It’s interesting how you notice different things at different times in your life based on how overwhelmed you are when you see them. For example, I CAN NOT believe that I missed the potential humor in this sign during any of my previous PET scans:
During that nanosecond before my goofy, immature brain read and processed the words “Nuclear Medicine Patients Only” – I just saw HOT RESTROOM and my crazy brain conjured up two potential scenarios that were WAY better than my actual reality.
Alas, as the sign suggests, to any sane person, this is where you are made to pee when you are radioactive from the injection you receive before a PET scan. You also get a nifty little card that tells police officers and TSA agents whats up in case your radioactive self sets off their radar. Interesting way to get out of a speeding ticket amiright? It also occurred to me that although my nickname, in certain circles, is “Hot Reb” based on an old inside joke – I could really get used to Radioactive Reb. Definitely an upgrade.
But, despite all the “fun” I was having at the expense of this unsuspecting sign and the ridiculousness of possibly setting off random radar detectors for the next 48 hours, these PET scans are actually F-ing brutal. You only get these if there is a pretty good chance that you have cancer that has spread or has high potential to do so since your last scan. Usually, these are reserved for patients whose cancer has already metastasized – but because my cancer was originally thought to be Stage 4 and the local metastasis was so aggressive and extensive – I get the pleasure of going through this crazy-making process too. As any cancer patient knows, your life hangs in the balance of these scans. Not that it’s much better for patients with earlier stage cancer who don’t get PET scans but rather have to sweat it out worrying that every headache or cough may mean their cancer has spread. But for those of us who do get PET scans – SCANXIETY is the worrying that goes on for hours, days, or weeks before the PET and then after waiting for the results.
This was a long one because they had trouble getting an IV into my chemo ravaged veins on my one arm that can be used (without lymphadema) so I was there for several hours and pretty wiped out from the fasting, needle poking, and anxiety by the time I arrived home. However, the scene I walked into at my house was the panacea (understandably, no photo evidence was allowed) but picture this… my eight year old son, nephew, and six year old sassy niece were hiding in my closet dressed head to toe in my highest heels, I’m talking five inch pink stilettos, ALL of my jewelry (my nephew had on 11 gigantic cocktail rings), my niece had helped herself to my beauty bag and did a full makeover complete with mascara and red lipstick, and the piece de resistance was the black, red and lace bras they each donned OVER their Catholic school uniforms. Oh My God. That’s one for the school catalogue! It was hysterical – I gave them a few more bras and even some thongs to add to their collection. Then Luca and I both realized it just got weird and he’d probably need a few years of therapy after this – so he bailed and they moved on to the trampoline. But, at that moment it was just exactly what I needed – and the perfect reminder of what I am trying so hard to live for… priceless moments like that.
Anyway, for all my MBC friends – please know I’m thinking of you on your PET days when I am aware of them – I know these are so much harder for you and for some – bad news could dictate how many weeks or months you have left – not years. I feel scanxiety for all of you. I hope the next time you have a PET and are sent to the “hot bathroom” – this gives you a little chuckle and at least a momentary distraction – and most of all I hope for good news and that you have the equivalent of some young hooligans waiting for you at home ruining all your best stuff.