medical crisis, buy a good scan outfit!  Once in the scan room, I found out that not only did I have to drink the horrid banana barium smoothie, but that they would also be injecting some contrast for the non-abdominal parts.  Because it was actually multiple scans, I had two contrast injections and multiple passes of the scanner.  Finally, around 11 AM (THREE HOURS!) I was released to go home. 
I would like to say that after all I’ve been through that this process would not instill fear.  I have fought cancer and won.  I’ve had some minor scares (i.e., the tonsils!), but for the most part it’s been smooth sailing.  But the check-ins always makes me feel unsettled.  There are days, maybe even weeks when I don’t even think about cancer anymore.  And even then, it’s just a quick thought – not an all-consuming obsession. 
But today it was like running into someone you’ve been avoiding.  You try not to make eye contact and you try to pretend it’s no big deal and may even mutter something polite, but your heart is racing and you want to run away as fast as you can except you can’t because that isn’t the grown up thing to do.
For now I’ll try very hard to not think about it.  I’ll enjoy the weekend and spend time with the hubbie and the beagles.  And I’ll picture my oncologist saying those words I love to hear “Scans look fine.”  And I will avoid all things banana.