Radioactive Retort

The local hospital just called to schedule my PET/CT scan. On Friday, I’ll have a bit of gallium pumped into my system and then spend three hours strapped down while a machine searches my entrails for biochemical anomalies. Since this is a nuclear radiology procedure, I will need to wait patiently for the results like anyone else. The retired radiologist of the family insists that these kinds of scans are out of his scope.

I’m starting to get nervous. Though I’m not claustrophobic, I don’t know how comfortable I will feel being restrained for several hours. After over 16 hours without food, I already know that I’m going to be hangry and difficult to work with. But, in all seriousness, I’m feeling a bit of distress about what the scan will show.

Are the lumps on my knees due to fungal growth in my joints? Do the skin ulcers across my arms, face, and scalp represent fungus living there? Is there some other tumor, abnormality, or potential root cause of my eclectic symptoms? Or will the scan show that everything is normal, sending us back to square one?

After ten months of actively trying to figure out what’s going on, I know that we’ve finally made progress. I have an amazing team of doctors, I have an amazing family, and I have a working diagnosis: disseminated coccidioidomycosis with residual fatigue due to mitochondrial oxygen consumption deficit. (Basically, my original valley fever infection has spread beyond its initial pulmonary manifestation and severely disrupted normal cellular function.)

In two short days, I’ll spend three hours trying to reign in my mind as it wanders into “worse case scenario” territory. I’ll then spend another few days trying to distract myself as I await the results. I’ve been through this so many times already, but it never seems to get any easier.

Having always been that person that never gets sick, it has admittedly been a struggle to accept and acclimate to this new leg of my journey–a leg on which I’m not longer that person that never gets sick.

On Friday, I’m going to close my eyes as radioactive ooze flows through my body and spin the wheel of misfortune, on which every option is bad news. None of my current diagnoses, nor the other suspected possibilities have effective treatments currently available. Maybe that’s the root source of my anxiety: the threat of hope being snatched away from me, the threat of never again returning to my previous health.

Within a week, hopefully I’ll have the answers I have been so desperately seeking. And yet, I must also prepare myself for the possibility that the doctors will once more shrug in bewilderment. If that’s the case, I’ll need to discern new ways to navigate through these waters of uncertainty with hope and conviction.

I need to maintain my belief–no matter what–that everything is going to be okay.

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