Crikey. What an odd day. After having to forego breakfast for this procedure, I was expecting to progress through the PET scan unit in a hungry but sedate fashion and then go on to do a huge amount of work at the office before I signed off for chemo. The universe obviously had other ideas. I made it to Southampton hospital with a few minutes to spare and proudly reported to the mobile scanning unit ahead of time. The staff explained that the scanner was having some checks done so they were running a bit behind schedule. I had about half an hour reading Gareth Malone’s ‘Choir’ then was called to have the injection which would send a radioactive marker and glucose belting round my system. The nurse inserted the cannula so they could give me the injection more easily – getting so used to all the needles that I didn’t even register the ‘sharp scratch’ they like to warn you about. She explained that once I had the injection the staff would keep their distance – fair enough. She wasn’t kidding. I was shown back to the cold little cubbyhole that was my ‘rest area’ and waited for a while. A few minutes later the door was flung open and she rushed into the room with a metal box that was beeping in a loud and very alarming fashion. This was beginning to feel a bit like a Denzel Washington film. In less time than it has taken me to write this sentence, she opened the box – bleeping got louder just to hurry her along a bit (I think it also flashed red from inside but I’m not completely sure about that) – took the end off the device, injected the liquid through the cannula, closed the box, turned around and ran out calling ‘you’re all done, I’ll be back in an hour!’. Wow. I expected to start glowing, or feel at least somehow different. I’ve never been radioactive before (at least not to my knowledge) so I was very interested to see what would happen. Nothing. I had about 45 minutes more of Gareth then the nurse sidled back into the room and from the corner explained that the scanner was in fact broken so they couldn’t scan me today. I sat there for a moment waiting for it to make some sense to me. So what were they actually going to do with this (by now) very hungry and highly radioactive person? Actually there must have been several of us at this point, all sitting very confused in our little cubby holes wondering what the rest of the day would hold for us. When my wits returned, I explained that I needed to be scanned today as I am starting chemo tomorrow – so I could go somewhere else if there was another scanner available. She suggested Portsmouth, which is about another 25 miles on from Southampton. I left several minutes later with a map to the hospital and the stern instructions ‘Get there as fast as you can. And don’t go near any babies or pregnant women as they could be harmed by your radioactivity.’ Soooooooooooo. Hospitals have a fair amount of babies and I did have to go past the maternity ward on the way out, so I had to kind of skulk past people pushing buggies and was horrified when I nearly brushed by an expectant lady. I reached the car (which by now seemed like my refuge) and hurtled out of the multi-storey car park. The car park takes you out a different way from where you go in. People who know me well are constantly amused by my ability to get lost anywhere and today was no exception. I have no idea how Southampton is laid out and I was very quickly lost. Bearing in mind that I was radioactive I couldn’t exactly go into a shop to ask directions (don’t have satnav – well I do have an iPhone but the battery was unexpectedly flat) so I managed to accost a postman, at a distance, to get directions back to the motorway. Several minutes later I was happily and hungrily belting down the M27 towards Portsmouth hospital. It did occur to me that if I went very fast I might attract the attention of the police and maybe I could even get them to escort me with the blue lights and everything. Can you imagine the conversation? ‘And why exactly were you going so fast, madam?’ ‘Well, officer, I’m highly radioactive and I have to get to the hospital as fast as I can…’ In the end I decided the sedate approach was probably better and would take less time in the long run. And less explaining. I reached the hospital in good time and was rushed through the reception area. I felt really sorry for the people who were also hungrily waiting, as they were being told they would have another 2 hours before they would be seen – the escapees from Southampton had arrived! It seems that 3 of us had come straight from there and the lovely folk at Portsmouth slotted us in with only about 10 pages of Gareth in terms of waiting time. After that it was plain sailing. The actual scanning took about 45 minutes. It wasn’t too claustrophobic, but I was getting quite fed up with playing statues by the time it finished. I was back in the waiting room by 2.30 and sat down to enjoy my ‘break-fast’ of slightly warm cheese sandwiches. Made it back to the office by about 4.00, so needless to say we didn’t actually leave to come home until about 7.30.
The lovely thing about today was that when you are in this kind of situation, you just have to go with the flow. When you give up any sense of control, life becomes much easier. This is quite a lesson for me as I am a total control freak – and I suspect the coming months will be an in-depth study in the art of giving up the illusion of control. Accepting what comes. I have no choice about the fact that I am now ill, but what I can have some control over is my attitude and my approach to dealing with this illness. Today was fun in a really weird kind of way – I met some lovely people and had quite a few laughs at the absurdity of the situation. Long may it continue.
Thank you to all of you for your beautiful words. I am touched to my deepest core at your kindness, and I will carry it forward with me into hospital tomorrow and thereafter.