Sunday, April 17, 2011

False Alarm

photo © 2004 Alejandro | more info 

Cedars Sinai Medical Center

Last week I mentioned that my oncologist told me my CA 125 levels were a wee bit up.  So I trundled into Cedars Sinai on Tuesday for a CT scan.  I showed up a bit early and was given a beeper like they pass out in restaurants.  I went to wait with others in the truncated  due to construction waiting room.  Several women wore doo-rags which did not at all make me nostalgic for those days when I too did not have any hair.  I fully expected to be joining those ranks again and was considering where to get my head shaved before the hair fell out when my beeper went off for me to go into infusion center.

I spent many, many hours in that infusion center and, like Pavlov's dog, I had a strong visceral reaction to the stimulus.  They told me to sit in a chair (the kind that combine a recliner with torture implements) and shortly a technician came to ask me what flavor barium I would like.  I chose berry.  Then another young man came up to me and stated, "My name is Jose and I will be your infusion technician today".  What?!  First, the restaurant metaphor only should go so far and second, why did I need an infusion?  Surely he was mistaking me for a chemo patient.  I only was getting a cat scan.

Of course, I had forgotten that they need to inject a dye through an IV during the CT scan so after a few minutes of arguing with him that I really should not have one of "those things" in my arm again, I acceded and found myself the proud owner of an IV catheter in my left arm inner elbow.  I told him to do the left arm because I still have trouble with tendonitis and frozen shoulder in my right arm.  However, as we will see shortly, I made the wrong decision.

As my "infusion technician" was stabbing me, another nurse type person (sorry, but I can never keep their functions straight--technician, assistant, nurse-- you all seem the same to me)  approached and greeted me by name.  "Mrs. Cancer Patient, you're back! You look wonderful!"  I felt like Norm walking into the Cheers bar.  It was lovely to be remembered in a place where it is easy to feel anonymous.  We chatted for a moment and she wished me luck in my test.  I must say it was a nice feeling as if I had a friend there in a place that otherwise gives me the creeps.

I was escorted to the scan center and started the long wait for the barium shake to work its way through my body.  Initially I was seated next to a whiny young teenager fussing to her mother that she was hungry as she waited for an x-ray. My first reaction was self-centered because I could not understand why this girl was acting like a 2 year old and her mother was putting up with it. But  I decided to try to push aside my annoyance because I realized that no one goes to that particular place unless they have cancer.  I felt for both the child who has to deal with such a grown up problem and her mother who clearly has that burden to carry.  Luckily for them (and me) the girl got her x-ray done so she could get something to eat.

Eventually I was called into the room and told to take off my bra.  At that moment I realized that having the IV in my left arm and having a bum right arm made that task impossible.  The technician, luckily a woman, helped me out and gently placed me on the scan table in a way that allowed me not to raise my arms completely over my head (which I can't do anyway). Ten  minutes later and two hours after I had arrived at Cedars, I was done and out of there.

Then came the wait.  I knew that the images were done immediately and transmitted electronically to my oncologist very quickly.  The trick is his having time to read the results given his hectic schedule.  I kept my cell phone ringer on all day Wednesday and when I had not heard by Thursday morning, I called and left a message with his office.  Anxious?  Not me.  Well, maybe a little.  OK.  Maybe a lot.

Fortunately, my oncologist called Thursday afternoon with "good news and better news".  The good news was that the CT Scan did not show any tumors. The better news was that he was able to see a hernia that explained the funky blood test results.  The hernia does not cause me any discomfort so it is not going to be treated for now.  And in the future, any anomalous CA 125 readings would be "calibrated" with the hernia in mind.

So I dodged the bullet .  I am not having a recurrence of the cancer at this point.  Time to take a trip somewhere to celebrate!  Looks like Santa Fe, here we come.

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