Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 10 - MRI

I just got home from the MRI. Glad it's over!

Thanks to Sue's Boob Blog, I knew I might have to have a contrast dye injected into my arm before the MRI. None of the doctors/hospital staff told me about this in advance - it wasn't until I was in the waiting room filling out the paperwork that I was notified about this. I really think they should tell patients IN ADVANCE about that, because it makes the procedure more invasive. Magnet stuff isn't that big of deal, but to a lot of people, needles ARE. I had not had blood drawn/an IV in about 16 years! But it turns out I have "great veins," so yay for not having to be stuck multiple times.

The MRI was unpleasant but not horrible: spending 20 minutes lying completely still, face down in what sounds and feels like a private space ship, while there's a needle in your arm and you're not allowed to breathe deeply.

I had to lie face down on what was kind of like a massage table, with the face rest and everything, except obviously there was no nice massage. And my boobs had to hang down in the holes in the table. They offered me headphones, asking what kind of music I wanted to listen to... not knowing what my choices were, I said, "Just something relaxing." Silly me, I am thinking of Gregorian chants, tribal flute, maybe a rainstorm... I end up with Phil Collins shit interspersed with commercials. I could barely hear it anyway, since it was drowned out by the loud MRI machine - the knocking and whirring and super loud hum/buzz.

The hardest part, by far, was not being able to breathe deeply. They TOLD me, "Don't breathe deeply...take slow, shallow breaths." Yeah, for TWENTY MINUTES!! Because if you move too much, it messes up the whole thing and you have to start over from the beginning. About halfway through the procedure, they told me, through the headphones, that they were going to inject the dye into my arm and I would feel "coolness and pressure" in my arm. Instead, I felt weird all over - for a few seconds there was a weird taste in my mouth and my tongue felt numb as if I'd just drunk too much Kava, and my other arm got a bit twitchy, and my heart rate jumped up. I started feeling panicky and thought about squeezing the squeeze ball they had placed in my hand before sending me into the tube, which they had explained would set off an alarm if I squeeze it and they'll stop the whole thing, but then we would have to start from scratch. So I didn't want that. But I couldn't tell if I was feeling panicky because my heart was racing, or if my heart was racing because I was feeling panicky. You know? And the challenge for me was to get my heart rate down without deep breathing - which of course would be my first and automatic strategy. Shallow breathing increases anxiety! So I just mentally talked myself through it. The problem was that the little notice I had read about the dye, back in the waiting room, stated: "One in 400,000 people have a life-threatening reaction to the dye." Most people read that and feel relieved, because the chance is so tiny. I, on the other hand, have completely lost faith in statistics, since there was only a 1% chance that I had cancer in the first place. If that 1% chance that I had cancer turned out to be reality, then hell, I could be that 1 person in 400,000 who dies from the dye!!! So I lay there breathing shallowly and trying to talk myself out of my panic, trying to ignore Phil Collins and instead mentally reciting pertinent Tao te Ching chapters and Goddess chants.

Finally it was over and I got to come out of the tube and get the stupid needle out of my arm, and go get dressed again. I feel like such a little kid, shuffling around in a hospital gown and pants and booties 3 sizes too big. Nothing EVER comes in my size.

Mom and I went out for tea and a walk afterwards, which was great. Now I'm trying to drink buckets and buckets of water to get the dye flushed out of me.


  1. Did the dye turn your pee a different color? I am not proud of wanting to know this, but I am DYING from curiousity. Heh heh, get it, dying. But seriously, is your pee different colors?

    Also, they should let you bring your own music and yes, notify you prior of the dye.

    I always thought medical establishments should have someone on-staff whose job it is to just figure out how to make things more fun. Because I know I personally avoid medical attention because the whole process - from actually scheduling the appointment to waiting around to getting examined to trusting what they're telling you to working with your insurance is just a whole big pain in the ass.

    So I thought, what if parts of it could be AMAZING and the only way you'd get to experience the amazingness is if you were unlucky enough to have to go through that procedure. Kind of a silver lining type thing. Like maybe there is a world-class burrito bar in the hospital with a world-class chef who will make a giant burrito exactly the way you want it and it will taste amazing and be totally GOURMET and everyday people can't just get these burritos, they're ONLY available to people who, let's say, had an MRI that day. Or kidney dialysis. Anything awful. And people who had their wisdom teeth removed could get a ticket and come back when their mouths feel better. But NOBODY else could so the only way you'll get a burrito is get through the procedure.

    And then as bad as the treatment is, you kind of have something to look forward to. Like, "I cannot handle the pain/discomfort/humiliation/intensity of this!!! BUT! I'm going to get a burrito later, so that's awesome."

    Other ideas in addition to the burrito bar: dolphin swimming pool, hot air balloon ride from the hospital to your front door, and have afternoon tea with Angela Landsbury.

  2. dear britta when i heard you had cancer.
    i wrote
    this poem for you it gos like this:
    we love britta.
    shes so grate.
    hope and love.
    we love britta.
    wishing her good.
    saying her name.
    we love her!
    hope you git well and can babysit us.
    xoxo sophie

  3. Amber, you rock!! I think your idea is GREAT. I would LOVE it if there were special, custom-made burritos available only to people who had just had an MRI.

    Anna, please give Sophie a big hug for me and tell her:
    "Thank you for your beautiful poem. I will TOTALLY come babysit for you and your brother and sister again!! I know 'cancer' is a big, scary word, but the kind I have is very small and I am going to see an expert doctor who can take it out of me. And then I will need extra rest for a few weeks, but I promise I will get healthy again and come play with you. I love you, too! And Naomi and Gabriel, too!"

  4. And Amber, no, my pee did not change colors! That was one of the first things the MRI tech told me - my pee would be normal! Bummer! Neon blue or something would have been fun.

  5. eek! i'm glad its over! i was thinking about you all day. xo

  6. now i just have su-su-sudio in my head. Mmm. yeah.

    (glad everything went ok!)

  7. And now I know for sure that that sort of procedure is incredibly terrifying and I seriously doubt I could get through the 5th try, let alone the first!! Go you.

    It's a shame they don't offer Kava smoothies to patients before going through something like that. That would certainly help relax people. Yeesh.