Once the clear cell carcinoma cells had been found, the first question was have they spread? Answering this (at a certain resolution - I'll explain more about this later) started, in my case anyway, with a CT scan. The CT stands for computed tomography - a form of imaging modality in which x-rays are used. X-rays sit, well in my mind anyway, at the left hand side of the electromagnetic spectrum - they have short wavelengths and high frequencies which means they contain lots of energy. It's the energy held within the x-rays that allows then to travel far through substances, in my case skin, flesh and bone. And as the x-rays passed through my body some of their energy was absorbed by my organs and tissues attenuating the waves and creating contrast - bright areas and dark areas, so the inside of me could be seen. However, in order to truly see what was going on inside, to illuminate what was lurking within the darkness further contrast was needed in the form of iodine flushed through my veins. And that is where the peeing myself comes in! As the cannula for the iodine was being inserted I was told that I might experience the sensation of wetting myself as the liquid iodine cursed through my veins. Of course I didn't believe them - boy was I wrong! I backed out that room with my hands over my arse convinced that the 'lovely' hospital gown I had been given to wear had a seeping wet patch that was threatening to grow larger than my hands could cover! And as I surreptitiously inched my way back to the changing room with my arse firmly facing the wall, the sensation started to disappear together with the red flush of embarrassment in my cheeks. They were right it was just a feeling, but a bloody convincing one.
And finally to resolution, what can really be resolved by a CT scan. What size of tumour or network of arteries feeding a tumour can it reveal? As a microscopist my work revolves around resolution; how small an entity can be seen? I asked the same question about the CT scan - what resolution does it provide - the answer I was given - 5 mm - half a centimetre. Small, but is it small enough?