After a week or two of fussing and wondering how I did Taking The Test, Dr P lets me know I did very well, “high average,” cryptically adding that had I taken the test several years ago, it probably would have been “superior.” Now he recommends an additional test, a PET scan, to make a more conclusive diagnosis. I’d done so well on the neuropsychological testing (eg. remembering the names for “comb” and “pen," among other things!!) that he was looking for more data to make a clear diagnosis.
So, back to the hospital again for what turned out to be my favorite of the barrage of tests. [Not that anyone cares about my personal preference, but still.] I had to fast, no solid food or juice or COFFEE for the morning of the test. That wasn’t so bad, but more interesting, they wanted me to “become a couch potato” for 24 hours before the actual test. No exercise. Walking only if necessary. Just chill out and relax.
Nice. Sure beats repeated blood drawing!
The idea was to check out my brain “at rest.” Keeping with the quiet theme, the test took place in a dimly-lit, secluded cranny of the hospital. The technician who came to get me spoke slowly and quietly as she led me through one corridor after another to the procedure room, calmly answering my many questions on the way. When we arrived, she motioned to a huge, overstuffed, very comfortable chair. I climbed in. Then she explained that she would start an IV and I was to rest, rest, rest for a while. After a time, she promised to come back and wheel me into the scanner for the actual test. She told me how long these times would be, but in my relaxed and monitored state, I felt no need to remember them.
In due time my guide returned and got me to my feet for the short walk, which kind of interrupted the mood, to the scanning machine itself. More techs were waiting to assist me onto the table that would slide into the machine that would scan my brain. The soft-spoken gals explained that at a certain time they would inject the contents of the IV bag into my bloodstream, and the machine would record how my brain handled it. The bag held a glucose solution with radioactive markers that the machine could track and evaluate how well the various parts of my brain were working.
Back into the space-age machine. It’s clanking now, in a soothing way. I drift off, into a nap.
A week later….
Dr. P calls me into his office. This is IT. Finally, he has all my ducks in a row.
Neuro-psychological Testing COMPLETE
Neurological Physical Exam COMPLETE
Blood Work Screening COMPLETE
Personal Neurological History COMPLETE
Family Neurological History COMPLETE
Magnetic Resonance Imagery Scan COMPLETE
Positron Emission Tomography Scan COMPLETE
Though we have a full half hour to meet, he gets right to the point, “I wish I had better news.”
OK, I’m listening now!!!
Leaning over his computer, he reads:
There is hypometabolism most pronounced in the parietal and temporal lobes. To a lesser extent, there is hypometabolism evident within the frontal lobes also. Hypermetabolism of the posterior gyri more pronounced than that seen on the frontal lobes.
There is also markedly decreased tracer uptake noted in the primary visual cortex of the occipital lobe.
“So, these are the data that the scan has detected,” Dr. P continues. “Hypometabolism means your brain is not utilizing the glucose as it should. This problem is manifested in several areas of your brain.
Dr. P: “I’m sorry to have to tell you this. The results of your PET scan are consistent with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not a slam-dunk diagnosis at this time. We will be following you over the months and years ahead to monitor your progress and keep an eye on things.
“I would estimate you have about 8 - 10 years, give or take…”
“You mean, 8 -10 good years…before…” I manage to mutter.
“Well, no. That would be lifetime.”
A long pause. Dr. P and I are each waiting for the other to say something. After I don’t, he offers,
“In the meantime there are drugs available…”