Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scatological Issues and Radiology

On Tuesday November 13th, I went for a small bowel x-ray series.  The main purpose was to locate my primary tumor. Another reason was to determine if my small intestines were wide enough to swallow a “pill camera”- as is done in a capsule endoscopy.   The test involved swallowing about 16 ounces of a very white, chalky barium compound and then waiting for it to go through the small intestine and into the colon.  Along the way, there are x-rays taken at intervals of between 15-30 minutes. 
This is what bothers me about all these perpetual tests and procedures: the process should be explained in advance and not as things go along.  Finally, any possible side effects should be clarified up front.  For example, when I made my appointment for the x-ray series, the receptionist told me it would take “about an hour”.  It took 2 hours and 20 minutes.  The technician who was working with me said that was about normal and sometimes it can take up to 6 hours for the barium compound to travel into the colon.  Not exactly “an hour”.  Meanwhile, I had scheduled a conference call at work for 11:00. My appointment was at 8:30 am, so I thought I had plenty of time.  I missed the call. The radiology location was in a basement so I could not phone or email to inform my office that I would be unavailable. There is no service below ground.  And speaking of side effects, later in the day, I had a bowel movement and it came out completely white!  I gasped as I found this quite shocking!  If someone had made the effort to warn me, I would have been fine with it.

The first time I had a CT scan, my sister in law warned me about the effects of the injected dye.  For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, when dye is injected while you are laying on the CT scan table, it feels like you are urinating in your pants.  The technician refers to this as “you might get a warm feeling”, not that it feels like peeing!  At least I had advance notice on that occasion.

The radiology resident who was doing most of my small bowel x-rays said that they looked normal and that there was no sign of any tumors.  We’ll see what the actual report shows.

Meanwhile, I think my next step is the capsule endoscopy or pill camera.  This test will have me swallowing a “pill size” camera that takes pictures as it goes through my gastrointestinal system.  A few weeks ago, there was a post on the ACOR list about someone doing this test and the camera came out in the toilet still flashing pictures!  At least I have an idea of what I might expect and won’t be surprised if something weird like that happens and no one warns me.  I haven’t scheduled the test yet but I’m guessing it will take about an hour…

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

It took us 8 days to fully recover power, heat, hot water, and cell/ land line service. For two days there was no water of any kind. We live on the 6th floor of a high rise building and had to go up and down dark stairs armed only with flashlights. We are most fortunate that we did not suffer an emergency. Our apartment was cold and dark and loads of blankets didn’t help much. Our two cats were scared and confused. They know when something serious is taking place. This has been quite an education on what is important in life. 

On Friday, we got the electric back but still had no hot water or heat.  Thankfully, I must be in pretty good shape as I went up/down the 6 flights of stairs with cat food, groceries, a space heater and other necessities about 6 times on Saturday.  On Sunday, the elevators were back and Monday saw the restoration of heat and hot water. It was great to take a hot shower! Finally, internet and cable service returned yesterday. We are officially back to normal.

In business school, we learned a theory called Maslow’s  hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy is a pyramid that starts with basic necessities such as food, water and shelter and ends with self-actualization, which is autonomy and achievement as the highest level.  During the past week, I moved to the bottom of the pyramid as did most of my friends, colleagues and family that lived in the tri-state area. 

I went to work after the office was closed for 2 days (and was happy to be there since work had all the “luxuries” we didn’t have at home). It was still hard to concentrate. I was thinking of things I need to get in order to survive and make the home situation as comfortable as possible.  I had to walk to work since mass transit was not running. We quickly ran out of food, water and batteries as the week wore on.  I was able to get “amenities” at stores near my office - but then had to walk back home with gallon bottles of water and other heavy things and to haul it all up 6 flights of stairs with a flashlight! The so-called emergency lights in our stairwells were out all week!  Batteries were a scarce commodity and even now, I don’t think that there are any D batteries on the island of Manhattan!  On Thursday, I went to at least 6 drugstores looking for votive candles and finally found them at a 99 cent store near my office.

There are still many people who had a much worse time than we did – those that lost their homes, livelihoods, friends and relatives.  Even in our community, some apartments still have no power or heat and I feel quite sorry for what they are going through.

During the past week, I did not really think about my cancer, treatment choices or anything related to my health – just tried to get through the day and take care of the basics.  I rescheduled my small bowel x-ray series but have not spent any time looking things up, reading the posts on the ACOR list or dwelling on my situation.  It’s been quite refreshing to forget about all this cancer stuff for a week. 

Now that I am moving up on the hierarchy of needs again, I have my monthly Sandostatin shot as well as the small bowel x-ray series scheduled for next week.  I am meeting with my primary care physician after Thanksgiving to discuss my situation and choices as it relates to my cancer treatment – hopefully he will give me some perspective on the choices I face.

This morning the temperature plunged to 38 degrees. We are expecting a big Nor’easter today – I hope the power system and infrastructure here in NYC can deal with another storm. A lot of us are holding our breath!