Friday, September 19, 2008

Creeky Wheels

Tuesday morning my lungs started to hurt. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I couldn't quite get enough breath in. One of the potential side effects of Gleevec is fluid in the lungs, so of course I start worrying that my lungs are filling up with fluid. This persisted and was joined by chest pain on Wednesday evening, so I finally drove my stubborn ass into my GP's office on Thursday morning.

He checked my spleen, drew blood, did an EKG and listened to my lungs. Nothing seemed out of whack. To be safe he shoehorned me in for a CT Scan at Good Samaritan hospital that afternoon to make sure that my lungs were empty, there was no fluid around my heart and I didn't have any clots in my chest or lungs.

I drove over to hospital and tried to check in. They'd never heard of me. As they're on the phone to my GP trying to get things straightened out I joked to the receptionist that I was probably at the wrong hospital. She says "You're supposed to be at the hospital?" I tell her "Yes, at Good Sam." She laughs and informs me that I'm at a private radiology clinic and the hospital is another 1/4 mile down the road. Feeling a little stupid I make my way over to the actual hospital with my proverbial tail between my legs.

Filling the radiology admitting form out I got a little emotional. It lists a set of conditions that the department might need to know about before scanning you. I had to check the box that says I have cancer. I've never had to check "Yes" for any of those little boxes before. It's strange how such small things force you to think about the cancer and make it more real.

This was my first CT Scan. It's a large donut shaped machine with a movable bed that you lie on which moves you back and forth through the donut hole. They hook you up to an IV (my second stab of the day, now I have holes in both arms) and pump you full of saline. The machine whirs into action and you alternate between holding your breath and breathing normally as they slide you back and forth through the donut.

During the scan they injected me through the IV with Iodine to provide contrast. I was told it would burn and give me hot flashes. I hear the IV gurgle a bit as the Iodine works it's way into my blood stream but feel nothing. Suddenly I'm literally wetting my pants. I think to myself that there's no way they pushed that much fluid into me. When the nurse comes back into the room I sheepishly tell her I think I wet myself. She smiles kindly and says not to worry, it was just a feeling caused by the Iodine. Sometimes it can give you the sensation of urinating. Thankfully, when I get off the table, I'm dry as a bone. Strike two for me today....

Wendy arrived at the hospital just after my scan was finished (she drove over an hour to be with me). We waited in a tiny waiting room till a radiologist told us the scan looked normal. I was glad my lungs were empty and I wasn't retaining fluid around my heart but it's frustrating when you hurt and the doctors can find nothing wrong.

My GP decided to schedule an Echo Cardiogram for Friday morning to make sure I wasn't experiencing any type of heart failure (which is another possible side effect of Gleevec). We showed up at the cardiologist's office at 7:30am (after a heroic effort from Wendy to get me out of bed) where I was gooped up and probed by a technician.

Echo Cardiograms always scare me because you can see how utterly fragile the heart looks with it's thin little valves constantly flapping away. It's amazing to see the structure and imagine how many things could go wrong and yet it sits there stubbornly beating away. The whole procedure took about 20 minutes, after which we were on our way back home.

Happily, the results came back completely normal. So now I feel like a guilty hypchondriac for having all these tests run on me and not one of them show something wrong. I guess I can chalk this up to another phantom side effect of the Gleevec like my "kidney pain" that turned out to be muscle spasms and cramps in my back. Maybe I am paranoid but at least I know I'm healthy*.

* Minus the cancer of course. :-)

No comments: