Scan Day: A Primer, and Some Reflections
We are a year into this.
Rudy has had 7 CT scans and MRIs, 6 surgeries, and 10 weeks in the hospital.
I know the drill.
The precariousness of this day hits me a week before it happens, usually upon waking, when the morning fuzziness is still blocking the shadows and my brain hasn’t quite caught up. I try to push it to the corners and remember to breathe.
We’ve been existing in a place of hope and hard work these past three months, and the ignorance of the reveal is...[word too impossible to name]. We’ve been relentless when it comes to required appointments and surgeries, trying to defy the odds by uncovering every rock: functional medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, supplements, herbs... could this help him along his way? He’s been pushing so hard, staying so positive - what if the results crush us all?
When we arrive, I joke with the nurses like an idiot, trying to hide my sheer terror and heartbreak.
You see, we are also not the only ones here. There are babies and big kids that line the ward, kids with bald heads, and those in wheelchairs.
Moms that look just like me with tired smiles & polite greetings, ready to punch a wall or throw a chair, wrapped up in pleasantries. This is all of our lives; once every three months, life interrupted.
The IVs, the contrast that “tastes like sweat," the waiting. Rudy can endure a 16-hour surgery without tears, but he cries today. He is scared because during the last scan his vein blew when the nurse did the push, contrast solution pouring into his arm. He fears that will happen again. We are finally called to enter the freezing scan room. I welcome donning the weighted gown and neck shield to keep me warm and protected from carcinogenic radiation. Unlike my baby, who is totally exposed. This reality is…atrocious? Laughable? F’ing awful.
We start the process, zooming in and out of the space-age machine, and I look on, my hands clenched, my jaw clenched, and start my prayers. I see myself from above, a messed up still life - “Mother and Child, in CT scanner, checking for deadly disease, Panel One.” Picasso should come back to paint this one.
I think about the radiologist tech I can see through the glass - she is looking, looking, looking. What is she seeing? I squint to try and see her computer screen through the reflection of the glass, as though from this distance I could interpret anything. Why is she joking around with the other guy who is on his phone? Is it because the results are casual enough that she doesn’t show concern? Or is she just so used to this - watching cancer eat away at our babies - that she is immune to feeling anything at all?
We get through it. Say our thanks, and climb up to see the sunlight.
Hours later, I peek and the results are in... and they are good.
The treatment seems to be working. The hard work is worth something.
We start the clock again, breathe, and live again for the next three months.
Photo courtesy of author.
Emily Capece's son, Rudy, was diagnosed at the age of 12 with an ultra-rare form of liver cancer, Fibrolamellar Carcinoma. They are a year into this journey, which has included multiple surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. They live in Shaker Heights, Ohio.