Cancer treatment: Western General gave me the biggest relief, twice in one day – Susan Morrison

Before the plague got me, I was booked in at Western General for a computerised tomography scan, or CT to its mates, radiographers and oncologists.
CT scans can spot cancer inside the body but patients must take a foul-tasting drink to make it glow (Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)CT scans can spot cancer inside the body but patients must take a foul-tasting drink to make it glow (Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
CT scans can spot cancer inside the body but patients must take a foul-tasting drink to make it glow (Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s a sneaky little devil in the left lung. We need to keep an eye on it and make sure there aren’t any more.

Before the detailed scan can take place, you must drink ‘contrast’. It makes cancer glow. It also tastes vile.

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God bless medical science, but tickling taste buds is not high on their list of priorities. No wonder Dr Jekyll thrashed about foaming at the mouth before he turned into Mr Hyde. Bet that potion tasted horrible as well.

You have to drink a litre of the stuff. Previous to Covid, you went to the hospital, swilled down an entire jug of Chateau Contrast Du Western, sat in the waiting room, watched Countryfile for an hour and then got scanned.

The Great Unpleasantness has brought a change in plan. Now, they send out a little bottle of concentrate to your home. You mix it with a litre of water, and drink it an hour before you present yourself at the Western.

Excellent, I thought, saves me watching Countryfile. Ah, no, said my bladder, this arrangement doesn’t really work for me.

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Now, I have always had a really wee bladder, no pun intended. It's why I don’t drink beer, aside from the fact that it tastes like CT contrast gunk. One pint would have me stuck in the ladies’ bogs for the entire evening. Men can drink eight pints and stand at a bar spouting nonsense all night without ever taking a loo break. How?

Suddenly getting to the Western was a matter of military standard timing. Down a litre an hour before, travel to the hospital with a full bladder, and don’t turn up early.

How to get there? Planet said, you should take the bus. Bladder said, whoa, there, Green Goddess, let’s factor in the consequences of a delayed Number 21, temporary traffic lights on Ferry Road and two lost Swedish tourists asking the driver directions to the Zoo.

Sorry, melting glaciers, I needed to drive. What time to leave? I don’t want to get there early, but if I get there on time, that’s too late and I’d have to get the car valeted, well, at least the driver's seat.

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Right, I thought. I’ll get there, tell the nurse why I’m early and I’ll lurk outside near the loo in case I need to dash. I know where the ground floor loo is. I could probably win Mastermind with the specialist subject “Women’s Toilets of the Western Infirmary”.

It was, my friends, touch and go. I got there just as the bladder was starting to send emergency signals to the brain.

I skipped up to the reception desk at the Imaging Suite and babbled I was early, so sorry, litre of fluid, can I go to the loo? It's the second door on the left, beside the fire extinguisher.

Oh, said the charming nurse behind the desk, bless you, off you pop. She said something else, but believe me, I didn’t hear it.

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There is no relief like it, unless you count yesterday’s scan results. Yep, there’s the little devil we know about. But the contrast stained nothing else.

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