Jelena smiling and doing a strong arm selfie

Welcome back to Life As A Cancer Survivor. Jelena here and today I’m going to talk to you about all the diagnostic tests that I underwent in order to both stage my cancer and to have all of the images that all of the doctors on my team needed. I’ll discuss all the five tests that I had to undergo and why but if you’re not sure what some of the tests are or if you don’t know what any of the machines look like, watch for a future video where I will discuss each of those in more detail and show you some pictures of what each of those machines look like. If you or a loved one is a cancer survivor and you had to undergo a test that I didn’t talk about in this video let me know in the comments below even if it’s not for colorectal cancer.

Barium smoothie for CT scanAs I mentioned in my last video my colonoscopy doctor got me in touch with the imaging office for me to do a CT scan also known as a cat scan and that was scheduled for May 31st, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. For this CT scan, they had me drink the Barium smoothies, 450-milliliter smoothies, one every hour, and then they had me walk the halls to get it circulating through my body faster. Then at 11 a.m. they called me back, I had to change into scrubs, and then they put the IV into my elbow pit to get me ready for the scan.

You have to stay very still and hold your breath for the CT scan and since the tech can’t be in the room, the machine itself talks to you it tells you when to take a deep breath, to hold it, and counts down how long you have to hold it, and then tells you when you can breathe again. After the first two scans, the tech came in and said that the doctor would probably want a full head through the abdomen scan, so for that one, I had to hold my breath for 27 seconds for them to get that full scan.

After that, the fun part came. She tested my IV by pushing a saline solution into it which you can taste in the back of your throat. Then came the iodine contrast. The tech warned me that I would probably get a hot flash like feeling starting in my arms going to my throat and then ending in my groin but that it would go away after a few minutes. I thought okay it sounds weird but whatever. So she puts the contrast in and sure enough, I felt it in my arms first because that’s where it went into first, then I felt it in my throat, it almost felt like my throat was closing up a little bit but she had warned me about it so I knew that it was something to be expected, then as the machine was rolling in and telling me to take a breath I could feel it in my butt and it moved up to the groin and it totally felt like I was peeing my pants. I had to try super hard not to laugh because the machine was telling me it was time to hold my breath and I was not supposed to move so they could get clear images. So I tried hard held my breath and the tech said that they came out clear so I held it well. Then I had to wait a few minutes, get another dose of contrast, do another two scans, and then I was free. I could finally go home and eat some breakfast because I had to fast for four hours before this test so I was starving.

Friday it was time for test number two that the colonoscopy doc set me up for, the rectal GoLytely prep jugendoscopic ultrasound, also known as a rectal EUS which is what I’m gonna call it for the rest of the video. Since this was another test that uses equipment that goes up your butt to check out things in there it required another colonoscopy prep. This time though I did the ironically named GoLytely prep because you certainly aren’t going lightly after you finish off that gallon jug with the powder.

Again I was starving when I went in for this test because I had to fast the whole day before and I had to go to the hospital for this procedure to be done. But when I checked in I immediately got taken back to a room and when I got there the first nurse had a lot of trouble getting my IV in. She did it really slowly and it was really painful and then she thought she had it in too far so she backed it out a little bit and then she didn’t know if she had it in right so she went got another nurse and the other nurse checked it and said oh it’s blown out we can’t use it so she took it out and then that second nurse just jammed it in really fast. It hurt like crap but it was in and it was over with quickly rather than the long, drawn-out push in so that was not fun.

But then I got to go to sleep for the procedure and when I woke up I was super groggy I was stuck in a loop of asking John over and over and over again what time it was? How long did the procedure go? Did he get lunch while I was asleep? Over at least five times. Probably more. He would say more.

