I’m starting down a new path. Cancer.

PET-scannerA mole was diagnosed as melanoma and I’m set for surgery in 2 weeks. While I realize it’s serious, I didn’t know how serious until the surgeon said he would refer me to oncology. When he said that word, my mind stopped working. I know so many who’ve been through chemo and I’ve always said I’d want to consider any and every treatment before chemo. A few women friends went through chemo after breast cancer and have never been the same.

What will I do? Will this affect my memory? My thinking processes? My ability to do run a business?

To make the situation more difficult and stressful, I live in two different places, Austin Texas being my homestead and Cape Cod for the summer and fall. My TX doctor called me with biopsy results as I was awaiting a ride to the airport to return to the East Coast. How will I get this done and also where? We don’t have doctors on Cape Cod, we return to Austin for all that. I was told about Marion Kravitz here in Orleans who is a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology. Her office referred me to 2 surgeons and the second one got me in the same day and put the process in motion, set a date for surgery, set up a PET scan, and put me in touch with oncology. I am so fortunate to find people here to work with and it looks like it will all be done at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.

On Tuesday I had a PET scan.

A positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET-CT) scan is an imaging test used to learn more about the cancer’s stage and where it has spread to. A PET-CT scan is a way to create pictures of organs and tissues inside the body. A small amount of a radioactive sugar substance is injected into the patient’s body. This sugar substance is taken up by cells that use the most energy. Because cancer tends to use energy actively, it absorbs more of the radioactive substance. A scanner then detects this substance to produce images of the inside of the body. A PET-CT scan is done by a nuclear medicine technologist or radiologic technologist.

You don’t need someone to drive you for this as there are no side effects, and with a house guest, it was easier to just go on my own. As I was getting ready to leave, my friend Mary said she was coming. And I was glad she did. We chatted away as I was waiting for the radioactive stuff spread around my body, so I was calm. Once I entered the chamber, I was still calm. And then I freaked out. Yes, it’s a bit claustrophobic, but not awful, you can still see plenty of space around you. I freaked because I realized the significance. This was the first step in my cancer treatment.

You must lie still and on your back, with pillows and something under your knees. Your whole body is in the chamber which looks like an industrial washing machine. You are wrapped in a blanket (all machine rooms in hospitals are cold), with a strap holding your arms by your side and a band to keep the feet from flopping. The imaging goes all around you and every two minutes you come out a bit. After 18 minutes, you turn around and they get the rest of the body. The technicians were very nice and stayed with me the first few minutes until I calmed. And then I was fine, realizing if I didn’t stay still, I may have to repeat the scan.

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