I had pancreatic cancer. I have written about some of my experience with it here, and here. I beat it, but I get regular CT Scans 2 or 3 times a year since my surgery two years ago just to check up and make sure that nothing is coming back. So far, so good.
Yesterday, I had another CT scan. Since I started writing a few weeks ago, I find myself deconstructing every little event in my life, and when I started to really think about the process of having a CT scan, I just about giggled throughout the whole experience.
CT scans are just the best! First, they make you drink a gallon of water over the course of the day, making sure to have another 32 ounces 1 hour before the procedure. Then, they make you wait. You have to strip down to your undies and socks and wear a ridiculous gown that guarantees a peep show for everyone else in the lobby. Then you sit where the thermostat is set for 42 degrees and wait…and wait.
When they finally call you in, the excitement is palpable, because you were just about to go to the bathroom for the fifth time in the last 20 minutes, but you decide to hold it in since you are going in for the procedure. Except that you are not going in for the procedure; you are just getting your blood pressure checked, and you have to answer the same exact questions that you answered on the intake forms, and to the first two lab techs that greeted you before this point in the process.
Once this is done, then you get to pee, and wait…and wait…and pee…and wait some more. After about an hour and about a dozen trips to the bathroom, it is finally time to go in for the actual scan. And guess what? They want you to drink another 20 ounces of water. This is to fill the stomach so that they can discern all the other organs. They are trying to find the pancreas, which is very difficult to locate, and all the extra water is meant to help their process. I think they just want me to pee myself.
Once the water is guzzled, then they lay me on a long table that will insert me into a gigantic magnetic donut. Once I am comfortable and ready for the scan (and another pee), they ask me another set of the same exact questions that I have already answered three times already in this one visit—and this is not even my first visit to this lab, so I know they already have all of this information. They just want to stall, I am sure of it.
Then it is time to stick the lawn dart into the crook of my arm. This injects the dye into my bloodstream so that they can get the magnetic imaging. This dye is part iodine, part radioactive death. It is called “nuclear imaging”, after all. Now, I have to hold my arms over my head for the entire procedure. I already have to pee badly again.
Now the actual scans begin. I enter the giant donut and a robotic voice yells at me to BREATHE IN…HOLD IT…BREATHE OUT!!! This goes on for a few minutes, and then they exit me out of the donut. Finally, I am done, and I can go pee.
Nope! That was just the control scan. Now they release the dye for the real scan.
When the dye is released, there is a strange sensation all over the body starting with a warm gagging reflex in the throat, and then all the way down to the bladder, where it feels like I am actually relieving myself. Then it is back into the donut for more scanning and yelling. This goes on for another few minutes before the exit me out of the donut again, but I am still not done. There is one more round inside the donut, just for funsies, I think. But I think that it is to make me hold my bladder beyond what is healthy, ensuring an explosion from within.
I think that the CT scan does not officially end until I have wet myself.
I must have fooled them somehow, because they did let me leave the donut for good. The whole process probably only lasted 20 minutes, but it felt like an eternity at the time. They wanted to ask a few follow up questions but I ignored them and abruptly bolted out the door and down the hall
I had to pee, you know!
I know that the scan will come out clean. I feel fine; this is just a formality. But I also know that I will have several more of these to go in my lifetime. The CT scan is a part of my life now.
I think that next time I will just not hold it so long, even if it means relieving myself of my dignity, as well.