The following week I got a second CT scan this time at the radiation oncologist’s office he called it a mapping CT scan and wanted this one done so that he could tell exactly where he needed to focus the radiation for my treatment. For this scan I had to lie face down they gave me a positioner for my face to lay it down in so that I could breathe and then I was also supposed to hug it to keep my arms out of the way of the scan since they’re scanning down by my butt. My butt, by the way, I had to pull my pants and underwear down, but they oh so graciously put a towel over it so that I could be modest. They used a marker to put three dots on me, one on either side of my hip/butt area and one at the top of my butt crack. Then they also taped a wire, right down my butt crack, so that they would have a point of reference when looking at the scan. Once the scan was done they took the dots and they put pluses over them and then put a piece of circular tape on each one to keep track of where that position is because if those were the right spots they would use those to line me up in the radiation machine to make sure they had me positioned exactly in the right spot every time that I went in.

Test number four was an MRI five days later. My radiation oncologist said that the MRI would give better images to the surgeon so he could better know where exactly all of my organs and stuff were located when he goes in for surgery. My radiation oncologist even had a preferred center for me to go to that would give the clearest images to my surgeon. Once I got there I had to change into two hospital gowns, one opening to the front one opening to the back, and take off all of my clothes including my underwear.

When we go to the room with the MRI machine the tech says, well the doctor probably didn’t tell you about this but when you lay down on your back your rectum deflates so in order to get a good image of it they would have to inject a gel into my rectum that I would have to hold for the entire hour for the MRI. I pretty much just said whatever I’ve had so many things shoved up my butt the past like two weeks what’s one more thing.

So once the gel was in it basically just felt like I had a lot of gas, that I had to hold in for an hour. After that I got a starter IV, but they didn’t put anything in quite yet for the first part of the MRI. Then I got headphones and listened to some music and after about five or six songs I came out and then that’s when they started putting stuff into the IV.

Jelena smiling and doing a strong arm selfieMy final scan was a PET scan, which stands for positron emission tomography, and that was done two days after the MRI. I had to fast for six hours again before this test but this time I didn’t wake up super early in the morning to eat something I slept through the night so dinner was my last meal. When I went back for the scan they told me that the injection was sugar with a radiation tracer and that I would have to lay still in a chair for an hour while I waited for that to circulate through my body so in went yet another IV she tested it with a saline solution to make sure it was working, I got the nasty taste in the back of my throat, so she left to go get the injection.

When she came back, she came back with this toolbox looking thing it was metal and big and she opened it up and there was a huge metal looking syringe in there, I couldn’t even see what was in it. When I commented about how crazy it looked she said oh lead is the only thing that blocks gamma rays and so the toolbox is covered in lead and the syringe has a lead casing around it to protect her from the gamma rays. Also, the half-life of the radiation in the injection was about 20 hours so for the next 20 hours, I would be emitting gamma rays. So once she gave me the injection I just sat back in a recliner waited for half-hour. After a half-hour I had to drink a bunch of water because they wanted me to empty my bladder right before I went in for this scan because apparently for the PET scan a full bladder acts like a wall and you can’t see anything. Unlike for like an ultrasound you need it full and it acts as a window. Who knew?

The scan itself started out with a quick CT scan. Then the table started moving bit by bit through the machine. After the test was done the nurse said that the machine had divided me up into seven segments from my head down to my pelvis and that the machine imaged each of those seven segments for two minutes.

Whew! That was a lot of tests in just a little over two weeks. One thing I learned from all of these tests is to plan on being at the doctor’s office for a few hours for each one. There’s quite a bit of prep that they have to do to get you ready for those tests so it’s never just an in-and-out appointment. It felt like a whirlwind when I was going through it all but I was focused on getting through all of these tests because that would give me more answers as to how severe the cancer was. Being able to focus on one test to the next, helped the cancer be a little less mysterious because each one showed a clearer picture of what exactly was going on inside my body so we could get a better treatment plan figured out for me.

If you enjoyed this video please take a second to hit the like button over here and if you haven’t already please subscribe to my channel also. And if you missed my diagnosis video to hear how I got to this point, oh hey, look there it is right there click on it or you can save it for later. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week!

*This video was originally published on October 30, 2019

*Link to My Cancer Diagnosis post


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