PET

 

When you think of a pet, you think of a cute cuddly dog or cat or fishes in a tank or pond… my younger son had even asked for a pet elephant at a point. However, the only thing I could see were fishes on the ceiling. The pictures of the fishes looked almost alive trapped in colourful glass, perhaps an attempt to cheer patients undergoing the scan.

The full form of the PET in medical parlance is Positron Emission Tomography. One goes through this scan to check for various diseases in the body or the absence of thereof if you have already completed your treatment/ surgery as I had…what they called a follow up scan. It sounds like an intimidating procedure as it involves injecting a radioactive substance into your body and then doing a scan inside a machine, much like a futuristic gizmo. Perhaps, it could be a thing for putting the human body to cold freeze and storing it for posterity like they do in Star Wars! But currently it functions only as a scanner.

When I was called in for the procedure, a pink shirted radiologist (all of them wore pink shirts) came and explained the process to me in a PET suite, a little cupboard of a room with an austere bed and medicine trolley filled with needles, gauze and stuff. The radiologist told me about the radioactive stuff and then I asked him if it was similar to carbon dating… you know the stuff they do to unearth the age of Egyptian mummies and Neanderthal men…he seemed a little nonplussed and told me it was nothing like that!

The most intimidating thing for me was the insertion of the cannula (the plastic needle that is used for multiple injections or drips). They could not find the veins in my hands! It took nearly half-an-hour and a few nurses to complete the procedure. After that, I was given the medication and told to relax… again a hard task as I was also told not to move or turn or sing or read or talk. I was told to sleep. I could twitch my muscles and my mind had the freedom to swing. The nurse offered to turn off the light for me. No, I said, I wanted the light. I tried to rest as I felt the radioactive stuff course through my veins. It would have been nice to have some attractive pictures or tiles on the walls and ceiling to assist in making the atmosphere more relaxed, I thought.

Then there was the explosion of the matter and antimatter in my veins… I was drifting… my sons had told me there was anti-matter in the radioactive stuff… but here I was praying for a long life to the Creator of energy, matter and anti-matter.

I could actually feel the stuff coursing through my body while I lay like a stiffened mummy of the Egyptian genre, my stomach rumbled and grumbled. I had been instructed to starve over night for the scan. This time it was for the radioactive glucose to react exactly to the sugar absorption levels in ones body. Presence of sugars would distract the readings.

After half-an-hour, they toddled me off to the scan as the medicine has a short life of only a couple of hours. The medicine chose or chose not to light up during the process, bright lights indicated a concentration of sugar. The lighted-up part could be cancerous.

I had been thinking of going into the machine with my hands crossed like an Egyptian mummy and pretending to be Cleopatra, instead I went with my hands above my head, trapped by straps with Velcro like a captive prisoner… my turn to be nonplussed! I felt like a princess in harem pants or perhaps princess Leia of Star Wars fame, imprisoned by Jaba the Hutt. I tend to analogize with anecdotes from Star Wars and Harry Potter as my sons are addicted to these. But, then, I think that is a good thing as they have positive messages of hope. In Harry Potter, we are taught to dispel our worst fears (embodied in the form taken by creatures called bogarts) with ‘riddikulus’   and in the original Star Wars, the good always wins in addition to John Williams’s upbeat music. Despite all that, I was a little zapped (or taken aback) to have my hands tied above my head.

And then I noticed the ceiling in the room was like an underwater scenario… as much as it could be. So, perhaps, one could dream of being a prisoner in Nemo’s submarine hold! Or, princess Leia captive during an adventure to JaJa Binks underwater world… a new idea for another Star Wars episode, take note Disney films. Actually, I thought of neither. I just looked around because everything was so strange, so different from what I imagined. I was just very glad thinking this might prove to be the end of my medical journey battling with tumours and rumours.

My imagination could have taken flight across the Egyptian desserts and across vibrant blue skies. But wanting really to live, I prayed, I waited, I sighed… hoping this would be my last ride to realms of futuristic fancy under the influence of medication.

