CT, MRI and biopsy

Thursday 1 September

Time for the MRI and CT scans. The surgeon also managed to fit me on the same day in for the biopsy procedure (where they cut a couple of small lumps out of the suspected tumour for scientific analysis to confirm the diagnosis).

As I had previously an MRI scan last week for investigations into lower back pain, this didn’t worry me. I was aware a CT scan was similar but with the addition of an injection of iodine solution to help highlight the scan results.

However, I have never had a general anesthetic before – never had my tonsils out, never had my appendix out, never broken a limb. Only set foot inside a hospital to collect my wife and newly born children.

Anyway, I was quite relieved all three procedures were being done on the same day. Kill three birds with one stone.

The CT scan came first. The CT scan takes images from the groin up to your chest, attempting to identify whether the cancer has spread to any other major organs.

A pretty, young nurse struggled to find a vein in either arm and eventually got a canula inserted into my right hand. I was then injected with the iodine which gave an odd sensation of warm fluid circulating round your tummy, exerting slight pressure on your bladder but not uncomfortable.

The MRI scan, which is a more detailed scan of the problem area, followed immediately and, best of all, I was able to bring my own music CD to help pass the tedious 50 minutes lying horizontal and motionless under the scanner. So, I was probably the first patient to have an MRI scan while listening to The National, The Kills and The Fall.

Some people find the MRI scan slightly claustrophobic as you are enclosed in a tube structure that makes various mechanical, whirring noises as the scanner is re-positioned for each pass. However, this didn’t bother me at all. I found it quite relaxing.

After both scans, I went to a room awaiting the biopsy. I answered a set of questions (diabetes, metal adornments, allergies etc) and had a chat with the anesthetist and the surgeon. Surprisingly, I actually felt pretty calm and laid back – I was only going to be out for 15 minutes and this was a very routine procedure.

A nurse accompanied me down to the theatre (well actually a compact room adjacent where the anesthetist does her work). She injected me with something via the canula saying ‘This will make you feel sleepy’. Next thing, I knew, I was in the recovery room with a nurse telling me ‘Norman, Norman – the operation is over and you’re in the recovery room’. My vital statistics (blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature) were monitored and I was quickly wheeled back to my room.

Initially, I’d hoped to return home but, as the biopsy was done at 18:15, I had to stay in overnight as my vital statistics were still being measured on a regular basis.

In fact, after the procedure, I was on a real high – I think it was probably the combination of the drugs and fact that I had surmounted this first (albeit small) hurdle. I vividly remember lying awake at 03:08am after being disturbed by a night nurse to take my BP yet again and denting something like:

‘Most awful and surreal week of my life. Lots of tears, emotional roller coaster but I am pulling round now and looking forward’.

The following morning, I deleted that dent and only a couple of close mates ever saw it. The reason was that I still wasn’t mentally prepared to share this news with a (relative) bunch of strangers or even sure whether I wanted to.