The oncologist ordered more tests – more blood work, an echo cardiogram, and a PET scan – after my initial visit a couple of weeks ago. The PET scan was the only test I hadn’t been through before, but I knew it was similar to an MRI, only with radioactive dye injected into your veins to see if cancer cells show up anywhere else in your body.
The scanner I was sent to is hauled around to different medical facilities in the metroplex by an eighteen-wheeler. The tech came to get me in the radiology waiting room of the hospital and then walked me outside to the parking lot where the truck was parked. We climbed onto the autolift on the outside of the truck and it slowly lifted us up to the side entrance. The door automatically raised as we approached, revealing an office area straight out of the Starship Enterprise. I halfway expected Leonard Nimoy to do my scan.
The tech took me back to the lab room first, where she checked my blood and then injected the radioactive dye. Sounds like it would be a big deal but it’s not. I didn’t feel, taste, smell anything. She explained that the longest part of the test is waiting for the dye to work its way through your body. Then the scan itself only takes about 15 – 20 minutes.
After about an hour, the tech came to get me and took me into the room with the scanner. She had me lie down on a narrow, somewhat inclined surface, with my arms to my side. I wiggled around a bit to get comfortable and then she strapped me in from either side with wide belts that covered my arms. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I couldn’t move. I shut my eyes, just like I do in an MRI, because although I’m not technically claustrophic, I don’t like the thought of being closed up so tightly.
As I was rolled into that confined space with my eyes closed, feeling a bit anxious, I was thinking of the conversation I’d had with the woman who had had her dye injection right before me. We had sat together for quite awhile, waiting for the dye to move through our bodies. Sitting there together, she’d told me her cancer was terminal, inoperable, and that she’d had all the chemo and radiation she could have.
I asked her what she was afraid of and she said, “the pain. But I’m okay with whatever time the good Lord gives me.”
“What are you looking forward to?” I asked.
“Going to my grandson’s graduation,” she said, beaming.
Lying in the cylinder of the scanner, those words, “terminal” and “inoperable” were fresh on my mind. Then it dawned on me what day it was. It was Saturday. Not just any Saturday, but the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. The day Jesus’ body lay buried in a tomb. The day before he rose from the dead.
No comparison, really, to a PET scanner cylinder, but I thought of him in there. I talked to him in there. I felt his presence with me. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks, and I wondered how they might show up on the scan. I wondered what parts of my brain were lighting up with those emotions of fear and sadness, overcome by gratitude and peace, remembering I wasn’t alone.
And neither was the woman who was in there before me.