June 11th, 2010

Adventures of Super Buttman

Lemme 'splain.

Went in Wednesday for a combined PET/CT scan, as the first step toward resuming *some* kind of treatment for the stubborn remnant of my little parasite. I've done several of these now, and expected more of the same right up until the day before, when I got a confirmation call from the scheduler. Along with all of the restricted diet stuff I'm very familiar with, she noted that there was a request for me to be catheterized. Uh-oh - that didn't sound like fun.

When I got to the new clinic (a minor adventure in itself, as only one of the usual two ferries across the Sound was running) I was given the reason for the catheter - to keep the bladder continuously clear of radioactive fluid that could obscure parts of my abdomen in the scan results. I was actually given the option of not doing it, but in the interest of getting the clearest and most useful results possible, I gritted my teeth and opted to do it.

Getting the catheter put in turned out to be just as awkward and uncomfortable as I'd expected, though not actually painful. Waited an extra 45min or so for my turn in the scanner, got my radioactive injection, napped another 45min while it percolated, then waddled down the hall to the machine. They laid down some absorbent pads (the kind you'd use for housetraining a puppy) "just in case there's any leakage" before I laid down. Huh.

Spent about an hour in the scanner, where the one thing you're really not supposed to do is move. You lie there with eyes closed (because there are lasers pointed at you), in my case with arms over my head on a pillow because of the IV feed in my forearm, and just listen to the machine hum, with people occasionally coming in and out of the room to adjust things. Once in a while the platform you're lying on moves a foot or two horizontally through the tube.

At one point I was advised that as part of the procedure they were going to clamp off the catheter and pump in some extra fluid. I would feel a bit "full", and if it was to become too uncomfortable I should let them know. This was done. I waited to see how the new discomfort was going to be different from the current one. Seemed like the whole point of having a catheter was that consciously "holding it in" is pointless, and never having had one before, I wasn't sure how it was supposed to feel. But it definitely felt like there was a leak. And not just a little one.

When it was over and they slid me out of the scanner, it became clear that while still firmly in place, the catheter had pretty much failed completely and my backside had been marinating in the results for at least twenty minutes. I wondered in an earlier post when all these radioactive injections were eventually going to result in superpowers. At this point I think the best I could hope for would be jet-propelled flight, which doesn't sound so bad but I shudder to think what the costume would have to look like.

So, rather than being efficiently collected and kept out of the scanner's view as intended, the fluid ended up everywhere and likely created exactly opposite the intended effect.

Got up and waddled back to the room, had the useless catheter removed (again uncomfortable but not painful) and changed into a dry gown before they took me back in for a partial re-do. When I walked in, they'd just finished going over the scanner bed with a Geiger counter, which is always reassuring. Back on the machine for another fifteen minutes or so.

They were still only running one ferry by the time I finally got out of there, so I finally made it home a little before 8:00. I half-expected that the results would be completely useless, but when we called to ask about that yesterday they said to keep the appointment we had for reviewing the results. That's this afternoon as I write this, so look for another post over the weekend.

Er, Huzzah?

Huh. Didn't expect that.

Went in to review Wednesday's soggy scans this afternoon, accompanied by the entire family (they insisted). Apparently the CT scan was entirely unaffected and the PET scan was good enough to work with.

Compared with my mid-March scan, both the physical size of the mass and the metabolic activity have dropped (but not disappeared) again - both numbers are actually lower than they were on the early February scan. Still not in 'normal' range, but no metastasis anywhere, and heart good too - no fluid or other issues there.

All of this was delivered with disclaimers and waivers about comparing scans from different machines assesed by different departments, margin of error, subjectivity, uncertainty of correlation between PET images and actual cancer activity, etc. But the take-away was that it pretty clearly hasn't gotten significantly worse since my last chemo round in January, and has probably improved a bit. We're back in wait-and-see with another set of scans planned for August/September.

Since there isn't any clear need for it in the next few months, they even took out my PICC before we left. No more going into the kitchen for the plastic wrap before showers - next week I might even dip a toe (or be abruptly shoved from behind) into the pool.

Given all of the above, I can even placidly accept the fact that we've missed two ferries while I wrote this (the second by a single car-length).

Not cured. Not even officially in remission. But still, at least for the summer - woot?

Location:Seattle Ferry Terminal,Seattle,United States