Tuesday, May 5, 2009

MRI Wednesday

I'll be going to the S. Mark Taper Imaging Center for a breast MRI. I had this same procedure in 2004 before the mastectomies. At the time I had no idea really of what to expect. Having been previously very healthy, my fear of hospitals and test procedures was because it was all so foreign to me. The experience I’d had with hospitals and specifically cancer treatments were centered on my Godmother and little sister who both died of breast cancer after lots of treatment and in the case of my Godmother, a long battle with breast cancer.

I recall the MRI was scheduled early morning, not my best time of day anyway. I had no idea how small the tube is that they put you in for the test. I remember laughing because I was told to lie face down on the table, and the attendant put 2 coffee filters (that’s what they looked like to me) in the depressions that allow the breasts to hang down.

Breast imaging is very sensitive to motion. I was told even the slightest movement could cause errors, and that I should make myself comfortable and lay motionless for the approximately 60 minutes. The technician added to my fears when she told me how to signal her if I needed to come out right away in case I felt my tattoos burning. Apparently, some older components of tattoo inks could be pulled out of the skin by the magnet!
I lay down on the table as instructed and the attendant slid the table into the tube. I thought of the sickbay aboard the Starship Enterprise and wished the technician could just wave a Tricorder over me and I would be healed. My husband sat outside the tube, but I couldn’t see him for the bright light shining in. I felt terrified and claustrophobic, trying to relax and be still while crying my eyes out. I didn’t feel anything, but heard thumping noises that seemed to surround me and grew increasingly loud. I lay there crying for what seemed like the longest hour of my life.
I think the only way I was able to keep still was the idea that I’d have to do the whole thing over again if the image was blurred. I felt completely drained after I got up from that table, but no so much that I didn’t notice the valves nearby labeled N2O (Nitrous Oxide).
I’m not so terrified this time, I know what to expect and I asked my Dr. for some Valium to take before I go in. I know it will be uncomfortable, I still get claustrophobic even in an elevator, but I’m anxious to get the tests done.

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