Carolina In My Mind

December 31, 2020
Marissa Holzer
Marissa Holzer

Marissa is a forty-something Flattie in sunny SoCal living with metastatic breast cancer, her boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) and her not so mini schnauzer, Heidi. She enjoys reading, stress baking and roller skating. She hopes to inspire others with her dry humor and zest for life.

A song can be the gateway to memories on the cancer journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I love James Taylor. "Carolina In My Mind" is a beautiful song, but it feels a bit like Groundhog Day for me when it comes to PET scans. Since my denovo metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, I have had numerous scans and always at the same imaging center. I’ve been there so often that all the staff remembers me. Not so sure this is a good thing or not. I guess if I have to go there I’d rather they know me and like me.

For those of you who are new to PET scans let me explain the process. All facilities are a little bit different but you’ll get a general idea. The whole procedure takes a couple of hours. Starting the day before you have to eat a low-carb high-protein diet. No food for six hours before the scan. The reason for this is so the ravenously hungry cancer cells will be attracted to the radioactive glucose and light up on the scan. No exercise the day before or the day of the scan. I hate a low-carb high-protein diet, by the way. No gum chewing. No contact with children or pregnant women for four hours after.

When you arrive and check-in they inject you with the radioactive glucose, called Fluorodeoxyglucose, straight into your veins. And then they put blankets on top of you, turn the lights out, close the door and turn the heat up. You have to sit there quietly, no books, no phones, nothing, just yourself and your thoughts waiting for the Fluorodeoxyglucose to do its thing. When you finally have reached well done or approximately 45 minutes to an hour later then they put you in the scan machine for another half hour or so. Your head and body are secured and your arms are confined in a pillowcase-like contraption above your head so you are completely immobilized.

This is where the music comes on to help you to relax and for some reason, they are always playing the same James Taylor CD while you have your scan. I don’t know why. It’s like the music is permanently stuck on repeat. Doesn’t anyone notice this besides me? Anyway, once the scan is over then we wait for the results. And I eat carbs. Because I am starving and as the lyrics go, “You must forgive me if I’m up and gone to Carolina in my Mind” while patiently awaiting my results and a follow-up appointment.


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