When I get a CT appointment, my first thought is usually the time of day and does it mean additional fasting? My medication means I have a three-hour fast twice daily. The time of appointment can increase that fasting time frame enough for me to be capable of eating a small horse by the time I get out if one happened to wander by.

If it’s a morning appointment it means I will be fasting from the evening before, except for morning tablets but unlike the sci-fi films they don’t fill you up.  If there’s a delay in the department I often have lunch for breakfast at the shopping centre after the scan. Though I now have ample fat stores to live off for an extended period of time courtesy of the medication, the fasting leaves me feeling weak at the knees and seems to kick in as soon as your told you can sit up now we are finished. I’m never sure which is more pressing in that situation the hunger or the need to get rid of the litre of contrast dye pressing on your bladder.

I wait the 15 mins in Dept after the scan in case of adverse effects dreaming of what I’m going to eat. Once after a scan I got into a shaking blood sugar drop and some emergency tea and toast had to be sent for, there’s something so good about hospital tea and toast. It is like mana from heaven it revives the body and the soul. Or at very least gives you the stability to walk to your car…

Yesterday I had a brain MRI it differs slightly from the CT in that you don’t have to fast, but funnily enough I didn’t feel like eating, and it’s probably not a good idea to eat a heavy meal before you go lie down in a scanner. It’s not the best place to projectile vomit…. from nerves. I’ve had a few MRI’s at this stage various problems have occurred that needed further investigation, but my least favourite has to be the brain scan.

The dept is hidden behind the hording of the new building works at CUH, it’s a big project the new radiation/oncology building will be a great addition to the hospital and will centralise services. The noise of the jack hammers and drills reminded me of what was to come. The dept is very efficient I’m not sure if that’s all because its run by a private medical contractor. I arrived early and was told I would be seen at my allocated time and sure enough 4.15 came and in I went. The staff are calm no feeling of stress or being hurried. We go over the list of questions I answered on consent form it’s mainly in relation to any metal that might be present in the body either deliberately or accidentally, so make sure you have removed those rarely seen body piercings before you go in!!

I’m also weighted to determine the dose of radiation contrast injection, as I look down even though it’s in Kg and I’m a stones and pounds generation offspring, I’m disappointed my increased exercise routine over the last couple of months hasn’t offset the weight gain from the medication. It’s a difficult one because as you already suffer from treatment related fatigue, muscular and arthritic pain doing intensive exercise is really not an option for me.

It’s just another hurdle but one that can bring your positivity (you know that thing that’s always quoted as being a major benefit to patients to the floor) we are constantly bombarded with messages of stay positive and when you just find you can’t, you feel like your failing in your “war on cancer” another hated term. I can’t believe any patient ever came up with that, the implication that you didn’t try hard enough or lost the battle being somehow your own fault is frankly disgusting. I have stood outside funeral homes and heard people discuss how the deceased gave it no go at all, a typically Irish reaction to not understanding the complexity of cancer.  I wouldn’t want anyone to walk a mile in my shoes, but really until you get this bugger of a disease you have no idea what it is like for a patient or how hard they actually tried to stay, but it’s out of their control…….

I  went prepared no metal on me and wore my nice warm hoodie for the cold air-conditioned scanning room. As they lay me down on the moveable track and got ready to put in a line in my arm I hoped my tactic of having my regular bloods taken from back of my hands had left me with good enough veins to get the cannula in without too much poking around for a good vein. Luckily in it went first attempt and when they flushed it through no pain so we were good to go.

They popped in the luminous orange ear plugs and the wedges of padding to keep my head in position, are you Ok Kay? I gave the thumbs up sign and then closed my eyes before they locked my head into the camera cage that sits just above your nose. I feel the sensation of being loaded into the machine head first and try to put all thoughts of it possibly being  similar to going into the back of a hearse away…….. it was time to try to block all bad thoughts from my mind and find my positivity or Zen but all I could do is concentrate on not opening my eyes as the machine above hammered my head with a continual barrage of high decibel sequences.

I tried to imagine the noise was actually coming from the building site outside or a very loud woodpecker but then it is interrupted by a sequence that sounds like the fire alarm is going off, I wonder momentarily if it has and they have all run out of the building and left me there…. should I press the emergency pump bell in my hand, my anxiety grew and I squinched my eyes tighter and tighter.

Suddenly I was moving again and I hear a familiar voice its muffled because of the ear protection Are you Ok Kay? I give another thumbs up but don’t feel that enthused because I knew I’m going back in again its just a quick slide out to administer the contrast injection. The voice tells me I’m doing really well and it will all be over in five mins as I slid back in to the donut the barrage of noise began again but this time my dry mouth is making me cough and the heat from the contrast is making me regret the choice of clothing I was wearing, as the warmth surged through my neck and head. I keep telling myself don’t press that bell, don’t open your eyes but with one involuntary cough they open. I’m staring through a gap in the head brace but it’s so close to my face and I’m so close to the inside of the machine just inches from my face I wanted to shout I’m a cancer patient Get me out of here!!!

All I’m missing are the creepy crawlies and the rats to really top off the whole experience. I wonder how people who are claustrophobic cope.

Then it ends and I’m released from my shackles they help me to sit up and to walk outside to waiting area where I wait to have the cannula removed by the lovely Laura, she makes sure I’m feeling ok before I’m released back to the care of my waiting husband, who unfortunately for him, quips “there wasn’t much to that” just a week to wait for results, one long week of anxiousness, the scan was the easy part….