Monday, June 20, 2011

Buddying up to Barium

Her name is Sandy. For nearly five years she’s been bringing me warm blankets and wrapping me up in them while I sit in the imaging center’s waiting room, and today I finally learned her name. Leeanne I know—she’s the one who actually does the radiation work. And Kelly, who does the intake and works with me on how I’m going to pay for this procedure that we’re calling The Last CATscan. I let them all know that it needed to be clear, showing nothing except the small bladder tumors we already know are there.
            On the drive over, hungry and thirsty, I saw a bright yellow finch fly across Hilltop Road, and I took it as a good omen. But that wasn’t the case. I didn’t anticipate being put in a different waiting room—you’d think it wouldn’t matter, but I’ve always been in the same waiting room, the one with the clock so I could gauge how close I was to meeting my time goals. (One sips barium over about an hour and a half before the machine experience; one does not gulp.) I didn’t expect that the barium would upset my empty tummy and intensify the “What? No caffeine this morning?” headache, but it did. I also couldn’t foresee that having the IV line put in my right arm would hurt, despite my “excellent” veins, nor that the contrast dye going into that arm would be even more painful—these things had never happened before. Leeanne flushed the line with saline again, and decided that the pain was due to holding my arm above my head, as instructed; she put my arm down flat on the table, which helped, and then chafed my cold hands while the dye went into my system.
            I think my body is done with it all, the way it was done near the end of chemo, when the nurses had trouble finding a good vein. I love these women for their care of me and professionally kind manner. I’m grateful for whomever figured out the new formula for barium that tastes like water instead of powdered chalk. I love going in and asking questions, learning new things; for example, 98.2 percent of the energy it takes for an X-ray is expended in heat; only 1.8 percent goes toward making the image, which is why the room is sweltering by the end of the day. But I am truly praying that this scan is clear and the last one I will need.

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