It was Wheel of Fortune week around these parts beginning this past Monday. Two work colleagues started off the week with CT scans on Monday, and closed it out this morning with mine. My colleagues are currently in treatment for breast and lung cancer, and my scan was a routine follow-up from my cancer treatment last year. I am hoping that what follows sounds somewhat foreign to you, because if it does not, then I am fairly certain that you or somebody you know has unfortunately experienced something similar to what I am about to describe.
I am not going to dwell on all of the anxious feelings that start to occupy your brain the days before your CT scan approaches, as these feelings would be quite normal to most folks before undergoing a diagnostic medical procedure. Nor am I going to elaborate on the awful taste of the two liters of contrast solution that you are often required to drink before your scan, let alone talk about what it does to your stomach afterwards. But while we are on the subject, I am sorry, but mixed berry is not the most appealing flavor, despite what the reception desk staff believe.
Instead, I want to take a moment to talk about the actual scan, those few minutes when everything really starts to seem mysterious and surreal. The moments after you are hooked up to an injection machine that looks like it was cast in a Hollywood sci-fi production, or worse yet a movie about life on death row. Dials light up and spin by remote commands, and you can feel and taste the solutions being injected into your body, all being controlled in a booth outside of the procedure room. That, as surreal as it sounds, is still not what I want to elaborate upon.
What I want to touch upon are the myriad of thoughts that reel through your head as your body is moved through the “doughnut hole”. Understand that the CT scanner is about 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Thankfully, unlike the equipment used to perform MRI procedures, the scanner is fully open. But, other than the sound of the table moving back and forth, the first few passes through it are totally silent. You are holding still as the table moves, but you would be hard pressed to know how much radiation is being emitted, which for all we know could be almost none at that point. Then, as you look up into the clear aperture inside the doughnut hole, you suddenly start seeing a large amount of electronic equipment start spinning, followed by a whirring noise similar to the sound of a jet engine spooling up for take off.
Ladies and gentleman, it is now Wheel of Fortune time, and in this version of the game, you are betting with years from your life. As the equipment spins faster and faster, and the whirring picks up volume, it suddenly dawns on you that the results of this “spin” can make you one of the day’s winners, or not. Either way, you will almost certainly be invited back to participate in another round. Rinse and repeat.
I have been subject to routine CT scans for over 12 years now, and they just never seem to get any easier. I would like to tell my colleagues that it gets easier after your first few, but as I have not been able to convince myself of that in over a decade, I am not sure that I would be the best salesman to carry that message. I guess it could be worse, Julius the duck could come flying down from up above with my scan results. Julius, by the way, was last appraised at approximately $8,000-$12,000, so I suspect that his consultation services would not be approved by most insurance companies today.
And speaking of suspect, I also suspect that I may be one of today’s winners, as I did not receive a call from my doctor’s office requesting that we move up my follow-up appointment next week. Where is Julius when we need him?