That end of December post – good news for Christmas

The year has a mere three hours left in it, so it’s time I did an end-of-year roundup.

I am pleased to say that I had a meeting with my consultant just before Christmas and the news from the CT scan at the beginning of December is extremely good. He and his colleagues still cannot see any recurrence of the disease, so it is very much steady as she goes now. I am 4 1/2 years into remission and all is going very well – so much so that my regular meetings with him have now been put onto a 6 monthly cycle, so I don’t need to see him until 10th June, just before I go on holiday. So that’s excellent news.

I have, however, had a pretty miserable Christmas holiday this year. I’d had a cough for a couple of weeks before Christmas and this turned into the flu over the Christmas period. I spent most of Christmas week in bed, which is a real pain, as it was the first time forever that the two of us had all of Christmas off. I’m afraid I wasn’t very good company and it was only a visit to the doctor who gave me some antibiotics that has allowed me to turn a corner this week. So, we didn’t get to go to the Lakes as planned on Christmas Day – we didn’t actually do anything. What a waste.

We do have a couple of days in Scotland to look forward to this weekend, so let’s hope that the weather is OK and I can get some photographs taken. Have taken only one photograph all Christmas.

Looking back over last year’s post, I’m afraid that I could repeat what I said then. I am not taking photos like I used to, but look forward to new opportunities next year. San Francisco is going to be a bit of an eye-opener, I suspect, but if past experience is anything to go by, won’t yield many photographs. Oh, who cares? It’s being there and enjoying oneself that’s important, not taking photographs of it.

Finally, as always, I need to thank everyone who continues to help and support me with their love and kindness and support throughout the year. You really do make a huge difference and of all the resolutions that I could make tonight, the one I will make is to try to never take anything or anyone for granted.

Thank you.

How to have a CT scan

Not the sort of thing that you would choose to do, unless absolutely necessary, but I am sitting here starting the process of having another CT scan. I have lost count of how many this is now. Could be the six or seventh.

I thought I would describe what it’s like. What you have to do.

On arrival at the clinic you register your presence on the computer. No need to speak to the receptionist if you don’t want to. After waiting for a while, your name is called and the clinician comes to see you. You will have been given a questionnaire to complete by the clinic when they confirmed the appointment but inevitably, like me, you will have forgotten it. So, they give you another one and you tick all the relevant boxes.

In order for the CT to work properly, you need to drink a litre of a marker fluid. It tastes of aniseed and they offer various cordial flavours to mask it, but I prefer it neat. You have to drink this over a 45 minute period, two cups to start, then more at 15 minute intervals, leaving one cup for just before your scan. This fills the stomach and the bladder and allows the scanner to see your disease more easily, but you are allowed to use the loo if you want to.

You wait.

And then you are called through to the business end of the clinic.

You are handed a basket and a gown and strip down to your shoes and socks and underwear. Your watch and any other metal ornaments are placed in the basket.

A clinician inserts a cannula into a vein and secures it with tape. This is used later.

You wait.

You are called into the scanning room by the radiologist and place your bag of clothes to one side. the scanner is a large, cream-coloured machine with a table area to lie on and the donut-shaped business end that will move over the table and you later.

They ask you to lie down on the table with your feet over the bottom end. A pillow is below your head and you get yourself as comfortable as possible. The radiologist connects a plastic tube to the cannula that will deliver the dye into your blood shortly. If you are having your torso scanned, from neck to groin, as I do, they ask you to stretch your arms above your head out of the way, taking care not to snag the cannula and the tube.

The radiologist leaves the room and works behind his lead-glass window.

They inject the dye into your vein, telling you that you will feel a flush through the body almost instantly and that it might make you feel as if you have wet yourself. It’s amazing how quickly the flush passes through to the extremities; it’s almost impossible to believe that the blood flows so quickly.

The radiologist tells you that the procedure is about to begin. The scanner starts and the table is lifted into position so that your feet can pass through the hole in the donut. The donut passes across your body to reach your head end and you can see the x-ray scanning heads through the ribbon window on the inside of the donut hole. It gets into position and a discordant voice from within the machine tells you to breath in and hold your breath. Which you do.

The scanner then begins to move across your body. You can see the x-ray heads rotating through the window and as the donut moves down, on the face of a control screen, the international radiation symbol is lit.

Breathe normally, please.

The scan is repeated two or three times. It doesn’t hurt. It isn’t noisy like an MRI scan is. You just know that you are at the receiving end of some powerful x-rays. The flush and the procedure are over.

The radiologist comes back in and disconnects the tube and tells you that you can go back to the waiting area.

You wait.

The nurse comes back and removes the cannula, covering the wound with a plaster and you are then free to get dressed and leave. Via the loo…

A few days later, you will receive the results of your test, over the phone or, preferably, face to face with your consultant. I see mine on Wednesday next week, so we should be able to judge what’s been going on over the last 16 months since my last one.

Fingers crossed indeed.