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This is part of the full text of the medical memoir "Cancer Patient" written by Hugh Cook. The full text has been published online on a free-to-read-online basis. This autobiographical non-fiction account deals with the author's initial health problems, diagnosis, and treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The complete text of "Cancer Patient" is here on this web site but is also available for purchase from amazon.com as a proper printed paperback book. The full text may also be purchased as a download (a PDF file) from lulu.com for US $5. Go to lulu.com/hughcook

For a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what's in the book (in its online version, in the PDF version and in the paperback version), see:-

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diary       site contents       essays       stories       flash fiction       poems       novels

CANCER PATIENT is a medical memoir which deals with the author's autobiographical experiences which involve, amongst other things, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, a brain biopsy, a lumbar puncture (and then some more lumbar punctures), treatment with Ara-C, treatment with vincristine, treatment with methotrexate, treatment with radiation from a linear accelerator, and a vitrectomy (an operation to remove the jelly from an eye). This is a non-fiction account but it does contain a couple of fictional stories, clearly identified as such, and it also includes some poetry.

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Chapter Ten


Back in Tokyo, investigations into the author's medical condition continue. The author undergoes an MRI scan aimed at determining whether he has brain cancer. The answer, according to the brain scan, is no. But it is alleged that, on the day of the scan, the author had sinusitis.

         Back in Yokohama, while waiting for the magnetic resonance imaging scan scheduled for May 10th at Tokyo's Kappatani Hospital, the test aimed at finding out whether I had brain cancer, I continued to do research on the Internet.
        I did not succeed in diagnosing my own medical problem but I did slowly expand my vocabulary. I learnt, for example, that "OD" can mean not just "overdose" but "oculus dexter", meaning "the right eye".
        A lot of what I learnt was fairly scary, and one of my diary entries for April says simply "The more I know the less I like this."
        On Monday May 10th I attended Kappatani Hospital and had an MRI, a magnetic resonance imaging scan, which involves using a powerful magnet to map the interior of the body.
        The good point about MRI technology is that it uses no radiation. The bad point is that it's off limits for a lot of patients because they have bits of metal in their bodies -- brain shunts or pacemakers or the like.
        For the MRI, first, I was required to deposit all my stuff in a locker and change into a hospital gown. Then I was admitted to the room which housed the MRI machine. The machine was, in effect, an extremely cramped tunnel into which the patient can be slid on a kind of sliding frame.
        I was asked if I had any metal on me. I said no. If you go into an MRI machine with any metal on or in your body then the result can be death or serious injury. (Your death, or the death of the person running the machine, or serious injury to both of you.)
        Then I remembered that I had a palladium filling. I didn't know the Japanese for "palladium" but guessed that "paradium" might fit the bill, so I said, in Japanese, "I have a palladium filling." Actually, I didn't know the Japanese for "filling", either, so what I said was more like "In the middle of one of my teeth there's a palladium part".
        I think what I actually said was "Ha no naka ni wa paradium no bubun ga arimasu."
        While my Japanese was quite possibly seriously flawed it nevertheless succeeded in communicating meaning, and the guy who was running the machine grinned and told me there was no problem. He gave me something to hold, a rubber bulb connected to a piece of tubing. This functioned as a kind of panic button. If I ran into trouble during the MRI -- if I got an attack of claustrophobia, for example -- then I could squeeze the bulb to call for rescue.
        I was given earphones to wear to block out the noise, and then I was slid into the MRI machine. And then I lay still and waited while the scan was conducted.
        My image of magnets is one of reticence and silence. Your average magnet is neither a signer nor a conversationalist. But this big magnet machine proved to be the most remarkable generator of cacophony, a producer of sounds which might have been specifically designed to jar you out of the conventional universe and shove you into an altogether different reality.
        Despite the earphones I was wearing, the scan was really noisy. When the machine was at its quietest, I could hear, in the background, something which sounded to me like a huge steam-driven piston cycling up and down. At other times, the world was filled with discordant sounds like demented drills biting through shattering materials. It was weird to the point of being mind-blowing, and it occurred to me that there had to be some kind of market for this stuff. However, I never followed up on that thought, which is why, I guess, I'm me rather than Bill Gates.
         Later, when I had MRI scans in New Zealand, the machines and the procedures were exactly the same, except for one difference: in New Zealand, I did not change into a hospital gown. I did, however, take off my belt, which contained a chunk of metal.
        I had my Japanese MRI on Monday May 10th but did not get feedback until a week later. In that year, 2004, I was spending a lot of time waiting. Waiting to have a test or waiting to get the results back.
        This ongoing siege of uncertainties was hard both for me and for my wife, and, as the year went on, the cumulative pressure of the unknown built up to create mind-bending stress.
        Anyway, the feedback on the MRI scan was good news, sort of. No sign of lymphoma, at least not on this scan. That was not entirely reassuring because I'd read on the Internet about people who had tested as negative on an early scan and then positive on a later scan.
        "There was just one abnormality," said Dr. Lux. "It seems that on the day of the test you had sinusitis."
        She seemed highly amused by this bathetic discover, the step down from the anticipated disaster to the level of triviality. I have to say I did not share her amusement.
        Dr. Lux had also done a special blood test designed to detect signs of lymphoma, and this, too, had come back negative.
        The next step was to be a CT scan, otherwise known as a CAT scan, a Computerized Axial Tomography scan, a kind of X-ray which allows the body to be viewed as a series of slices. I had lost weight and I was not sure whether or not I had diarrhea or just healthy loose bowel motions, so the CT scan was a logical next step to find out whether I had cancer spreading through my torso.

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The text on this page is part of the cancer memoir "Cancer Patient" which has been posted online. All the chapters of this book are on this website and can be read for free online. However, the text is copyright - all rights reserved. For permission to use this text or any portion of it contact Hugh Cook.


        This personal memoir of the writer's encounter with cancer (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the large B-cell type) attempts to cleave to the truth. However, the text may contain information that is wrong, outdated, incomplete or otherwise misleading.
        This memoir has been written in a time of illness by a cancer patient who, though he feels sharp enough, must admit to sometimes misinterpreting things, forgetting things, or, on occasion, quite simply not hearing things.
        This memoir is designed to communicate the writer's personal experience and is not intended as a source of medical information. Got a medical question? Ask your doctor.

Cancer Patient Copyright © 2005 Hugh Cook.

Hugh Cook