Once I was through with it and the radiologist came to free me, one look at him smiling and I knew I was free of cancer. Earlier, before my surgery, the radiologist who did the Contrast Dye CT Scan had looked so sad when she came to release me from my strapping.

It all happened so fast and I was cleansed off the deadly growth in a jiffy. I found that the journey back was not as daunting as I had feared. It was a matter of how you addressed your fears. I have learnt that the best way to overcome anything is a vivid imagination, laughter and support from family and friends. If one gives in to fear as one does to bullying, one crumbles to ashes. You just have to stand up to it, pray very hard and suddenly you are back to enjoying the sunshine, bird calls, children and life in general. It does take time to recuperate fully, but that is not so bad as long as you have hope, friends, love and happiness.

 

 

 

 

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Book of the week

 

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Title: Nineteen Eighty-four
Author: George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-four is a well-known and much-read classic by George Orwell published in 1949. It is a post World War scenario. Life is ruled by poverty, fear and hatred. In reality, the year 1984 has come and gone and we still have the old order of things. Have we actually evaded all the realities faced by the post World War society projected in the novel?

In the novel, as an outcome of the World Wars, the world has been divided into three parts, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Each zone has the same ideology but the ideology is given a different name by the political party that runs the show in that region. To retain power, the three regions always play at being at war. People are obsessed with hating their enemy and bringing them down. Citizens of each zone are kept apart so that none discover that all mankind thinks in the same way.

“Even the official ally of the moment is always regarded with darkest suspicion. War prisoners apart, the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, as he is forbidden the knowledge of foriegn languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself…”

Winston Smith, the protagonist, finds it difficult to conform to the ideology which is summed up in three slogan-like statements:
 

                                  War is Peace
                            Freedom is Slavery
                          Ignorance is Strength

He also commits the error of falling in love with a woman called Julia. The Thought Police tracks them, breaks them up, brainwashes them and kills them at the end. When the prisoners are annihilated in mind and spirit and love only  Big Brother, the supreme leader of Oceania, are they allowed freedom through death. Winston’s spirit is finally broken and crushed after years of torture and brainwashing and he looks forward to his annihilation at the end.

It is a society based on ‘hate’. The emotions encouraged by the party are “fear, rage, triumph, and self abasement”. The politicians or the power brokers of the three states encourage these emotions and an endless war to keep people busy so that they can retain their own power, supremacy and wealth. They live in luxurious homes, with cars and servants, whereas the rest live in squalid conditions ruled by terror.

History is re-written to suit the party needs. The past is said to be mutable and is changed often to set up the realities the politicians want to project. Buildings and roads are all re-named beyond recognition. No one knows what happened before the party took command. People have been terrorised into having short-term memories. So, if the enemy switches from Eurasia to Eatasia, all the newspapers and journals of the earlier times are re-written. People suffer from hunger and shortages as during wars. To maintain ‘peace’, a state of war is maintained all the time in all the three regions.

The power brokers of the three regions have given three different names to the same ideology and have created barriers of culture, language and hatred to keep the citizens apart. People of each zone hate the citizens of the other regions and can tear apart their ‘enemies’ with their frenzy of hatred and anger. They celebrate ‘hate’ week. The identity of the enemy is immaterial. They just need someone to vent out their anger born of hunger, frustration and fear.

Children spy on parents. They are bred on violence…their entertainment involves watching people hang, beating up people, betraying adults. Blood and gore and squalid living is the norm of such a society. Beauty and  nobility have been eradicated from this society. All history and literature from the past has been wiped out. The fabric of family and decency have been completely demolished. It is in my view a terrifying book. In certain ways, the catharsis we experience after coming to the end of  the book, would inspire us on to reaching out for the positives around us. I would say it is a must read in today’s conflict-riddled world.

Sometimes one wonders if the terror which has started invading a large part of the world, our obsession with borders, the flux of refugees, the anger and helplessness of people is bringing Orwell’s nightmarish vision closer home to us…