A Comedy of Errors and Bad Veins

Warning: this story has some reference to medical testing, needles, swearing and foolishness. If any of that bothers you please skip this post.

One of the weirder side effects of breast cancer survivorship is the medical community’s response to anything that they deem “weird”. Before I was ever diagnosed, I had a weird soft lump on my right tibia (that’d be my right lower leg, on the front). It didn’t hurt, didn’t bother me at all, and was sorta squishy. I got diagnosed and forgot all about it, did chemo and radiation, and started my next life. Oncology insists I go in for an annual adult “physical” now, so I asked my regular doctor about the lump. That fall, I was X-rayed, MRI’d, CT scanned, and ultrasounded before they finally said “yep, it’s a benign <completely unpronounceable> thing and we should check it once in a while, but otherwise no worries.” Yay?

That was two years ago. I may have forgotten to check it since, so in this year’s physical my doctor reminded me that I should check it. “Let’s just skip straight to the CT this time, and you shouldn’t have to have anything else unless it starts bothering you,” she said. Neat. So I scheduled imaging at the local hospital (much closer than the one in my old neighborhood) and went in last week one day. No big deal.

In order for you to have the full measure of the ridiculousness involved in a one hour appointment for a simple, quick scan of my lower leg, I must set the stage.

Important fact 1: I don’t often wear makeup, and only very rarely “full face” makeup with foundation and blush and the whole bit. I probably haven’t done that since I was actively bellydancing, and let me tell you it’s been a WHILE since I performed on stage.

Important fact 2: SK and I are getting married in a couple weeks, and I don’t trust myself to do appropriate makeup for wedding pictures. Therefore, I found a local makeup artist, and scheduled a pre-wedding test run.

Important fact 3: Being the week before Halloween, and a work from home day, I was wearing a VERY inappropriate Halloween tank top with my yoga pants. It has pumpkins over my (still mine!) boobs and a naughty offer about trying pie. This is relevant, I promise.

So, my trial run was scheduled for the week before my CT, but unfortunately the artist’s son had the flu and we had to reschedule. Therefore, at lunch I went to the salon and got full face, contoured, photo-shoot makeup done. You guys, I looked like I was about to walk into a Hallmark Movie’s small town Christmas lights thing.

A couple hours later, I checked myself into the imaging department at the hospital for my super fast appointment (because in my experience a CT is one of the less painful/annoying/lengthy scans). The tech who came to get me from the waiting room was a lovely man who, it turns out, was a traveling nurse with two weeks left in my state before he went to Texas. The other two techs in the room (also men) were getting the machine ready, and THAT’S when I realized I have to take my sweatshirt off because this is a scan WITH CONTRAST. That means an IV.


To their credit, none of them laughed at my stupid tank top, which I’d worn that day because I didn’t anticipate leaving the house in anything less than a heavy sweatshirt. It was cold outside. It was cold in that stupid CT room, too. My veins are annoyingly stealthy on the best of days, and it was COLD in that room with no sweatshirt. So I’m lying on the sliding tray that automatically puts you in the appropriate radiation cooking range, in socks, black yoga pants, a pumpkin-boob-pie shirt, and full face makeup. I could not look more ridiculous if I’d worn a clown nose in that moment.

And then, I lay on that stupid slider drawer for nearly an hour while two techs, an ER nurse, and multiple other nurses and staff wander in and out trying to figure out what to do with me, because NO ONE can find a vein for the giant IV needle they use for contrast. I’ve had it before, more than once, and it’s honestly no big deal once the IV is in, but I admit I was apologizing for my butthead body’s lack of cooperation after second guy couldn’t do it and the ER guy gave up. With three sticks (two in my hands, one in my arm) and a blown vein in my right hand that hurt like he’d hit me with a hammer, I suggested that no, you will NOT find another person to try. Maybe you could see if, I don’t know, you could do the scan WITHOUT contrast?

Waiting for my doctor to approve doing the CT without the dye they push to make your veins stand out (assuming they can find one on normal people without stupid spy versus spy anatomy) took a long while, and by the third dude I was very much feeling like a medical experiment, which annoyed the shit out of me. A woman, presumably a nurse although she actually never introduced herself OR said anything to me until she decided to put the tourniquet on my arm, was all set to try again while we waited. I said “you know, I’m about done with getting bruises a few weeks before my wedding, so how about we wait for my doc to call back.” She ignored that and said she needed to try because we have to do the CT with the IV and blahblahblah and then before I could firmly retort that indeed, she was NOT going to “try” because I’m done, my tech came back. My doc approved the no-IV option, and inconsiderate twatwaffle went away.

Then the dudes left the room, shut the giant lead doors, and I lay on a tray that moved me in and out of the zapper for a few minutes. And then, blissfully, I was released back into the wild, with my sweatshirt on over my pumpkins. And that’s how I cooked my right leg (only slightly, promise) in radiation for a minute in makeup ready for Hallmark, and a shirt that decidedly was NOT appropriate for my debut in any of their Fall Harvest Pumpkin Patch Baking Contest movies.

P.S. As expected, all is totally fine and I don’t have to do another one for a few years, if at all.

P.P.S. All smartassery above aside, please know that in medical situations like this you can say no. You can always say no. Worth remembering, particularly when you stop getting treated like a person and start getting looked at like a fascinating challenge.

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