I’ve been dreading today since we scheduled this follow-up CT Scan three months ago. As part of the Wilms Tumor study, Mary Hazel is required to have these scans every quarter for a year and then every six months after that. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer these awful scans to the even more awful thought of chemo, so I won’t complain too loudly. Having said that, it was pretty awful. There was a lot of screaming, thrashing about, and full-body protests. And Mary Hazel wasn’t happy either.
I woke up Little Girl this morning at 4:00 so she could get her milk on before the cut-off time of 5:00. She willingly obliged and then thankfully fell right back to sleep in the big bed. I woke her up ten minutes before we walked out the door at 7:00 so she wouldn’t have to see the other members of our family enjoying raisin toast with peanut butter. I was feeling very happy that the timing was working out so nicely. We dropped off Poppy and Charlie at a friend’s house where they stayed until it was time to walk to school.
As I drove to the hospital, that feeling of dread became more apparent and I realized that my stomach had been in knots for days. Even if the results of the scan are all that we hope and pray for, the actual test is just plain awful. Mary Hazel was so happy and busy toddling around the Radiology Waiting Room that it made me even sadder that she would be taken by surprise. “Oh, look Sweetie – it’s Tigger wearing a Santa hat. Isn’t that cute? Now look at him the whole time that nice nurse sticks a long needle in your arm. There, there. Please don’t hate Mommy.” The first time they stuck her, she bled. A lot. The nurses even asked if MH had clotting issues related to her condition. Russell and I looked at each other and answered “Not that we know of?” like it was a question. They promptly removed that IV and picked some new real estate of cute baby goodness. This time it was her foot. It seemed to take a little too long to get that one in, but it worked. As a bonus, Mary Hazel’s pink polka-dot leg warmers came in handy as nice IV site covers. Just when the crying subsided, it was time to poke several dozen syringe fulls of radioactive juice down the baby’s throat. This is, without a doubt, my least favorite part of it all. I had to sit in the rocking chair with her right arm pinned under my arm. I used my right elbow to pin down her left arm while Russell held her head in place as I shot milliliter after milliliter down her screaming throat. It was just plain awful. My husband has accused me once or twice of exaggerating details when I tell stories. I say that just makes stories more interesting. In this case, however, I know it took me exactly 40 minutes to force 24 syringes of yuck into Mary Hazel’s digestive system. We were supposed to administer even more, but I called it quits when the baby starting throwing up toxic juice. When I finally released her from her Mommy prison, she clung to me like a newborn orangutan and fell asleep as soon as her head hit my shoulder. It was so sweet and sad. I rocked her until it was time to get the scan.
All was well as we entered the dark room decorated with virtual fish tanks and under-the-sea mobiles hanging from the ceiling. We thought we were going to be lucky, like last time, and watch Mary Hazel sleep through the whole test. She probably would have except there was a problem with her IV. All the thrashing about earlier led to the catheter becoming crimped. When the nurse tried to push in the contrast dye, she realized it wasn’t going to work. They had to pull out the IV and place it for a third time. Needless to say, Mary Hazel woke up and she was downright incensed about the whole thing. More singing, more shushing, more hair stroking, more pleading for this morning to be over. After about 15 minutes, we were ready to try again. I think the poor baby was so exhausted that she didn’t have any fight left in her. She lay there blankly staring at the red cross-hair lights that shined upon her chest and held my hand as they moved her forward into the machine. The actual test only took about a minute. This is a good thing, but I declare, why does it have to take two hours to prepare for it!?
When we returned to our room, Mary Hazel immediately tensed up when she spotted the syringe still poised on the table. When she saw the nurse, she started whimpering and squirming. Just when I thought we were headed toward another meltdown, an amazing thing happened. Elmo. Sesame Street was on the TV in our room, but the sound was turned all the way down so we couldn’t hear it. As far as I know, our baby has never laid eyes on the little red monster before today. But when she was him dancing with Mr. Noodle, it was pure magic. Her swollen eyes lit up, she pointed at the television, and she just started giggling and giggling. All the trauma and bad mojo from the rest of the morning was immediately forgotten. She had moved on. She had discovered Elmo. After a few minutes of watching in wonderment, she looked me right in the eye and asked with her hands up in the air, “What’s this? What’s this?” This, my dear, is what we will be watching in exactly three months when we find ourselves back in this same exam room for this same procedure. God bless Elmo.
We won’t know the results of the scan until later this week. For tonight, I’m just relieved that we can mark this dreaded event off the calendar.