So before I begin let me reassure you that this test is a walk in the park compared to the MRI scan. For a start its shorter in duration and not so enclosed so much less claustrophobic. A computerised tomography scan or a CT scan provides detailed images of structures inside the body such as internal organs, blood vessels, bones and tumours. This provides a much clearer picture than any standard X-ray of what's going on inside the body and is normally requested prior to treatment such as radiotherapy and biopsies both of which I have ahead of me. It also, like the MRI, provides my team with more detailed information from which to tailor my treatment. Again I have no idea of this at the time, but have become a very quick learner on my 'gap' year.
The letter requesting my attendance at the hospital, again like the MRI scan, sets out what to expect, but in this case my experiences bear out that it was bang on the money. However after the MRI anything would have seemed easier and far less scary. The only problem I could envisage on the horizon was the fact you had to drink a large quantity of water within the two hours prior to the procedure. This helps to keep you hydrated but also fills the bladder and stomach so they can show up more clearly on the scan. Since having a baby the ability to keep large quantities of liquid in my bladder is nigh on impossible and don't even ask me to find my pelvic floor and concentrate on keeping it 'zipped' up like they tell you to do in Pilates because quite frankly I wasn't that sure where my pelvic floor was before childbirth and I have even less of an idea now.
So the tall order is to stop myself from having a wee before the scan takes place especially when the hospital is half an hour's drive from home, traffic dependent, and the ease of finding a parking space and then getting to where the scan is to be done are ahead. Still I am hardened now to this world of tests. Anything after an MRIs is mere child's play. Drink my own body weight in water and not pee for hours is nothing compared to the radiologist's version of MRI waterboarding.
Thankfully no traffic to hold me up and the distraction of singing along to radio 2 means I arrive at the hospital full bladder still intact. However on checking in with reception I am informed there is a delay. Patients are being sent to another site in order to reduce the waiting time. Now my full bladder has got me here without mishap or accident, but this could be very testing indeed. I am transported back to an excruciatingly embarrassing situation when as a 12 year old I was standing in a shop waiting to pay. It was pouring with rain outside and I desperately needed to wee. My mum was parked on double yellow lines waiting for me and I couldn't leave the shop without the much needed purchase (what it was I have obliterated from my mind over the years with the shame of what was to follow). The old dear in front was dithering doing that thing that Bill Bryson writes about so eloquently in Notes From A Small Island, in that she is taken by surprise that this transaction of purchasing something would end up with money needing to be exchanged. Well we are in just such a situation and my bladder can't hold on much longer and pelvic floors mean nothing to my 12 year old mind. After what seems like an eternity she finds her purse and after shuffling through it she hands over the money. I am feeling confident that I will get out of here without any problems. But as the shop assistant begins to serve me the till roll runs out. As she fumbles about looking for a new one I can't hold on any longer and waves of embarrassment and complete mortification overcome me as I feel the wee trickling down my leg. I am trying so hard to maintain it at a trickling flow but its hard and I am rooted to the spot. I can't and mustn't let go of what I now know to be my pelvic floors, but it's so tough. All I can think is thank god it's been torrentially raining as hopefully she'll think the damp spot on the floor is because I was dripping wet when I came in and not the start of shameful wee. Once the purchase is complete I run out of that shop as fast as I can and as I run faster I can't hold back anymore.
Well that's exactly how I feel now. I need this to happen here and now not at another place in walking distance down the road because I can tell you know it will turn into a walk of shame! As if reading my mind I am told that if I have drunk the water as instructed then they can see me here. I let them know that I have most definitely drunk the water. I am then ushered to a cubicle to get changed into a hospital gown which distracts me for a while longer. I am then directed to a small waiting room full of people all dressed in the same said gowns all holding plastic cups from which they are respectively sipping all looking quite disgusted after each mouthful and all looking decidedly grumpier than the next.
As I walk in I smile and say hello. Pleasantries are exchanged in as normal a way as they can be when you're all desperate for a pee and the gowns you are wearing leave very little to the imagination. You become very close quite quickly and as for dignity. Well you might as well check that in at the desk after your first appointment because you won't see that again until you've finished with all of this treatment world and when you get it back again you're not that fussed one way or another.
The talk very quickly turns to the delays in being seen. One woman says she should have been seen at 2.30 and another says she was scheduled for 2.45. Another man moans that he was booked in for 3.00 and as its nearly 3.30 he's going to have to pay another hour for parking. They all keep sipping from their respective plastic cups grimacing after each mouthful. They all continue to moan to each other when one of the group ask me when my appointment was for. I tell them my appointment is for 3.30. They all laugh saying I should be so lucky to get seen before 5. I am now starting to think that maybe the MRI wasn't so bad after all. If I am to be sat here waiting in a room full of perpetual moaners who are taking pleasure in the fact I will have to wait with a bursting bladder, I would rather be listening to Adele crooning about cracks in the pavement whilst wondering if I am displaying any unwanted sight of my very own 'crack' whilst sprawled face down on the MRI scanner. That would be preferable to another hour or so listening to this moaning.
I am trying to zone them out like I tried with the noise of the MRI, when one of them says that I'll probably be here even longer as I need to drink the water. Well that provides further cause for celebration at my expense. They begin to laugh and one of them says that not only is it a pint of water that needs to be drunk but that the water is warm and tastes weird. That's why they keep grimacing and are taking only sips. That's why they are all waiting because they haven't drunk the water as instructed very clearly in their appointment letter. I feel a moment of triumph passing over me and as the words come out of my mouth I am the most smug and self centred than I have ever been since getting my diagnosis. I tell them that I have drunk the water as requested on my appointment letter. The room falls silent. Everyone is staring at me with utter contempt and disbelief. You can hear a pin drop as the cacophony of moaning has been silenced by this one statement.
And just at the point with perfect timing I am called through to my appointment. I get up and as I leave the room I hear an eruption of voices all complaining bitterly that they have all be waiting for ages and why as one of them pipes up why was I being fast tracked? The last thing I hear is that I had drunk the water as requested whereas none of them had appeared to bother reading the letter. As the door closes I hear absolute outrage from the waiting room and all I can hope is that I can find another way out that doesn't involve me having to encounter this angry mob again and I find myself wistfully wishing I was back in the kind and forgiving world of the MRI where even though the process is tougher the company much kinder and collegiate.
When I am done I am ushered out another door back towards the cubicle and locker where my clothes are. I think I spy one of the angry mob but the need to pee has overtaken any fear of these people. If one of them tried to get anywhere near me now I wouldn't be responsible for my actions and I'd be liable to blow - and I can't be too sure from what end first!