Surviving those constant scans with humor and snacks
What's in a scan? We can quickly scan a document or a book. We can scan pictures. Occasionally, we can see what we look like inside, thanks to CT scans.
There are various options to help doctors analyze what they cannot see or feel. The procedures begin with a contrast medium and a short fast. They suggest no food a for least four hours before the test. Precisely four hours before the first scan, I gobbled some yogurt.
Occasionally, the contrast must be consumed - not on the list of gourmet drinks. But my doctors are content with a simple injection in a vein of the arm. Whew!
Aside from a momentary feeling of warmth, I've not had the misfortune of other complications from the contrast medium, such as hives or itching. I've learned to solve the hunger issue by bringing along a sandwich, which I devour after the first scan and before the appointment with my doctor.
I usually spend the two hours required for the injected contrast to spread talking to other patients or to Glenbrook Hospital staff members who are taking breaks. I'm always careful to follow the suggestions of the medical staff and I drink lots of water to flush the contrast from my body.
There is plenty of humor to share, as techs ask if I plan to take a trip requiring me to pass through electronic security. I'd probably set off alarms. I usually laugh and tell them I'm planning to go to Mars.
After meeting with my oncologist, who does his own scan of everything, including my fingernails, we plan our next moves. In this case, we changed chemo drugs, trying to stay one step ahead of the cancer cells.
I always ask about side effects when I start a new drug. More and more frequently, I'm reassured that I need not expect any.
Still chugging water, I get in the car for the ride back to my assisted-living apartment. When I return, I like to find some fruit to hold me until dinner. That can be more of a challenge than the scan.
I'll be back at the hospital next week, to resume my new chemo and await the next scans in a few weeks.
• Ruth Gesmer Silverman of Buffalo Grove learned in March 2007 that her breast cancer, originally diagnosed in 2002, had spread to her bones. Her column about living with the disease appears every other week in Health & Fitness.