The Cancer Diaries, Part 14


More back and forth to RVH, this time for another CT scan today. I arrived early, as usual, and then spent most of my time there waiting and reading. Not as long as I’ve had to wait in the past, but still a lot longer than the process itself. Like I always tell people: bring a book. Or books.

You remember me writing last post about a mixed-up bone density scan I was supposed to have last Wednesday? Well, by Monday morning, I hadn’t been informed of any re-scheduling, so when I registered at the imaging department for my CT scan, I asked the receptionist about it. She checked her computer, hemmed and hawed, then went off to the nuclear radiation office to talk to someone.

When she came back, she gave me the bad news. Seems I was supposed to have had it TODAY, about 90 minutes before I arrived. Damn. No one had called to tell me (and, yes, they have my landline and cell phone numbers, and both have answering machines). So I had it rescheduled AGAIN, this time for next week. Another day driving 120 km, and paying exorbitant parking fees. And hours of waiting in between.

I weary of driving back and forth, and don’t look forward to the lengthy wait doing nothing in the hospital (aside from reading) for the BD process. I really would have liked to have had both scans on the same day. Communication breakdown, as Led Zeppelin sang (did I tell you I interviewed them for the Ottawa Citizen when they came to play in the capital, in 1970? Ah, those were the days…).

Anyway, the CT scan process requires a full bladder, so I drank a lot of water before I left, with a water bottle in the car to sip more as I drove. Once registered, I had to make the usual change from streetwear into a hospital gown and coat. And then sit in a waiting room, my bladder creaking with fullness. I read a couple of chapters of a Len Deighton novel, Berlin Game, (my second time reading it), and some pages from Maryanne Wolf’s delightful book, Reader Come Home, on the neuroscience of reading.

About 30-45 minutes later, I was taken to another, smaller room, where a technician inserted an IV connector into my elbow. The first attempt didn’t work, so she had to pull it out and stick a new one in the other elbow. Not painful, however, and I certainly can’t fault her for my tricky veins. Then I sat and waited some more. This time I opened Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Killing Commendatore, and read a couple of chapters. And, just as I was starting a third chapter, I got called by another technician (nurse?) to move into a corridor, plunk my backside in yet another chair, and wait some more. Not very long, mind you; not enough to finish the next chapter.

Finally, I got called into the scan room. I put my book back in my bag, and followed the nurse. She directed me to lie down on the scanner bed, which was then extended from the maw of the machine. Once I was in position, she attached the IV drip for the dye they use to create contrast in the scan images. It creates a hot flush, along the skin, making my extremities tingle as it spreads. Strangely, even my perineum felt it. Not unpleasant, just unusual; it sort of felt like warm liquid was spreading over me. After a few moments to let it spread, the nurse left the room.

The bed slid into the scanner. Lights flashed. Motors hummed softly. A disembodied voice told me to take a deep breath. I did, and the bed moved slowly out of the machine, the scanner head whirling quietly through the dark plexiglass. The voice told me to breathe normally. There was another pause, then the bed slid in again and I was again told to hold my breath. The bed moved out and I could breathe again.

And that was it. The whole procedure took perhaps 10 minutes. It had taken me 75 minutes to get there, I had waited about 90 minutes, and had another 75-90 minute drive back home. All for a 10-minute scan.

I was told to sit up, grab my gear, leave the room, then wait in the corridor for three minutes to make sure I’m okay. And I was ignored after that. No one came in to say my three minutes were up, to tell me how to find a change room or where to exit. I read some more Murakami, then, guessing it was time to go, looked around to find a washroom or change room. Once I did, I got out of the gown and back into my street clothes, then worked my way back to the registration area. I left the hospital, tried to buy a parking pass, and when I saw the kiosk was again closed, I got in my car, and drove home.

Twice I’ve tried to buy a 30-day parking pass at RVH and both times the parking kiosk was closed. I don’t even know if anyone actually works there, since every time I try to get a pass, it’s closed. I’ve never seen anyone in it, even when I paid for parking. It’s a minor thing, true, but when you’re worrying about cancer, these little aggravations can become bigger issues.

Ah well, that’s it for today’s adventure. More to follow after my bone density scan next week, and, of course, after I start radiation treatment, in about two weeks.

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