Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This is a week for firsts. In addition to my first MUGA scan yesterday, I endured my first day ever deprived of carbs and sugar. I wouldn't recommend it. I just felt hungry all the time. Even when I wasn't hungry I craved carb-based foods I never even eat. And not having even the tiniest square of dark chocolate in the afternoon? Not my idea of a good day.

But seriously, it was only one day and I somehow managed to survive the torture of no bread, pasta or rice (or potatoes or citrus or juice or pizza or popcorn or . . . I'll stop now). This morning my scan was scheduled for 9 am and despite going to bed before 11 pm, I did not feel well rested. In fact, after the effort of showering and getting ready for the day, I was exhausted. Can I still blame this on hormones? The idea of walking three blocks - up a hill! - to the imaging center felt daunting. So I took my building's courtesy shuttle which dropped me practically at the doorstep of the clinic and fought the urge to take a nap for the short ride. I also realized taking doxycycline on an empty stomach was a huge mistake and texted this to my mom. My dad who takes this regularly with his fist full of pills was "horrified" because he always has to eat at least a granola bar before taking it. Oops. Lesson learned. Once again, I have to learn the hard way for myself.

Since I left according to the shuttle bus schedule, I arrived almost 20 minutes early for my 9 am appointment. I filled out the 5 pages of questions about every doctor I have ever seen in my life grateful that I always carry my own pen since doctor's offices always prefer black ball point pens which never fail to make my already poor handwriting look like it belongs to a 12-year old boy. I have no idea why I can't write with those skinny pens but they just annoy me. The nausea persisted and the blaring morning news show on a tv no one was watching suspended above my head and the shabby haphazard decor did not help.

I selected the playlist on my ipod usually reserved for red eye flights and extreme work stress situations (it is soothing and titled "In a Funk" and contains a disproportionate amount of Beck's Sea Change and Radiohead in case you were wondering) and concentrated on not being sick.

Only a few minutes after 9 I was led by a woman carrying a couple of dollars like she was stopping at a vending machine after she dropped me off down another elevator to the radiology lab that time forgot. Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it seemed kind of abandoned with its empty waiting rooms with storage items stacked behind the chairs with magazines from 1986 (I'm making that year up). I was instructed to sit in one of those chairs with the arm rest for drawing blood at the end of a hallway.

I then met the nicest technician I have ever encountered. Also, the first non-vaguely-Eastern-European-possibly-Russian-accented tech I have encountered in my journey from mammogram to MUGA scan. He was relaxed and funny and slightly competitive with the nuclear medicine people I had encountered yesterday asking me if the IV line he inserted was better than yesterday's (it was, actually). He thoroughly explained why I was asked to abstain from carbs and sugar (an explanation I promptly forgot, see fighting off nausea above) and went over the process and time line of today's procedure. Happily, his time line was only about 90 minutes rather than the three hours I was prepared for.

He injected some more radioactive something or other into my arm and allowed me to select a flavor for my "Readi-Cat 2" smoothie. I was actually relieved I was being given something - anything - to ingest and selected the berry "flavor" which turned out to be more of a slight scent of berries and a photo on the bottle rather than an actual flavor capable of being tasted. It was less chalky than I anticipated and I gulped it down and my stomach settled while I relaxed in a cold room off another short, abandoned hallway in a black, leather recliner. This time I could laugh out loud as I read "Bossypants" because there was literally no one else around. I was told I could shut the door if it was too cold and it would warm up but I was a little bit afraid I would be forgotten somehow if the door shut in this weird sub-basement clinic. I was startled when my mom called and my phone had perfect reception, something that can be difficult on the streets of Manhattan and non-existent in the subway which I was convinced was just a secret door and passageway away.
(aah, nothing like a Readi-Cat 2 Berry Smoothie to start the day - note the soothing ambiance of the room captured in the background of the photo, the black thing on the right is the heater that emitted absolutely no heat until the door was closed)

My thirty minute lounging time went quickly and just as I was trying to decide if I should brave the hallways on my own to find the bathroom that was supposedly "down the hall on the right", the jolly tech guy returned with instructions to go to the bathroom and change into a gown (no metal in the scan, including underwire bras although apparently jeans with rivets didn't matter) in whichever order I preferred. Taking advantage of him being right there I asked him to confirm the directions to the restroom and opted for that first. There was one of those hospital bed stretchers in the hallway outside the restroom with a woman sleeping on it. Or at least I think she was sleeping. She was still there when I left and I chose not to allow my mind to wander as to what events transpired to leave her presumably napping on a stretcher in a creepy radiology hallway. I walked by another MRI room with the door open and a person lying halfway in the machine and hurried back to my recliner room to change. Sure enough, when I shut the door to change the room went from vaguely cold to inferno in seconds.

For once in my life (or at least in the last 7 or so years in which I've had asthma), my asthma got me out of something unpleasant (as compared to the daily inhalants I am forced to take so I can just breathe normally). I only had to drink the gross smoothie - no "contrasting" IV something or other, so my IV was removed and I crawled up on the table and asked what I should do with my arms and wondered why the table was so narrow. The tech told me I could put them at my sides (which meant they just hung down to the ground) and then he pulled them up by velcroing me in with this giant strap around my chest.

He had earlier asked me if I had ever had an MRI. I am never quite sure how to answer this question. I realize it is a yes or no question but the problem is my only prior experience with MRI machines was when I had kidney stones and both times I was already heavily sedated with morphine and if you have never had morphine, let me tell you, in the light of non-morphine day, you question pretty much everything that you thought was happening while you were under the influence. At least I do since both times I have no idea if they gave me anything in addition to the morphine and both times I am pretty sure I fell asleep in the MRI machine (if there ever was one!) and only remember the part where I was once the mystery patient sleeping in a hospital hallway on a portable hospital bed where I was abandoned and forgotten by some orderly and woke to someone saying, "here she is!" like I had wandered off of my own accord with that bed and IV stand dangling above me.

Anyway, this was not necessarily my first MRI-type procedure but it was the first one where I was not heavily medicated and all I knew was how people complain about getting claustrophobic. I did not. I did however get restless toward the end. I was in there thirty minutes - or more accurately, I was slid back and forth in and out of the machine for thirty minutes and during the last ten or twenty-five minutes (it's hard to know the difference) I was convinced that instead of the somewhat padded head rest I had previously set my head on when the test began, there was now some sort of metal rod poking up through the head rest which made it very difficult to not fidget against. When the table didn't move for what I perceived was too long a period I also feared I had once again been forgotten about and abandoned in there, especially since the little radioactive sign was no longer illuminated in the tube above me (which really should have been more reassuring). This rising panic passed when the table moved out of the machine and the tech came in and I thought maybe it was over when he unstrapped the giant velcro band pinning my arms to my sides. Close, but not quite. I had to hold my arms awkwardly above my head as I slid back into the machine for a few more looks.

And that was that. I was back on the street by 10:40 am with enough time to call my mom before she got on her plane and while too early to pick up the fries and shake I was inexplicably craving while I was in the tube, I did enjoy a late breakfast bagel and iced chai at home. Aaaah, the soothing nature of good carbs and sugar enjoyed together.


lizzie said...

i am feeling your nausea. i think it's the hormones. at least it is in my case. i am glad your mom is there.

lemoniepants said...

somehow someday someone with cancer is going to find your blog. it will be priceless to them. this information is nowhere else. so valuable.

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