Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My head goes into a machine,
and the suck looks worse

This morning, I arose bright and early after four horrible hours of nightmare-infused sleep to head to a local radiology place for a CT scan of my head.

The machine into whose donut center my head went was a sadly dull creation. I would have preferred matte black and perhaps some neon, as well as mood lighting for the room and maybe a little heavy metal playing.

As you can see, they did give me a pillow under my legs, though I didn't really need it.

The two women who ran the scan were great One found a vein--harder than it should have been, because I'm fat--and inserted the IV. After prepping me, they did a non-scanning trial, in which the table moved my head in and out of the machine, and then told me what would happen.

Best bit: "When we let the substance into the IV, you'll feel warm in your abdomen, neck, and bladder. Don't pee."

Check. I had that one already.

I asked if I could close my eyes, and they said sure. I nearly fell asleep in the few minutes the test was running.

Hardest instruction: "Don't swallow."

Nothing makes you want to swallow more than someone telling you not to.

They sent me home, as promised, with a disc full of images. They told me to give it to the doctor and wait for his pronouncement. They also said it was a special disc I couldn't just look at.

Fuck that.

The disc contains a PC viewer app with the images embedded in a little database. I brought it up on a PC, figured out the interface--simple, but poorly done except for the image viewer, which is awesome--and exported all the images as .jpgs.

It's pretty cool stuff. Here's the first shot, my head straight on.

Do I look like the Terminator, or what?

Yeah, yeah, go ahead and say it: damn, that's a big neck. Yes, it is.

The next thing I did was exactly what doctors everywhere hate, what they will tell you not to do, what is almost certainly booking a trip aboard the failboat: I decided to self-diagnose via the interwebs.

I found this page, which tells you how to read these images. (I actually consulted many pages, but this one was the exemplar.) It contained this key sentence (the Wikipedia link is mine):

For this reason, administration of contrast material is helpful because cysts usually enhance on their periphery, whereas pleomorphic adenomas enhance solidly (Figs 3c, 7b).
Now, with a little annotation of my own, here's a picture of the mass in my parotid gland.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a tumor. I stress that word "believe" because, of course, everything I've just done is a bit of a mug's game. I have no training. I am self-diagnosing using an image I'm not even supposed to have seen. I've read multiple studies about how bad people are at self-diagnosing using Web techniques; I've heard figures of over 90% of the people being wrong, and almost everyone tending to choose a bad outcome.

That said, I think I'm right, and I'm now turning my energies to two things: hoping the tumor is benign, and investigating all my surgical options.

Wish me luck.

Tomorrow, a far cheerier post about the State Fair.


Dan Campbell said...

I'm glad to see your sense of humor is still going strong through this. ;-)

Seriously, though, best of luck in finding that your self-diagnosis is wrong!

Mark said...

I hope I do!


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