Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's (Almost) That Time of Year Again!

While that title may sound upbeat, its more of a OH NO! type title. I had my quarterly visit with Dr. Thomas (my oncologist here in Athens) last Thursday. Everything is still looking really good, blood levels are normal, and my Magnesium level seems to slowly but surely be increasing! That reminds me that I need to call and find out the results, but in April it was 1.3!!! That is still low for a "normal" person, but that is excellent for me!

So, the August appointment is when I schedule my December CT scan. Now the CT scan in itself is no big deal. I don't have a problem being stuck with an IV (I would actually rather be stuck by needles than have my blood pressure taken, but I think I have said that before), and I am not allergic to the iodine. My issue (as I am sure it is MANY other's issue as well) is the Redi-CAT prep, otherwise known as Barium Sulfate.

Last Thursday I scheduled my scan, and the lovely healthcare professional went and got my "smoothies" as they are also known. I have just recently started drinking smoothies for breakfast, and let me tell you, Barium Sulfate is about as far from "smooth" as you can get. It does not taste good, it does not go down well, etc. Anyway, as I am reaching for the bag, knowing full and well that I have over 3 months before I have to taste the stuff, my stomach begins to turn.

Let me give you a glimpse into my adversion to Barium Sulfate. During my first hospitalization, I had to have several CT scans. The nurses brought me one of those paper hospital cups, you know what I am talking about, white waxy paper, with a turquoisey-blue and purpley-pink swirl? Anyway, it was my "smoothie." The nurse had been so thoughtful to pour it over ice, and give me a straw. Well, she thought she was being thoughtful. I have learned over the years to drink the stuff room temperature. When it is cold, it is thicker, and thicker liquid does not go down as fast.

Here is my pre-CT ritual: I generally schedule the scan for Monday morning, so Sunday night I pace back and forth, trying to gather the courage I need to drink this horrible concoction, when that doesn't work, I pray, asking for the strength to get it over with. I put the vile liquid to my lips, try and turn my brain off, and chug as much as possible. By the time I begin to choke and gag, I have generally gotten about 1/3 of the bottle down. I then drink some water to try and clear my pallete, and wait 20-30 minutes, and chug some more. I am pretty good about getting the bottle down in three chugs. Monday morning, the ritual reprises itself. Yes, I have to drink TWO bottles.

I have to say, now that I am only having the CT scan done once a year, it seems much harder to get myself to drink the stuff. It could be because I have an 11 month reprieve, where I can completely forget about the stuff. In the beginning I had CT scans ever 3-4 months, then when I went into remission, I was changed over to PET scans 3 times a year, then twice a year. The PET scan required a CT prior to it, and so that included the Barium prep. Starting in 2007, I began having all of my scans done here in Athens. My last PET scan was at Athens Regional, and they have this awesome new machine that can complete the CT scan WITH the PET scan, and DOES NOT require the Barium prep! I was so very excited when I learned of this. HOWEVER, for those of you who do not know what a PET scan is, radioactive glucose is given intravenously, and the glucose will attach itself to any cancer cells. It also gives a much closer look and can detect cancer cells that a CT alone wouldn't. Well, you have to imagine that at some point, injecting radioactive glucose can become a bigger health threat, so after having like 12 PET scans, both doctors agreed that it was safer to go back to just CT scans. Yippee.

Okay, I have explained the process, let me tell you about flavors. I really can't describe the taste, and all I can say is if you have not had the opportunity, DON'T. You really aren't missing out on anything (and your life is probably better off never needing a CT scan). Okay, in Albuquerque I was usually given banana flavor. I have heard from others that banana is the worst, but let me just say, I was able to get it down. However, artificial banana flavoring and scent has FOREVER been ruined for me. My sister had banana lip gloss, made me want to puke. My step-son bought "banana" flavored pudding, I couldn't even be near it without feeling queasy. Now you may say why would I want the banana flavored one if smelling artificial banana makes me sick? Why would I want to ruin another taste or smell?  Here in Athens I am usually given berry flavor. They don't have banana, I have asked. Luckily, the berry tastes nothing like real berries, and I have not found myself being sick smelling strawberry lip gloss.

Oh! I do have to say, I found something worse than Barium! During last year's CT, I showed up at the hospital knowing I was going to have to drink approximately ANOTHER half bottle, becuase for some reason TWO bottles is not enough and they want the stuff SITTING in your stomach. Well, the radiology tech handed me a cup, and it was full of a bright pink concoction. My initial though was YES!!!! The tech said this was a newer suspension and they could mix it onsite. I took a drink, thinking okay, this is thinner, fruity, but not sickeningly sweet, and UUUUGGGGHHHH! Oh my gosh, it's BITTER! It really was worse than Barium, if that is even possible.

So, while the CT scan isn't scheduled until December 6, just thinking about having to drink the two bottles is making me sick, and I have a feeling I won't be finishing my breakfast smoothie this morning.

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