After completing six exhausting rounds of chemotherapy – it was time: the moment we have all been waiting for, and the life or death situation. It was calling. My first PET scan was meant to be a few weeks after my last cycle of chemotherapy and my first dose of scanxiety settled in.
I didn’t realise how boring a PET scan was. I had been nervous, biting my nails, and tearing my hypothetical hair out! It was a stressful wait. The nurse escorted me to a separate room, where they injected me with radiation and I was to wait an hour and a half before I even had the scan. Up until this point, I never previously had a PET scan before due to a complication halfway through chemotherapy, instead, I had an x-ray.
The wait was bloody boring… I’ve never been one to distract myself when I’m nervous, so I just sat there waiting… making myself more nervous… the nurse showed me what the scanner looked like, as I’ve been known to be a tad claustrophobic. I can do that, I think. The scanner looked doable.
As the time was finally up, she took me to the scanner and I could feel my heart pounding. This is it. I lay down on the uncomfortable table, and place my hands above my head. Right, she says. The scan will be about 30 minutes, we’ll take a CT first so I’ll be coming in and out to give you the dye. Sound. I didn’t really listen as the nerves continued to block my ears.
She placed a blindfold over my eyes, to help settle the claustrophobic feeling. It worked, a little. At first, I just closed my eyes, waiting for it to be all over but then waves of anxiety would wash over me, I can’t just lay here. So I started counting to 60 seconds and then repeat. I did this until it was all over. Thank gosh.
The scan wasn’t so bad, it’s boring if anything.
Results day was around the corner. And I had brought my army with me; my dad, sister and my niece and nephew. I feel sick. I took many deep breathes to calm myself down.
Waiting rooms felt like the new normal. How many times have I seen these four walls? After more waiting around, a nurse finally came to take my weight and height. I was then greeted by a radiographer; he seemed really lovely. He sat me and my dad both down, and cleared his throat.
So Nicole, how did you find chemotherapy? Any side effects? I had to give him a timeline of my chemotherapy events and what happened etc.. suppose, a catch up. But we came here for the juicy stuff, my scan results…
And this is what he said,
“Your tumour has responded really well to chemotherapy… however…” there it is, the however that sunk my stomach. “There appears to be 1cm-3cm of it still left over… in which case the next step now, is radiotherapy. But young people are better off with having proton beam radiotherapy… as the side effect later on in life are a little less harsh.” Proton beam radiotherapy, okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. “Unfortunately, the UK in this moment of time, don’t have proton beam radiotherapy. So we are looking at sending you to Florida.” Florida? Sorry? What? “We’re just waiting to hear back from the NHS panel to see if they will accept you.”
My head was spinning and tears filled my eyes because I felt so overwhelmed. Florida? I was going to Florida…