Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

August 27, 2012

Ugh.  CT / PET Scan today.  The experience of scans themselves were not so bad.  I didn't get any of the rare but dread reactions to the contrast solution (I think these included skin hardening, possibly leading to death.  There are pros and cons to actually reading the permissions you are signing.)

But the surrounding circumstances brought into the light one of my continuing battles with myself: "I'm just a girl who cain't say no."

This is Ado-Annie from the musical Oklahoma! which I guess is pretty outdated reference.  But if Aaron Sorkin can make Sarah Bernhardt jokes, then really everything is up for grabs, isn't it?
One is not supposed to physically exert oneself for 48 hours before the PET scan.  I did pretty well over the weekend--even skipped my favorite Sunday morning yoga class.  But then I went to work today before the scan and someone came in to ask about their paycheck.  We didn't have it.  I told him I'd go check at the payroll office.  The payroll office is a ten minute walk from ours--at a brisk clip.  i.e. probably somewhere between a quarter and a half mile.  I didn't think to say, "sorry no one can go today, and my guess is that you've got direct deposit and haven't checked your bank account yet." I didn't think to call the payroll office and say, "I need a favor, open that drawer, look at a check and tell me who's name is on it."  No.  I didn't think of those things. All I thought was, Oh, any random person just asked for something, I need to do that for them.  I figured as long as I walked slow, it would be okay.  I did walk slower than usual, but it's hot out. And it's kind of far.  By the time I returned (the check in the drawer was not the one I needed) I could feel my muscles shaking a little.  Not a big deal at all, unless you are three hours from a scan that is going to measure metabolic activity.  I could have kicked myself, except that now I was really trying not to over-exert.

Some folks call this hoop-jumping, people-pleasing a cancer personality. As in someone who attracts cancer.  Does it make sense?  Well, if you believe that certain stressors release stress hormones that lower ones immune levels, it could follow that cultivating little bursts of inner stress based on whether you are satisfying other people; projecting and over-investing in their happiness, and over-estimating your own role in whether they achieve that happiness.  If you do that over and over again over the course of days, months and years...it doesn't not make sense.  So I wasn't thrilled with myself over this little reminder that after a certain number of years on earth, I can't seem to pull that shit together.

At the hospital I had to explain the the coordinator that I'd walked three quarters of a mile and up and down some stairs and looked at me with pity for my stupidity, but the techs said I could still take the test.

Which leads to the second thing I think I regret saying yes to.

When Dr. M---- mentioned that I needed a CT scan, I'd brought up the idea of a PET scan instead, not only because it seems to make sense, but also because the CT involves a lot of radiation, whereas a PET without does not, especially if it doesn't require any contrast.  Of course Dr. Y--- (whom I have not yet met) came back saying, that yes, a PET would be fine, but that we need versions both with and without contrast, in addition to the CT scan.  So all the waves of radiation, plus drinking the radioactive contrast drink.  Awesome.  But it seems important for the surgeon to know exactly where the cancer is, and if there is any spread, so I agreed.

When I showed up today, after I had done all the prep, offered a vein for the IV, drunk the drink, was on the roll-y bed, the technician read the procedure to me: A CT of pelvis, abdomen and chest. What? The chest scan was a total surprise to me.  Is there some legitimate worry that this cancer has somehow spread to my lungs?  There was no one to ask.  I was already there, and the techs couldn't just ignore their orders (or could they have?)  So I said yes...or I didn't say no.

I really hate no one ever seems concerned about radiating me, despite the fact that any layperson can read articles like this and this.  The New York Times is not some crackpot publication, y'all. And as someone whose genetic mutation is a defect in DNA repair--shouldn't the risks be even greater for me?  And--and I know this is over-reaching--but has anyone noticed that the site of this cancer--inside my uterus--was smack in the middle of the area where I had the CT scans for my colon cancer?  And not that my cancers are awesome, but if I were ranking according to preference, I'd place them both above lung cancer--now there's a cancer that looks like it sucks. So why were they radiating this whole new section of my body?  I don't know. And why did I not stop the train until someone could really tell me?

I don't know again.

Or I do.  I'm the kind of girl who says yes. I was already checked in.  I'd already drunk the radioactive milkshake, and didn't want to do that again.  I'm not a medical professional--if a doctor requested this, they must have a good reason. And--this is probably the truest reason--I'm not a real-time-reactor. When it comes to setting boundaries or kicking up a fuss, I will do it.  I have done it in the past.  But it's usually when I've had time to think, time to prepare in advance.

The more life you live, the more situations occur which you might be prepared for.  The next time someone asks about their payroll check two hours before a PET scan, I will totally be ready.    But it probably won't be that, it will be some variation that I am less prepared for.  Because I am slow to react and make decisions I sometimes fail to protect myself and I get very frustrated.  I don't see being a delayed reaction person as a moral flaw--in fact, all the recent attention to introverts notes that slower response time is a common trait among us--but it can be a dangerous trait to have in a world that moves continually faster, and requires more and more fast decisions about things that can be long-reaching.

For the next 24 hours, I shouldn't touch any children, "just to be safe."  And I should drink lots of liquids to flush the radioactive materials out in my urine.  In a nod to magical thinking, I've taken a bath with Epsom salts, taken vitamins and antioxidants, and am drinking cleansing herbal tea. But it isn't erasing the fact that I feel sad and toxic, in more ways than one.


  1. Yeah I remember having a scan when they couldn't figure out why I had intense headaches. They didn't mention about the Iodine(sp?) right up until I was prepped and ready to go. "Oh sir please sign here and note the solution your about to have in your system could cause a heart attack".

  2. Taking a bath with baking soda is also a good way to draw out toxins. Plus it's good for your skin. I also try to take a "baking soda shower" once a week where I substitute all cleansers for baking soda. Lemme tell, I feel really awesome after those showers. Plus it gets all the product gunk out of my hair and my skin feels very soft.

  3. How does anyone ever get a PET scan in New York City? Three quarters of a mile and some stairs is, like, going to the grocery store.