Here is where I will spend the better part of two hours on Monday morning. This is a PET scan machine, like the one I will use at the Ashland - Bellefonte Cancer Center later this morning.
PET is short for Positron Emission Tomography (ain't that a mouthful?) It is is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body. My Oncologist, Dr. Kirti Jain tells me that this machine will pick up any tumors in my body the size of the head of a pin. Wow!
Most of my readers know that I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December, 2004. The prognosis was not good. "Stage Four - and Incurable" were the sobering words used to describe my situation. 18 - 22 months average survival time was what I could expect for my type of malignancy. However, after two surgeries, a radio frequency ablation, and two six month courses of chemotherapy, I am (to the pleasant surprise of Dr. Jain) still here!
Part of my ongoing followup involves periodic CT Scans (every three months) and a PET Scan twice per year. The combination of the scans and the monthly blood work (which measures certain CEA markers in my blood) help Dr. Jain determine whether or not I continue to be in remission. Today I am scheduled for the scans, and Linda and I will see Dr. Jain on Friday for the results.
This will be my fourth or fifth PET Scan. (I've kind of lost count) The whole thing takes about two hours to complete. First they check my blood sugar. It seems that the test can only be done if the blood sugar level is less than 150. They then inject me with a radioisotope, and for the next hour, I will sit in a recliner in a dark room behind a lead screen, while the magic juice circulates throughout my body. Then it is on to the machine for approximately another hour while the images are taken from head to toe. Obviously it is a slow process. Your body moves through the "donut" and slow increments, and it is not painful (except for the one time when I wasn't exactly straight on the table and I had a lot of discomfort as my elbows and shoulders moved slowly through the machine pinching them severely for several minutes). The toughest part is simply lying so still for such a long time on the little narrow belt.
As soon as the PET is completed, I will then go to down the hall for the CT Scans of my abdomen and pelvic area. One scan will be done without contrast and one with. These only take 20 minutes or so. The combined images from the PET and CT will allow Dr. Jain to determine whether or not the cancer is back, and what course of action (if any) should be taken.
What a blessing it is to have this type of nuclear medical technology at our fingertips. A generation ago, much of the technology and treatment options we have today, were not available. Certainly not locally and outside places like Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, or M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I am so thankful for Dr. Jain - for his experience, and for his kind, caring treatment. It means a lot to have a doctor like that.
More than anything else, I thank God for the "Great Physician" who has been on my case since day one. It's only by God's grace and His sovereign will that I am still here today. Every day is precious. I have come to appreciate the everyday things more than ever before. There is always that few days of anticipation between the scans and getting the results, but I have learned that worry and anxiety will accomplish nothing. Whatever the outcome, God knew the results before the world began. None of it come as a surprise to Him. He has a plan for my life, and I can rest assured in it no matter how long - or how short.
I will praise His name, no matter what the outcome may be.