I had a PET scan this week. Since I’ve now had several of these scans, I knew what to expect and could prepare accordingly. I wore the correct clothes that day so I could stay in my own instead of changing into a hospital gown. I took my own slippers so I didn’t have to wear the ugly, uncomfortable hospital ones. I wore my hair up in a high knot so I could lie for a few hours—comfortably and without messing up my hair. I’m getting better at this!
A PET scan uses radioactive glucose to send “tracers” throughout my body. Cancer cells are very metabolic, so they attract and consume the glucose. Areas that consume the radioactive glucose light up on the scan to point out malignant areas (or some other types of infections that also “uptake” the glucose). The very first PET scan I had in May lit up like a Christmas tree. The next one in July showed much improvement--the spots of cancer were smaller and fewer. That’s the direction in which we want these to continue moving.
A nuclear medicine technician injects the radioactive glucose through an IV in my arm. There is a lot of caution that comes with that process and every item is emblazoned with the nuclear danger warning sign. The glucose itself comes in a syringe that is encase inside insulated metal. The insulated metal stays between the substance and the technician the entire time.
It’s not lost on me that the very substance from which the health care team is being protected is being injected directly into my arm.
I must then lie absolutely, completely still for 90 minutes. The reason for laying perfectly still is that muscles produce glucose when they move. Movement would cause collections of glucose in non-diseased parts of my body, so the scan would also light them up and become not helpful. I even need to keep my eyes closed and not look at anything….because vision is the product of muscular movement of your eyes.
This part is quite pleasant…they wrap me up in warm blankets, turn off the lights and play spa music. A forced 90 minute nap is one of the few positive aspects of this whole messed up health situation. And I’m very good at following directions.
PET technology uses a cyclotron as the accelerator for the nuclear isotopes. The cyclotron that is used in most modern PET scanners was developed by a man named George Hendry. In addition to being a physicist, he makes incredible Zinfandel. And we’ve met him several times.
Brad and I traveled to the Napa Valley in California for our honeymoon. Most years before the girls, we returned there to celebrate our anniversary. One of our favorite restaurants is Greystone, which is part of the Culinary Institute of America. Every person who works at Greystone is in training…as a chef, a sommelier (wine expert), etc. No matter what their intended field after training, everyone rotates through each role at the restaurant. None of the servers or sommeliers are allowed to tell you what wineries they personally prefer. Because business in the Napa Valley is so competitive, the school does not want to deal with their students receiving kickbacks from wineries to drive customers.
However, that never kept us from asking the question, and one year, the young lady who was serving us was a sommelier in training and told us she liked Zinfandels. When she brought our bill, she surreptitiously slid us a small note with one word: Hendry. Bingo. Her favorite wine--Zinfandel from the Hendry winery.
After spending decades developing nuclear accelerators, George Hendry decided to apply his science to the small family farm he had inherited in the Napa Valley. He’s developed a novel approach to the agriculture of growing wines by dividing his land into microenvironments (some as small as a backyard garden) and determining the best grape stock, watering and trimming schedule based on the climates of each individual microenvironment. His philosophy? “If you don’t grow a quality grape in the field, you can’t fix it in the barrel.”
George himself hosts one tour and tasting each day. That experience is highly in demand, because it is very seldom that the maker of wine garnering worldwide attention and awards would spend two hours with some visitors. We’ve visited the Hendry winery three times and our times with George are among our favorite memories of our time in the Napa Valley.
As I drifted off to sleep inside my warm blankets, I thought about the Napa Valley and George Hendry. And not about the radioactive substance now coursing through my veins.
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