PET CT, the results scare, and how to handle it.

Tomorrow is PET CT day, and we were scared shitless on what the results would be… as you would possibly be too, in similar situations. (Of course my PET appointment conflicts with my Simonton appointment… but that’s nothing unmanageable.)

As usual with a scary situation (especially one with waiting involved) your brain has the time to entertain you with all kinds of… I’m not even sure what. Scary outcome perspectives? Theories on what the heck that lymph node in your neck is doing growing in size again? Tom&Jerry episodes and an escalated level of nail biting hormones and bowel movement? Anyway, my thoughts were occupied, to a great deal, on what the outcome might be, and then, on why I’m scared of this… and I had a bit of an epiphany. Multiple ones, actually.

Epiphany 1: don’t fear the past

Why I’m uncomfortable with a PET scan? I shouldn’t be, really. It is just mildly uncomfortable; yes, it involves inserting a branula for the contrast IV, but at least it’s not chemo, for instance it does not directly damage your veins — how one’s perspective changes with 4 month of chemo drugs, right?

The other thing I realised is that last time I had a PET CT, I still had my original symptoms, the fever, the chills, the sweats, you know, “the shitty drill”. So the PET CT for me was all about figuring out the right dose and timing of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol so the short period when my fever is only around 38°C, and I still don’t have the sweats, packing in an extra change of clothing in case the sweats do come after all, and getting an extra blanket in case I get the chills, those horrible, horrible shivers… Calculating the minimal time between 2 meds backwards, waking up at 3AM to take the planned Ibuprofen so it takes effect by the morning (except it seldom did, really)… This drill is something I’ll never forget, worse memory than the chemo, actually. (Partly because we didn’t know what caused it and partly because it lasted for 2 months.)

So after all, my PET CT now is an easy ride, especially compared to my previous one. I just have to refrain from eating for 6 hours (but I can still have a proper breakfast and a coffee early in the morning), I can go by myself and don’t need any help (last time it was a logistics thing as I was not in the condition to drive), and the examination itself, well, to put it this way: the biggest stress involved now is to remember to charge my phone so the battery doesn’t run dry of all that reading while I wait for the contrast fluid to propagate. (Indeed, my Nexus 5 has absolutely shitty battery life.)


Epiphany 2: don’t fear the future

Am I scared of the outcome of the PET? Yes, I think I am, a bit. After all, one possible outcome is that there’s still cancer activity in my body, right? And if there is, I need to receive radiation therapy, right? And radiation therapy means that… actually, I’m not sure what exactly radiation therapy means.

So I read up a bit on radiation therapy. First off, fucking science man, it’s amazing! Second, radiation therapy does not seem all that scary an experience (as, for example and again, the 2 months of fever-shiver-sweat cycles). The radiation itself apparently does not hurt at all (again, phone needs to be charged properly though), and today the side effects of it seem to be quite well controlled as well. I might have thought localised skin pain is bad a year ago, but come on, it’s a localised pain, so what are we talking about compared to the Shitty Saturday, right?

So there, if I have to do radiation therapy, it’s what I’ll do, and I needn’t be scared of it.


Epiphany 3: don’t fear fear

And this, the epiphany resulting from the above 2 epiphanies, is where this epiphany related post gets future proof, check.

Roosevelt was right: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

And I didn’t realise how right he was, until now: we (myself and Juli too) were so hung up on cancer activity as a possible outcome of the PET CT that I didn’t bother to check what’s the next step if I have it and how to take control of that.

And this is the important bit: don’t be afraid of something you can’t control; think of the next steps that the possible outcomes result in, and prepare, not fear, but prepare for those. In other words: find the solvable part of the problem and focus on that, instead of being scared of some vaguely defined thing.


So there, my mantra for today. And maybe I’ll just bring a charger for the Nexus 5.