Scanxiety: What's that?

I am headed to Mayo Clinic in Rochester this week for my final check up prior to the ride. They are doing a PET Scan to check the progress of my active tumors and to check for new activity. For those of you who are following that don't know what a PET (positron emission tomography) scan actually is, it is similar to a CT Scan, however prior to the scan they will inject a radioactive tracer into me through an IV and have me relax for about an hour then they will scan me from my head and neck down to about mid-thigh. Cancer cells show up as bright spots on PET scans because they have a higher metabolic rate than do normal cells. Pictures from a PET scan display bright spots where the radioactive tracer collected. These spots reveal higher levels of chemical activity and details about how your tissues and organs are functioning, or in my case my tumors will light up like lights on a Christmas tree on the image. Prior to the scan (the day before) I will not be able to eat any sugar or starch’s to keep my glucose levels down. Oh well, bring me the 14oz Ribeye with a few veggies!

Some of my fellow cancer warriors have came up with the term “Scanxiety”. This obviously is anxiety prior to the scan, wondering what has changed since the last set of scans. Have the tumors grown? Has my cancer spread? Is it the same? Have my tumors shrunk? What will I do if it’s bad news? These questions always race through your mind but I guess after so many it just becomes a part of the whole process. For rare cancers such as mine that are highly unpredictable, PET Scans, CT Scans, MRI’s and biopsy’s have become second nature to me. You always wonder what will they will find next. I prepare myself by imagining the worst possible scenario so when I get the news I am able to process it rationally and just move on. Some patients however view it a bit differently than I do and the stress is very real and can have major impacts of it’s own on their health. For me, to keep the stress and anxiety away I usually try to have a bit of humor about the whole thing since I already know that treatment is very limited for me and worrying will only make it worse and make me much sicker than I already am. Attitude is everything when dealing with a disease as destructive as this one. Having the right attitude helps keep me moving forward, keep on living and keeps me wanting to help others if I can.

I’ll never forget the first time I had a PET scan about 12 years ago. I was pretty scared anyway but I was waiting in the holding area prior to the scan just after they had injected the radioactive tracer. There were several patients in the room and we each had our own little curtained off area so you could relax but you could clearly hear a conversation in the next area. A guy was getting his injection and the nurse asked him where he was from. He said, “I’m from Edmonton Alberta". The nurse said, WOW! your a long way from home. He explained to her that in Canada there was a 9 month waiting list to be able to get a PET scan and his doctors back home advised him to seek treatment in the U.S. or he could very well die waiting for the test. It might be different now but that’s what he was going through at that time. I have heard of others who have Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma from other countries describe how they have to wait sometimes up to 2 weeks just to get results from their scans. No wonder they have Scanxienty! I could not imagine waiting that long for my results. On Thursday morning at 7am I will have my scan. At 2:30 in the afternoon I will see my primary oncologist, Dr. Price. She will already have my results for me and we will review the scan together. So for all you folks who want healthcare like other countries have, be careful what you wish for. I’ll take what I have for now thank you.

So lets roll the dice on the PET scan and see what comes up. I’ll let you know for sure. Until next time let’s keep Ridin On.