Glowing Nowhere

This morning I had my PET scan at Royal Preston Hospital, and there were a few surprises along the way…

The weather for my drive to Preston was abysmal, and even worse after I’d found somewhere to park. While walking toward the hospital, a particularly powerful blast of wind almost swept me off my feet resulting in…

A) Kirsty briefly appearing to be flying a kite in the shape of a terrified, screaming writer, and

B) Said writer wondering whether the Munchkins would be waiting to meet him when he eventually landed in Oz.*

The entrance to the PET scanning department is, coincidentally, the entrance to Rosemere Cancer Centre – the unit where I’d undergone my courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in 2016.

It wasn’t good to be back.

After signing in, I was taken to a room containing a hospital bed, a chair and a jug of water. But this wasn’t your bog-standard, common or garden hospital room.

Oh no…

This room was lead lined.

This gave me a brief glimpse of things to come. My radiographer, John, explained that the solution they would be feeding into my veins was a form of radioactive glucose. Yep, I was to be pumped full of nuclear sugar, and Kirsty would have to leave when that happened so as not to affect her with my mere  plutonium-heavy presence.

He gave me a gown to wear (I was almost able to stay fully dressed, but my jogging bottoms had metal eyelets for the cord around the waist which were likely to pin me to the scanner like a cheap fridge magnet, so a hospital gown it had to be).

Then John went to get the main course, and returned with a syringe contained inside a lead box. I really wanted the interior of the box to glow a bright yellow when he opened it, but that wasn’t the case.

However, I did get the next best thing…

The syringe itself was encased in a slightly larger syringe – also made out of lead!

So, the stuff they were about to inject into me was in a lead walled syringe, transported inside a lead box, for a procedure happening inside a lead lined room.

My sense of self-preservation was busy starting fires and screaming at me to incapacitate this guy with the lead box and make a break for it.

However, I stayed. As you can see here…

John explained that, once I’d had the radioactive glucose injected into me, I would be left alone for an hour to allow the stuff to spread throughout my entire body.

Result! I had a book with me, and my phone in case I wanted to check messages…

But John confiscated both of those.


You’re unlikely to believe the reason. I certainly didn’t think he was being serious at first.

If I was to read, the radioactivity would flood my eyes. If I spoke, it would build up in my mouth and throat. Type, and I’d get nuclear fingers.

So, he lowered the lights, covered me with a blanket, and practically ran from the room as if he’d just realised he was waist deep in green sludge inside a plague pit in Chernobyl.

Leaving me to lie there for an hour on what I’m claiming to be the most uncomfortable hospital bed/reclining chair known to man.

I couldn’t sleep, so having a quick nap was out. And John’s explanation about how the radioactive glucose was attracted to active parts of my body made me too scared to think in case I accidentally morphed my brain into some kind of bulging, telepathic mound of pulsing flesh.

Eventually, I was collected and taken to the scanner room. The PET scanner looked similar to the CT scanner I’d been examined with just before Christmas, only with a much longer bench.

But that wasn’t the first thing that caught my eye.

The thing I first noticed upon entering this sparse, clinically clean medical chamber was the wide selection of biscuits on a table next to the door.

Yes, biscuits.

Everything from digestives to chocolate chip cookies and beyond.

I glanced at the unexpected treats, and then to the radiographer, expecting some sort of explanation.

But got nothing. The biscuits simply weren’t mentioned.

Trying to push them from my mind (but not too hard, just in case my skull exploded), I was instructed to lie on the bench with my arms crossed over my stomach. I then had a blanket laid over me (the same one from my lead-lined boredom box) and, over that, wide velcro straps were used to secure me in place.

For the next 25 minutes, I was passed back and forth through the magnetic doughnut part of the scanner – and then it was all over.

I was given the items of clothing I’d removed earlier and, on my way out through the door, asked to choose a small packet of biscuits.

There was a reason for them to be there, after all! But, what was that reason? Was someone watching closely via a hidden camera, noting whether I showed a preference for Bourbons over Custard Creams? Or where they waiting for me to pick the Rich Tea, at which the wall would slide back and I would be welcomed into a secret society of radioactive superheroes, each of whom had also made the ‘correct’ biscuit decision.

I’d probably be Bulging Brain Boy due to all the thinking I did in the leaded lair about how I have to stop thinking this minute. Don’t think, damnit! Gah! Now you’re thinking about thinking.

Still, Bulging Brain Boy could prove to be a useful addition to the League of PET Scanees. I’d be able to crack secret codes and clues left behind by evil villains intent on world domination.

I’d have to leave the bringing bad guys to justice bit to the other heroes, however. I doubt the fact that I’d struggle to lift my vast, unwieldy forehead from the keyboard of my computer would prove to be particularly useful in a battle scenario.

Unless, of course, I was hoping the criminals would laugh themselves into a stupor when some glowing, large-headed guy shows up with QWERTYUIOP branded backwards across his face.

Where was I…?

Oh, yes – biscuits.

Disappointingly, the biscuits were simply to eat while I had a cup of tea to begin the process of flushing the atomic lava from my system. Although, I was forbidden to use the toilet in the building’s reception area, or indeed any public toilet until my radioactivity faded away around eight hours later.

I was told the results of the PET scan will take up to a week to arrive with my oncologist. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the news to be as good as it can. As far as I’m aware, no-one on the other side of the glass pointed at the monitor screaming “Jesus H Christ! What the fonk is that thing!” before leaping head first through the fourth floor window.

So, that’s something.

I’ll let you know how I get on.


* I LOVE The Wizard of Oz! A classic movie about two women fighting over a pair of shoes.

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5 thoughts on “Glowing Nowhere

  1. Fingers and toes crossed that the results are good. I do think they might have added some glowing light to the box for theatrical effect though. It would have been cool.

  2. Strewth!

    I was offered either a PET scan or a lumbar puncture as the final part of my assessment for a study in Alzheimer’s which I volunteered for recently. The scan involved a trip to London from Devon, where I live, whereas the puncture could be done locally. Most people screwed up their faces when I said I had chosen the puncture but it was no problem -a bit uncomfortable but no worse than that, and half an hour later I was driving home.

    All I was told about the scan was that I would be radioactive for 24hours and although I could come home by train I shouldn’t get near any pregnant women.

    (How does this work?

    ‘Hi, everyone, any of you pregnant? I’ll sit over here, then.’)

    No hint was given of all that Tommy went through.

    Good luck, Tommy. I hope you get good results. You are a brave guy.

  3. I can’t believe you managed to make me laugh several times describing this strange grim experience. I hope you don’t have to go through it too often! Thanks for writing about it … hang in there!

  4. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this read Tommy. I am in awe of the way in which you can turn a difficult experience into an amusing incident. Fingers crossed and many prayers for good results. God bless you. Xxx

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