I’ve Had Enough Scans to Know How They Taste

I’ve Had Enough Scans to Know How They Taste

The barium contrast

Arrives in a jug like detergent,

Thick as a milkshake

But sweet in a different way,

Fake coconut and

Chemical pineapple.

I close my eyes and try to think

Of the tropical paradise

That the label promises.

I gulp the first cup down

Like a frat boy on spring break

And try not to think about

The rest of the jug.

The saline hits

The back of my tongue

As if I’d just drank it.

But it came from a tube

In my arm

And it’s always a surprise

How quickly the taste rushes

From my elbow to my throat.

I close my eyes and try to think

Of the salty coastal air

That its flavor promises.

I want to stay still

Like the tech keeps asking me to,

But my arms and legs

Want to swim

Against a warm ocean tide.

I almost taste the coffee

I can’t stop for as I drive home.

The hospital website calls the scanner


And I now just want a donut and a coffee

To break my fast.

But the barium always cuts through

My stomach

So I’ll settle for water

And dry toast or saltines,

And close my eyes and try to think

About the butter on my fingers

From some lobster

That will sacrifice itself for me

For the lunch

On the beach

During the vacation

That I hope will happen.

I submitted this poem because I think there is great value in sharing our experiences. I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma 16 years ago, and with skin cancer more recently. I have been fortunate to be able to share my experiences with many other cancer patients in all those years, and I’m always amazed at how often they say, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”

Even the difficult experiences that we share, like the emotional and physical discomfort that comes with a scan, can be a little easier when we know someone else has been through them, too. I share my story as often as I can, because sometimes if even just one other patient can relate to it, it was worth the time to tell it. I write a lot, and though I don’t often write poetry, sometimes it’s an easier way to distill feelings into just a few words. We all get scans, usually many scans, and I hope this poem, sharing my experiences before, during and after getting the scan, will be something that other patients will recognize.

This post was written and submitted by Robert McEachern. The article reflects the views of McEachern and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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