Friday, August 08, 2008

Radioactive Man!

I was in the PET Waiting Room. It's where we who have been injected with radioactive sugar go.

There was an older gentleman there in a wheelchair accompanied by a younger man, his son, I presumed. The son was holding up a magazine with pictures of the upcoming Oliver Stone movie about George W. Bush, "W."

Chair Guy: "Oh, no. Who's gonna want to see that? We've been stuck with him for eight years. He's run our country into the ground, destroyed the military, wrecked the economy -- a TRILLION dollars for Iraq? -- and now they think I'm gonna spend two hours more with him? I can't wait to get RID of him!"

I laughed.

He smiled over at me and said, "What you in here for? Got cancer?"

"Just for tests. Don't know. They're testing for lymphoma."

His eyes softened for a moment, like he'd been punched. "Well, I hope you don't get it. But you want to know what's the worst part?" he asked with a devilish glint in his eye.

I smiled, "No."

"Well, the chemo is bad but it ain't half as bad as all these damn tests, and sitting around in these rooms. It's so tedious."

We laughed together, but I was wondering what he'd already been through and how much I loved his spirit. Laughing to the end. Taking jabs at Dubya. Go, man!

I had brought a book with me ("Mississippi Sissy," which I am loving) so I could make the time pass pretty easily. I'm starting to get used to waiting. What I have learned is that the earlier you show up, the less waiting you end up doing.

I arrived an hour early and was handed a clipboard where I was to list all my medications. I groaned at the guy at the desk, "Really? Nobody told me...." Someday I need to write them all out. (The one I keep forgetting is Cozaar, which sounds like a Marvel comic jungle guy named "Ka-Zar" whose name I can't remember, either.)

Already, there in the PET Waiting Room, they had given me something to drink. "Do you want it in apple, banana or berry flavor?" (I chose berry). And the nurse, a confident assertive woman, had inserted an IV port ("You have great veins but you shouldn't let them poke this one anymore. It's got too much scar tissue.") And the white haired nurse had injected that port with the radioactive sugar. ("In the chamber, you're gonna feel really hot, in some private places, just warning you.")

What? They're going to radioactively fry my "private places?"

A large black man with a Caribbean or maybe African name and accent brought me to the PET room.

I put my book and glasses on a tray.

"Lie here. I'll get some pillows."

It was a long, narrow "bed" with sheets, foam knee supports, stretching out of a yawning circle. Not a tunnel. More like Stargate.

After putting pillow supports beneath my knees, feet and head, he took one more pillow and laid it on my forehead. "Now stretch your arms back over your head," he instructed, in essence using my own arms to lock down my head.

"Once we start, you can't move for 48 minutes. You okay?"

I felt okay at first, but then after about a minute, before they got started, I asked for another pillow to put under my hands, because the position began to feel like my arms were being pulled out of my shoulder sockets.

Soon, the procedure began, starting with my lower body. After about 10 minutes, my arms were hurting again. But I saw that they weren't in the circle, so I could shift them a little bit, which didn't help much. But I wasn't to move, so I just kept them in place and started singing the songs from Pantheon Bar & Grill in my head, beginning at the Prologue.

I took it song by song, word by word, taking my mind off my arms. By the time my upper body and head were in the Stargate, I was beginning to hurt. I thought about the Bush administration again (of course), and tried to push the image of a grinning Dick Cheney, TortureMaster, out of my head until I imagined him selling Home Torturing Devices on the Home Shopping Network after he finishes out his jail time.

I finally arrived at "My Thanksgiving Prayer," the last song in Pantheon. The Stargate was now completely surrounding my face and arms. The agony was just about to be too much when I suddenly heard, "Okay, we're done. You can move now."

Oh, god. It hurt almost as much to move my arms back down as it did to hold them in place. But after five minutes, it all returned to normal.

Then, he said, "Okay. You ready for the CT Scan?"
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