My CT scan was listed as being for the 28th of June. This was a Friday afternoon at 3pm. Having seen the movies I assumed I would be in and out of the tube in moments, no problem. Having discussed it with Jo I decided to go on my own.
In true Google generation style I looked up about CT scans and found out the following.
‘This is a medical imaging procedure that uses computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic images or ‘slices’ of specific areas of the body. These cross-sectional images are used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in various medical discipline’
Well that makes sense! Still I wanted to know a bit more as having learnt about X-rays before I know that they produce radiation which can be harmful long term. It turns out that ‘On average, our radiation exposure due to all natural sources amounts to about 2.4 mSv a year’. This is from the sun and the natural things around us. This unit is a millisievert and is something I knew nothing about.
Now a traditional chest X-ray gives you 0.2 millisieverts, or the equivalent of 1 months radiation in one go. Not so bad really.
I also didn’t know that flying is a radiation risk. In fact if you have a return flight of 3.5 hours this is the same as an X-ray, or 0.2 millisieverts.
Now I fly all the bloody time and these units must just rack up. They also cause cancer if you get enough. Being a geek I worked out I have had about 100 flights, of roughly 3.5 average duration. This would give me 10 millisieverts of radiation, or approximately 4 more years that normal. Crickey.
Anyway. I digress. The CT scan gives you 18 millisieverts, or another 5 years of radiation. Seems the cancer risk is already 49% for a man this was unacceptable. I was going to call it off… I was going to…
Then I had a thought. I already have some form of cancer. Surely the health benefits of finding out what this was would outweigh the risks? Otherwise why had the doctor arranged it for me? I could ask for a shield for my privates anyway if I wanted, unless they were doing a full body scan, which I hadn’t heard him mention.
So I went in. After all we needed to know how swollen my spleen was and why it was hurting.
I pitched up to the hospital and waited around a little while. I was the only one on my own and I felt nonchalant about it. After all I was only going to lay in a tube for a bit. A man called my name out and I went in. I sat down and he asked me to sign a disclaimer. Then he said that I was having a full body scan with contrast. I asked what this was and he said it was a slightly radioactive dye that would be intravenously pumped into my body so they could see how it interplayed with my organs.
I hadn’t anticipated this and so asked him to check and also asked if I could have a shield. It turns out this had been ordered for me and that it would be full body, so I took a deep breath and let him puncture my arm. Again. For the third time in a week. I was starting to feel like a pincushion. He then put a plug in there so they could put contrast into me during the scan.
I then had to wait another 10 minutes. I was actually feeling a bit nervous at this point as I hadn’t anticipated this. The thing in my arm was also a little uncomfortable.
Before too long I was called in. I tried to make some light hearted jokes but I was really nervous inside. What would this dye be like, was it going to hurt? I laid down on the bed with my trousers down to my knees (boxers on, so not too embarrassing) and he hooked up my tube to a drip on the machine.
He commented that I was warm and sweaty and I just said I was nervous. No point lying, I was.
The first time I went in I was surrounded by the light of the machine. It’s not like the shows where you are in a tunnel, more a lipped ring that the bed moves you through. They asked me to hold my breath as I came through it for about 30 seconds so they could take the benchmark scan.
After this the man came back over and said they would try the contrast. This radioactive substance was clear and had a hose from the machine. He hooked me up and told me that I would feel a warm sensation in my throat and feel like I had wet myself. He pumped it in.
It felt like I had drunk a whole cup of tea in one go. The warmth the back of my throat was really peculiar and I had a very warm sensation in my crotch, like someone had rested a hot bowl on it. It was really peculiar but didn’t hurt so much as weird me out.
Testing done I did the same again in the tube, with this sunburst in my throat and then they let me get my stuff.
I headed off and went back to work, but due to the size of the swab on my arm (which bled a fair bit) I had to leave my long sleeve shirt on. I got through the rest of the day at work with no obvious sign (that I know of) that I was weirded out, but it had been quite an unsettling experience.