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Tuesday’s MRI

December 18, 2019

A couple weeks ago, I had a follow-up visit with my radiation oncologist. I was supposed to see her earlier this year, but she chose to delay it in order to make sure I wasn’t being seen and scanned by everyone all at once and then no one looking at me for months. I appreciate that and it’s one reason I chose to stay at Winship for radiation. It’s so nice to have all my doctors in one building.

When I saw her, she was thrilled with how everything looked. Said I didn’t even look like I’d had radiation (which I don’t.) She said that the notes indicated I should have a left breast MRI, so it was scheduled. I didn’t understand why I needed it since I’ve had such frequent CT scans, but she explained that it’s because breast tissue is so dense and the MRI provides a better view.

I realized earlier this week how little anxiety I had about this scan as opposed to my usual scans. I figured out that it’s because cancer in my other breast (which is the only thing this scan is looking at) is very low in my concerns. I obviously don’t want any more cancer, but metastasis (breast cancer showing up in another part of my body) is my greatest fear. I can always chop off my other breast if I have to.

My scan was yesterday. I did have some negative feelings going into it, but it was because I was remembering my first MRI. It was in July 2017 and was my first taste of “you’re dealing with something serious.” Not only was it the most intense evaluation I’d had up to that point (I’d already had ultrasound and mammogram), but because of issues with my vein, it was really unpleasant.

I remember going to the hospital and not thinking much of it. I didn’t ask anyone to go with me because I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I had to go in a room and take my clothes and jewelry off, and even had to remove my nose ring. So I took off everything familiar and comforting and walked down cold halls to a room that I know is basically a cement block. I sat on the edge of the machine and they started to insert my IV. She got the needle in, but no blood came out. She says she hit the valve and tries to move it a little bit to get past it. Without reliving the whole traumatic event, she kept moving it around, having me shift my body, and doing different things – even getting someone to help her – to try to get my blood going.

Since then I have learned to speak up for myself. To tell them to take it out and try again. But I didn’t know this at the time. I just let her try and try, all the while I felt worse. I eventually started to cry, and I think that might be when she took the needle out and tried again. I don’t remember, but I remember leaving that scan feeling sad and awful.

Yesterday, I knew it wouldn’t be the same. I’d never let someone wiggle in my vein like that, but I don’t think MRIs are ever pleasant. And unfortunately, the nurse hit a nerve in my arm and I immediately felt pain in my wrist. She was very kind and immediately stopped. She apologized and brought me tissues because I started crying.



The crying doesn’t make sense. It didn’t hurt that bad. I think it’s just the reminder that  “yeah, it’s this cancer crap still.” The cold hospitals. The stripping down in weird little closet rooms. People jabbing needles into my body. My body not cooperating. Being strapped into a machine and then closed in a room.

The rest of the scan was fine. I mean, as fine as 25 minutes spent absolutely motionless flat on your face with your breast hanging down in a hole on the machine can be. And wearing ear plugs, because it sounds like you’re in a tile shower and someone is jackhammering the ceiling. They tell you that once the contrast goes in, you can’t move or they have to stop the test and you do it another day. It’s “the money shot”. No pressure.

The man who did the scan would talk to me over the speaker telling me how long each section would be. That was helpful. They were anywhere from 45 seconds to 6 minutes. I would count the seconds. I recited Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, the Song of Moses.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Alright, God; where’s the table? No epiphanies or revelations, but I made it through. Didn’t ruin the money shot.

I don’t like these scans, but they are part of my life. I don’t know if/when I’ll have another, but I will make a plan for the next one that involves ultra comforting things before and after. Yesterday, I had Christmas errands to do, but I did squeeze in a trip to the thrift store, which is always a treat. I usually feel the need to rush back and help with the kids, but I took my time and found three pretty pieces of clothing, some interesting books, and a few Christmas items.

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